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NO TIME TO REST ON LAURELS

by Paul Butler

John Gielgud as the Pope in Elizabeth
John Gielgud as the Pope in “Elizabeth”

On October 21 1953, a few months after achieving the supreme honour of knighthood, a celebrated 49-year-old British actor found himself thrust into a humiliation so deep it would threaten not only his career, but his life.

     John Gielgud was arrested in Chelsea, London, for soliciting a homosexual act in a public lavatory. As was common practice at the time with well-known figures, the police tried to keep the arrest from being made public. Gielgud described himself as a "clerk" in the court records, and he used his less commonly known birth name, Arthur. The arraignment was a rush job timed early in the morning in the hope that the press was yet to show up.

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