Alec Guinness was still new to movie audiences when he made David Lean's unsentimental, starkly photographed version of Oliver Twist
in 1948. To play pickpocket pimp Fagin, the theater veteran turned to the stagecraft he most relished, transforming his face with makeup to become a leering, hook-nosed gargoyle. U.S. censors cried anti-Semitism and kept the movie off screens here until 1951. (Lean and Guinness modeled Fagin on George Cruikshank's brilliant but not culturally sensitive engravings for Charles Dickens' novel.) By that time, the English actor had been in several more pictures — including Kind Hearts and Coronets
, the funniest class-warfare comedy ever made — and was on his way to international stardom. Guinness is the focus of the Kansas City Public Library's September Film Vault series (which cruelly omits The Horse's Mouth
— borrow the DVD from the library). Get your gruel on at 6:30 tonight, and see Kind Hearts
next Monday night. The Film Vault is located on the lower level of the Central Library, 14 West 10th Street. See kclibrary.org
or call 816-701-3400 for details.
Mondays, 6:30 p.m. Starts: Sept. 8. Continues through Sept. 29, 2008