Alec Guinness Alec Guinness writes My Name Escapes Me – The Diary of a Retiring Actor – in purpose of documentation of his performance to commit his story to the public record. In the diary, Alec Guinness, at 82, shows his wishes to spend his declining years as, “a retiring actor”; he has not done with acting; he is still performing; yet retiring. This time his performance is committed to words in the commissioned diary. I see a diary as documentation of one’s life, especially when it is to be shown to public. By definition, a document is a”formal paper bearing important or official information”.
In the same sense, Alec Guinnesss diary is a document of his “act” of writing as Paul Matthew Pierre called. In addition, the facts that it is commissioned and is admissionable to us, the public, that he is a public figure; and that it is commemorating his people suggest Guinness’s intentions for his stories and his performances, in the diary to be for the public record. Writing is another way of acting for Alec Guinness. His desire to perform is reluctantly replaced by writing. Alec Guinness wishes to act again: “..if I am to retired, I am in inclined to assume a pained expression and deny it…
I doubt if any part, however small, would tempt me”. *P 10* He openly shows his regrets toward his retirement forced by his senescent body: “I think the T.V unit has finished with me ..it came home to me, almost savagely, that age has withered memory, alertness had taken ..what talent was there.” *p 41*: “..my granny will be thrilled.”*p 41* Also in the quotation, “..almost unrecognizable in the film. I like the ‘almost’, ” we see that he still wants to be remained as a public figure. His love for acting and plays are all-transparent in the book. He consistently refers back to the plays he has done and read.
He often expresses strong opinions about the plays and the acting business: “.. but I can’t help feeling an actor should be made of sterner stuff… Than their ill report while you live”. *p 19* Something like this quotation is not in character for him because he has been very conscious of making statements about other social issues. When he does make them, he does so indirectly that they could be interpreted in several different ways. These all imply that this old man desperately wants to act once more. Moreover, he finds another way to remain in the acting business and in the public eye: “The difficulty is the chore of learning (I used to be reasonably reliable and fairly quick, and diminishing physical vitality, both of which would choke any creativity effort.
So I am happy to scribble instead”. As we are reading his scribbles, we are seeing the other part of him; the inner Alec Guinness. He again impersonates and creates a new character as he writes. What he writes is about what he does and what he does identifies who he is. His actions are committed to his words.
Also his writing is performance in a sense that he is presenting himself in the book. He seems to be very conscious of expressing his opinions and views on sensitive issues like gender, class system, and racial matters as though hes overly awared of his audience. He was conscious of us, when writing this book. It was not his usual diary anymore. This man’s diary described as, “..a small, strictly private almost, illegible series of daily jottings,” has been published as My Name Escapes Me, “being fuller, quirkier and more haphazard and, to my regret, unavoidably self revealing”. *p 1* He could, in fact, write it in whatever way he wanted.
Maybe it is not himself that he is portraying. After all, he is an actor. However he declares that it is his two years he is writing about, “I have been unable to disguise my phobias, irritations, prejudices (though the latter are often short lived) and my childishness and frivolity”. “..and when the show is over, or the day’s shoot, and he is once more Alec”: “the show” is over and he is once more Alec Guinness in this diary. “..The show that previous other world where life has meaning, form and resolution, events perched accord or written rule”.
The title, “My Name Escapes Me”, may be implying that his name, Alec Guinness, which the public remember it as when it has disguised itself with a new identity, is not here in the book with the real Alec Guinness. He is presenting himself out side the film in normal life. Perhaps, he now wants us to remember him without the images of his well-known name and face, appearing on the screen. Perhaps, that is the reason that he is documenting himself as in realistically at his retirement stage. However, in the same way that he has always disguised himself in different personas to us, this again is a new Guinness to us, bringing out curiosities. His familiar name also created mystique around the book; there is little insight created by the title.
Alec uses his title, his new name effectively reach out for publicity. He refers records of peoples deaths as “obituaries,” a formal announcement or report of a person’s death, often giving details of their life and work; “I had hoped to complete this diary with no further obituaries but that was not to be. Sometimes, somehow, I must try to write something about Peter”. This quotation gives insight about his character. He seems to want to write more personally on the topic of his death. However, his official documentation remains impersonal.
He admits that this diary is formal official document. Again, his identity is immortalized in the words he writes, in the same sense that his previous identities in the films have been immortalized on the screen. “..My mind ruminating on Tuesday’s rehearsal..what seemed O.K. at the time… It doesn’t get immortalized on film until Monday week – time enough for me to get into my usual panic”.
*P37* I like the verb, “immortalize,”-“giving ever lasting fame,”- here. He regards documentation of his experiences as immortalization of his actions. Here he is immortalizing his friends in print: “Lord Howe of the Hirsel has died…” *p53* “Ten years ago today my mother died…”*p 104* “Peters death…” *p195* In order to commemorate the births and deaths in his life, he leaves a record of them in the diary. These records are important to him and are official in his world. He had many reasons to document this diary; one of them is to immortalize his performance in his world. In that sense, this diary is a documentation of his private life.
He depicts his world including people around him, the places he goes to, and his thoughts, also immortalizing them in a print. His primary interests shown in the diary are not about current social issues or his previous movies, but his life. As ones world goes around oneself, Guinnesss world goes around himself. He focuses on himself and his name more than anything else in the book. While he focuses on his health, his plan, his home, and so on, he makes brief notes about the war going on the other side of the world, because this diary is about documenting part of his life in which Guinness records his official information.
In a self conscious, restricted way, Guinness reveals himself to us in the documentary form of a diary. This is how he wants to be remembered by the public. However he is unable to escape his role as an actor. This book seems to be written with the public in mind, but it does not reveal any deep personal sides on the actor; he rather seems to be just identifying himself in the publics eyes at his retirement stage.