John Gielgud

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Sir Arthur John Gielgud (April 14, 1904 – May 21, 2000) was a legendary English actor and director with a career that spanned eight decades. He was most famous for his work on stage, though he also appeared in many films.

Gielgud was the first openly gay man to receive an Academy Award. He won Best Supporting Actor for Arthur in 1981. (Joel Grey, who won in 1972 for Cabaret, did not come out as gay until 2015.) Gielgud's career was nearly ended by scandal when he was arrested in 1953 (just three months after being knighted) for "persistently importuning men for immoral purposes." He pleaded guilty and was fined £10. Some have argued that the high profile case helped pave the way for the eventual decriminalization of homosexuality in England, which took place in 1967[1]. Although the press was harsh, Gielgud received a standing ovation at his next stage performance after the arrest, suggesting the changing attitudes of the general public towards homosexuality.

Nevertheless, Gielgud found the experience humiliating and did not discuss his sexuality publicly, though he did acknowledge his long-term relationship with interior designer Martin Hensler in 1988 and was reportedly devastated by Hensler's death in 1999 after nearly 40 years together. A few months later, Gielgud passed away in his sleep at the age of 96.

References

  1. http://www.theguardian.com/stage/2008/feb/10/theatre.gayrights


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