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The BBC's Tim Maby
"All his craft came from his real home - the stage"
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Actor Richard Briers
"He was one of the last of the great giants"
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Sir John Gielgud
A brief reminder of the man and some of his career highlights
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Tuesday, 23 May, 2000, 12:31 GMT 13:31 UK
Theatres go dark for Gielgud
Sir John Gielgud on his 90th birthday
Peaceful exit from the stage: Sir John Gielgud
Theatre audiences across London's West End have remembered acting legend Sir John Gielgud, who has died aged 96.

At the Gielgud Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue, the actress Kathleen Turner, currently appearing in The Graduate, paid special tribute to Sir John at the end of the performance.

She said the world had lost one of its greatest actors who brought "inspiration and pleasure" to many people. The lights were dimmed for a minute's silence.

Twelve other theatres in Lord Lloyd-Webber's Really Useful Group, also dimmed their lights in a "blackout" as a mark of respect before Monday evening's performances.

Kathleen Turner
Kathleen Turner "He brought inspiration and pleasure"
One of the greatest thespians of his generation Sir John died on Sunday at his home near Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire.

He was the last of a generation of classical actors, including Laurence Olivier, Ralph Richardson and Peggy Ashcroft, who dominated British theatre from the 1930s to the 1970s.
Sir John continued working until a month ago, but had taken a break from work because of his failing health.

After starting out on stage at the age of 17, he went on to appear in countless plays and more than 50 films, from Julius Caesar to Arthur with Dudley Moore.

His former agent Laurence Evans said he had only taken four weeks off during his entire working life.

Blair pays tribute

He said the cause of death was thought to be simply old age.

Tributes were led by Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Sir John Gielgud
Preparing for an appearance as Hamlet in 1936 in New York
A Downing Street spokesman said Mr Blair was "very sad" to hear of his death.

"He was one of the great English figures and one of the finest actors of the last century.

"He brought immense pleasure to millions. He was much loved and will be much missed."

Even in his 90s, Sir John was still known for his wit and charm.

Last year, a critic who saw him in a theatre described him as "at once a frail and a tremendous figure".

'Last of a classic generation'

His biographer Sheridan Morley said: "He was the greatest actor and his life was exactly the history of British theatre in the last century."

We have lost not only the best actor of all time, but a man who was a link back to the Victorian theatre.

Biographer Sheridan Morley

"With him we have lost not only the best actor of all time, but a man who was a link back to the Victorian theatre."

Despite his reputation, Sir John remained modest about his achievements, and vetoed plans for lavish celebrations to mark his 90th birthday.

He was also appalled at the idea of a memorial service after his death.

"They have become society functions, and I don't think I have the right to be commemorated at Westminster Abbey," he said.

Despite playing every major Shakespearean role, including King Lear, Hamlet, and Prospero in The Tempest, he was also happy to take bit parts in TV shows and Hollywood films - with his role as a butler in Arthur winning him his only Oscar, in 1982.

Click here to watch the BBC's Jeremy Paxman interview Sir John Gielgud last December.
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