Sir Alec Guinness was one the greatest actors of the twentieth century. With a talent recognised by discerning critics from his very first appearance on the stage, he gained a worldwide reputation playing roles on the screen such as Fagin in OLIVER TWIST and THE MAN IN THE WHITE SUIT. His performance as Colonel Nicholson in BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI won him an Oscar and in his later years he captivated a new generation of admirers as George Smiley in TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY and Ben Kenobi in STAR WARS. Guinness was a man who vigorously guarded his privacy and, despite publishing an autobiography, BLESSINGS IN DISGUISE, and two volumes of his diaries, he remained an enigma to the general public and a mystery even to his family and closest friends. After his death in August 2000, his widow Merula asked the author Piers Paul Read, who had been a friend of her husband, to write his biography. Given full co-operation by the Guinness family and free access to Sir Alec's papers, including his private and unpublished diaries, Read has written a penetrating and perceptive account of an intriguing and complex man.