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My local PBS station showed a distinguished program last Sunday, albeit late in the evening and with no current plans to repeat it: Beckett on Film, the first installment of a series -- the next will be a production of "Waiting for Godot." This program showed seven short plays, with awesome casts most of us will never see on the stage. My favorite was "Play" with Alan Rickman, Juliet Stevenson, and Kristin Scott Thomas encased in urns and directed by Anthony Minghella; and "Catastrophe" with Harold Pinter, John Gielgud, and Mrs. David Mamet, directed by Mr. Mamet. Try to catch this if it comes to your area or returns to it.

Historical note: This was Gielgud's very last appearance, at ninety-six; he died a month later. I read about this program in his biography recently. Apparently he was slightly peeved to have no lines, observing that he was rather too old to make a trip to the studio to be an extra. Still hard to believe we'll never see him again. I realize he had to die sometime, but since he seemed to get heartier with each passing decade, and continued to pop up in every other British movie well into his nineties, I could easily imagine him waving us on mellifluously into the new millennium.

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I wasn't being sexist, just snotty. :) While Ms. Pidgeon is an okay actress, I do wish her uxorious hubby would not slap her into the female lead of everything he does whether she is suited to the part or not. If she were an important actress in her own right one could understand it, but. As it is, it is difficult to believe that she would be acting in the company of Pinter, Gielgud, Stevenson, Irons, et al., if not for the fact that she is wed to one of the directors.

Too bad he divorced Lindsay Crouse.....

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I loved "House of Games." :)

I missed this one -- saw the previews and was intrigued, but was on a deadline and, since this involved concentration, I couldn't have it on and watch it out of the corner of my eye. Sniff.

They'll repeat it -- it might be worth checking your local TV station OR PBS. They often have dates and repeat dates. We have three PBS channels in the DC area, and one of the nice things about that is that one of them is always repeating what the other did.

Dirac, I loved your comments on Gielgud seeming to get heartier as he grew older -- but it's true! And since we're happily off-topic, I read his autobiography -- or most of it -- sitting in the Lincoln Center area Barnes and Noble the last time I was in New York. The theater lore parts at the beginning -- drunken, aging actresses still belting out Juliet, the mix professionalism and nonprofessionalism, and all those how the show went on stories, are wonderful.

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I'm actually not the world's biggest Beckett fan, but even if I hated him I wouldn't have missed seeing all those wonderful actors. That is one thing about television and film -- it's possible to assemble these amazing casts. Most unlikely you'd see such casts in the theatre, even in Britain.

Gielgud wrote a number of books, and they're all worth reading. (And he wrote them all himself, I should note.) He was this amazing repository of almost a hundred years of theatre history -- Ellen Terry was his great-aunt, Gordon Craig his cousin – so he had memories of all these famous old actors coming to the house. According to his bio, he had perfect recall of how So-and-So had played Romeo in 1919 or whenever to the very end. It's too bad he's not better known today, I suppose mainly because he wasn't a movie star -- at least not until "Arthur" made him a hot film property at age seventy-six. After that he was pretty much continuously employed in one movie after another, although they were sometimes pretty frightful. He did not take film as seriously as the stage, and so he didn't discriminate. There's a cute story in the biography about Brian Bedford going to visit Gielgud, now in his mid-eighties, at home and finding him very cast down about being out of work. "No one wants me, it's all over," etc. Bedford was sympathetic. How long had this been going on? "Since Friday," Gielgud sighed.

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