27 April 2017

Dame Judi Dench unveils blue plaque for Sir John Gielgud

Legendary English actor Sir John Gielgud is celebrated with a blue plaque at his former Westminster home
Dame Judi Dench pulls the cord to reveal Sir John Geilgud's plaque

A blue plaque has been unveiled for actor and director Sir John Gielgud by his long-time friend and fellow actor Dame Judi Dench.

Gielgud's stage and screen career spanned 75 years and he is one of the only people to receive an Oscar, a Grammy, an Emmy and a Tony.

Gielgud's plaque was unveiled at 16 Cowley Street, Westminster - the beloved home he lived in from 1945 to 1976. Gielgud frequently entertained friends and colleagues at Cowley Street and, from the 1960s, shared the home with his partner, Martin Hensler.

Close up of John Gielgud in 1969

Dame Judi Dench worked with Gielgud in Anton Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard, when she was playing Anya and he was Gaev. She said:

'The director, Michel Saint-Denis, gave me a very hard time and almost destroyed my confidence. But at one rehearsal, as we exited at the end of Act One, Sir John said: ''Oh, if you'd been doing that for me in one of my productions, I'd have been delighted.'' I was devoted to him for evermore.'

Professor Ronald Hutton, chairman of the Blue Plaques Panel, said:

'Sir John Gielgud was one of the finest English actors of his generation. Beloved by his peers, he is remembered for his complete mastery of Shakespeare and is thought by many to have been the greatest Hamlet of the twentieth century.'

John Gielgud as Richard II in about 1935

Cowley Street and beyond

Gielgud lived at his brown brick Georgian townhouse during some of the key moments in his life. He was knighted for services to the theatre in 1953 and a few weeks later was arrested for a homosexual offence. This, among other high-profile cases, was an impetus for the decriminalisation of male homosexuality fifty years ago this year, in 1967.

Gielgud's impressive career included performances in plays by Oscar Wilde, Harold Pinter and Alan Bennett. He featured in more than 100 films, and won his Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Arthur in 1982. His final role was in Samual Beckett's Catastrophe shortly before he died. 

Gielgud died in 2000 at the age of 96.

John Gilegud leaving Buckingham Palace with his sister and mother after being knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.

Read our interview with Dame Judi Dench on our blog.

For more information about John Gielgud and London's blue plaques, visit our blue plaques page.

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