John Gielgud: Care Is Given

John Gielgud/Tim Jenkins/1975

Interview by Telephone

I was fortunate, I believe, to have had, almost always, a large number of friends who were older--and certainly wiser. I keep thinking of a phrase--'in retrospect,' and I think it's very important. I wish now that I had had the ability, when younger, to move forward but to also think in retrospect. To understand and to realize that what was happening at that moment was important; that someone near me needed me; that I was behaving badly or unwisely. I wish now that I had tried to be one of my older, more objective friends; I wish I had looked at my life as I know they did: moving so quickly and not sufficiently appreciated.

I'm aware, now that I'm older, of how much care we all need. Now I need more care, and I'm always so moved by the attention and the affection that is given to me. I wonder if I gave enough to those around me who needed it. I wish I had spent more time with those people--Sybil Thorndike, Edith Evans, to name two--who were so wonderful and intelligent and talented, but who, I now know, were so frail and alone and open to care.

No one--mark this down--is without the need of your care, in some fashion.

I think of Vivien [Leigh] and of how callous so many were toward her. I, too, was guilty at times of simply wanting her to get on with her work; to move more quickly toward the brilliance of which she was capable. Now, with time lost--with her lost--I see more acutely how tenuous she always had been; how temporary her gifts and her life were; how onerous her baggage was. I didn't help her enough in the lifting, and I wish that I had known then how to make time slow a little, how to slow things down, to do the right thing.

I would convey to you and to others the need to alter time so that care is given. I would place that very high on a list of priorities for us all.

John Gielgud, Vivien Leigh, and producer Alexander Cohen after the opening of Ivanov, New York, 1966.


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