Recently, while looking up information on playwright George Bernard Shaw and Museum Curator Sir Sidney Cockerell I came across a neat bit of connective thread between these men, T. E. Lawrence and our own Sir Alec Guinness.
Most of you may know that Guinness played Prince Faisal in Lawrence of Arabia (the film that was somewhat fact-based on T. E. Lawrence, who was Lawrence of Arabia) and that Peter O'Toole played Lawrence himself.
But did you know that an Arabian dressing robe purchased, somewhere in the Middle-East, by Cockerell was given to T.E. Lawrence, then left to Shaw after Lawrence's death in 1935, Shaw used it for a while then sent it back to Cockerell who later gave it to Guinness? Yep.
Here's the bit I found.
Shaw was a good friend to Cockerell and both had been friends of T. E. Lawrence before his death. Shaw, a playwright and a casting director of sorts (he wrote parts with certain actors in mind), once noted to someone ('round about 1940) he'd written a letter to, "take a look at a young actor named Alec Guinness." Shaw no doubt had seen a few of the plays Guinness was involved with at the time (the Old Vic in London for sure) and was obviously excited by the young, talented actor. This may have been the stepping stone to the friendship between Shaw, Cockerell and Guinness.
Cockerell (Sir Sydney Carlyle Cockerell), a curator/director of the Fitzwilliam Museum at Cambridge and printer, had corresponded with Guinness for years. One letter written in reply to Guinness's conversion to Catholicism shows Cockerell a little baffled at the religious turn in his friend. He wrote: "But how can you believe in a creative all-good, all-wise God, knowing that you have an appendix, which is a totally useless organ and can prove dangerous?" (from Blessings in Disguise) The friendship, of course, was unshaken by the change in faith and may have become closer after the conversion which came several years after Shaw's death.
I'm sure the intersecting lives of the four men mentioned above is how Guinness came upon the robe in the end. It's interesting to think that Lawrence would never know that the robe would at some point be in the hands of a man who played a role in the telling of his own story.
On a related note: A play called The Best of Friends centered on the friendships of Cockerell, Shaw and Dame Laurentia McLachlan, a benedictine nun, Abbess of Stanbrook Abbey and writer. The play, adapted by Hugh Whitemore, interweaves the letters and essays of the three good friends into an interesting and entertaining piece of theatre.
This year Michael Pennington (Moff Jerjerrod - ROTJ) plays Sir Sydney Cockerell in that very same play. The play runs through March. and I believe into May, at the Hampstead Theatre, Swiss Cottage, London.
How funny that I'd stumble across such information by looking for something else. What a treasured thing reading is. hehe
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