Goodbye, Mr. O’Toole

16 Dec
Peter O'Toole - Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

Peter O’Toole – Lawrence of Arabia (1962) promotion photograph.

Peter O’Toole was certainly a unique person. An actor’s actor. Of course he was living in a period of many other great actors but his star never tarnished despite his best personal efforts off stage. Contemporary classmates while he attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, included Albert Finney, Alan Bates and Richard Harris. His performance as “T.E. Lawrence” in Lawrence of Arabia (1962) is the #1 ranked performance of all time in Premiere Magazine’s 100 Greatest Performances of All Time (2006). He said he learned more about acting by working with José Ferrer in Lawrence of Arabia than in any acting class.

Oddly enough, he was nominated 8 times for best actor but never won until 2003 when the Academy honored him with an Honorary Academy Award for his entire body of work and his lifelong contribution to film. He had more Academy Award nominations without winning than any other actor. He announced his retirement from acting — July 10, 2012.

Peter O’Toole was larger than life and was given to be as much of a huge personality in real life as on stage. In 1976 he underwent surgery to remove parts of his stomach and intestine due to his heavy drinking. Broadcaster Michael Parkinson told Sky News it was hard to be too sad about the news of his passing, and smiled as he said: “Peter didn’t leave much of life unlived, did he?” Actor, director and broadcaster Stephen Fry tweeted: “Oh what terrible news. Farewell Peter O’Toole. I had the honour of directing him in a scene. Monster, scholar, lover of life, genius …”  O’Toole’s agent said he was “one of a kind in the very best sense and a giant in his field“.

How all so true. I’m probably going to have to sit down in the near future and once again watch a film which stands head and shoulders above most of all the films ever created. I’m referring to Lawrence of Arabia. The coming together of one of the best cinematographic directors (David Lean) combined with the charismatic talents of O’Toole and Sharif. As great a presence as Alec Guinness, Jack Hawkins, Anthony Quayle, Claude Rains, José Ferrer, Arthur Kennedy and Anthony Quinn were as secondary contributors, they were easily matched by the performance of O’Toole and Sharif. It’s no surprise Omar Sharif was later given the title role to Doctor Zhivago a few short years later.  He too has continued to memorize wide silver screen attendees.

Peter O'Toole Petula Clark in Goodbye, Mr. Chips

Peter O’Toole Petula Clark in Goodbye, Mr. Chips

O’Toole will be remembered as one of those whose acting ability was on top of the game even in his latest efforts. His portrayal of King Henry II in The Lion in Winter displayed just how talented he was holding his own against Katharine Hepburn as Eleanor of Aquitaine. It’s no small feat to be as capable on stage as she. This also reminds me to watch Venus (2006); a film that as I recall, I enjoyed too. Two other films that are a jewel for me are ‘How to Steal a Million’ and ‘Goodbye, Mr. Chips’.

I have retrieved this quote from IMDb, supposedly said by him. It does sound like something he would say. “The only exercise I take is walking behind the coffins of friends who took exercise.” The DVD of ‘Rogue Male’ had a 2 page biography of Peter O’Toole which states at the end: Peter O’Toole died in 2003 after a long illness. The author of that erroneous fact preceded the event by 10 years. Wherever such people go to, assuming there’s a stage after this one, there are sure to be others equally bemused and enthralled by him as many of us were while here.


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3 responses to “Goodbye, Mr. O’Toole

  1. Chris Barfoot

    16/12/2013 at 01:19

    Wonderful words- such a rich life… I remember watching Lawrence of Arabia as a child. I was struck by it. More than a movie it was. Indeed, the Gov thought he was more than a man, deciding that He… himself… was God. Hey, who’s to argue.

    • mlvngstn

      16/12/2013 at 01:55

      Yes, he probably took full measure of himself & then added a foot. As they say, all things must end, both good and bad.

      • Chris Barfoot

        16/12/2013 at 10:03

        He was a cantankerous old buzzard and yet absurdly charming. An intellect pestered by the demons of his youth, mainly those mad nuns that beat him senseless. Age stole his stunning looks but not his wit and charisma. Audrey Hepburn referred to him as the Gov, he never got over her death… He acknowledged that there was indeed a God; but as a target- something to blame, something to loathe- a tyrannical and twisted being, before accepting the highest of titles himself. Like you said Mike- good and bad… I don’t mind if men think themselves to be deity: as long as it’s saintly… there are enough devils already.

        O’Toole was a playful man- a tester of character, yet I will always think of him as a gentleman, as a protector of virtue and dignity and a champion of honour… he was after all- the great Don Quixote.

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