August 13, 1998 12:00 AM

British actor Sir Alec Guinness, 86, died in a London hospital on Saturday. News reports indicate he had been battling liver cancer. Guinness began his career in the 1930s and was considered one of Britain’s greatest actors, along with the late Laurence Olivier and Ralph Richardson. The World War II vet won a Best Actor Oscar for his role as Col. Nicholson in 1957’s WWII drama “The Bridge On the River Kwai.” Among other Oscar nominations, he received one for his role as the wise Jedi Knight Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi in “Star Wars” and was awarded an honorary statue from the Academy in 1980. In 1959 he was knighted, but through his life he was reportedly unaffected by his fame. He lived some 50 miles from London with his wife of more than 60 years, actress Merula Salaman.

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