Everyone who is anyone in British theater went to Sir John Gielgud's 85th birthday party last week except the guest of honor.

Gielgud sent a message from his home in Aylesbury near London saying: "I can't face birthday celebrations and I dread making speeches."Plans had been made to honor him at a lunch in London attended by 350 show business celebraties who went ahead with their tributes anyway.

Gielgud, one of the greatest Shakespearean actors of his generation, returned to the London stage in February for the first in time in 11 years and plans to start filming a television series in Italy this month.