Knighted in 1959, Alec Guinness was one of the most celebrated actors of the 20th century. He is known to modern audiences as the man who played "Ben" Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983). After starting on the English stage and serving in World War II, Guinness made his reputation in cinema with the David Lean films Great Expectations (1946) and Oliver Twist (1948), and with 1949's Kind Hearts and Coronets (in which he played 8 different roles). In the 1950s he established himself as one of the great actors in movies, a master of both comedy and drama. His films included The Lavender Hill Mob (1951, his first Oscar nomination), Bridge On The River Kwai (1957, he won the best actor Oscar) and The Horse's Mouth (1958, he wrote the Oscar-nominated screenplay). During the '60s and '70s he made epics and comedies, from Lean's Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Dr. Zhivago (1965) to Mel Brooks's Murder By Death (1976). He then signed on for the George Lucas series of Star Wars movies, earning an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Obi-Wan Kenobi. On television Guinness was a critical and popular success as John Le Carré's George Smiley in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1979) and Smiley's People (1982), and one of his last films, Little Dorrit (1988), earned him yet another Oscar nomination.
Guinness was given a special Oscar in 1980 for his contributions to the movies.