Sunday, December 15, 2013

Peter O'Toole

Almost ten years ago, I spent five weeks in London doing research for a book that never got written. I saw a few operas and concerts, and also went to see the big-screen action/history film Troy, in which Brad Pitt gives perhaps the worst performance of his career as Achilles. (A friend who says Pitt is a great character actor with a leading man's face has it just right.) Eric Bana's Hector impressed me greatly, but then 2/3 of the way through the film, there was an actor I did not recognize as Priam, Hector's father, giving a towering performance while pleading for his son's body.

The credits finally crawled, seemingly hours later, and with them came the explanation: it was Peter O'Toole.

O'Toole has died, age 81, leaving behind a long, long career of extreme carousing and great acting in films great and small, from Lawrence of Arabia, in which he is young, beautiful, and tortured, to cult favorites such as My Favorite Year and The Stunt Man. Nominated eight times for an Academy Award as Best Actor, he didn't win even once. (If you're wondering what could possibly have topped O'Toole's Lawrence, it was Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch. And there was a lot of competition that year.)

RIP, Peter O'Toole, and deep thanks for all the memorable movies.


Henry Holland said...

Sad news, as is the news of Joan Fontaine's passing.

I might be the only movie buff who doesn't like Lawrence of Arabia. I think that David Lean went off the rails after Bridge on the River Kwai, as good and as gorgeous as O'Toole is, I just don't like the movie. I guess I'm biased because Lean made three of my very favorite movies: Brief Encounter, Oliver Twist and especially Great Expectations (despite the woefully miscast John Mills).

I'd somehow managed to never see Rebecca until it was on TCM a few months ago, Ms. Fontaine was fantastic in that as Mrs. de Winter. What a great ending to that movie too!

RIP Mr. O'Toole, Ms. Fontaine.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Wow, I think Bridge on the River Kwai is terrible. :)

Have you read Rebecca? The book is even more interesting than the film, in part because there is a significant plot change for the film.

Anonymous said...

I guess I'm a cult film watcher, because my favorite O'Tooles are My Favorite Year and The Stunt Man.

Lisa Hirsch said...

I've seen each of those once, loved My Favorite Year, and remember finding The Stunt Man creepy and a little incomprehensible, but I think I'd like it better now.

Henry Holland said...

No, I haven't read the source novel of Rebecca, I'd like to. A plot change? [goes to Wikipedia entry for the book] Oh my! Now I really will want to seek out the book.

Wow, I think Bridge on the River Kwai is terrible. :)

Blasphemer! Infidel! Heretic! :-)

Lisa Hirsch said...

Well, yeah. :) But I'm not the only person who thinks its reputation is undeserved.

I can't believe you peeked. :)

Daniel Wolf said...

The Stunt Man is a brilliant film, one of the few that manages to jump continuously between genres while moving forward as a whole, but was close to ruined by Dominic Frontiere's score. In any case, the lead proper in the film is Steve Railsback, while O'Toole is essentially part of the extraordinary set, alongside the Hotel del Coronado.

Patrick J. Vaz said...

I'll agree with Lisa: Bridge on the River Kwai is terrible.

Doug Faunt -N6TQS said...

It's hard for me to believe that "Mutiny On The BOUNTY" made it into that company for best picture. Much as I love the boat, the movie is pretty bad.

Henry Holland said...

RE: River Kwai, I'm a bit biased because a) I'm a huge Alec Guinness fan and he's incredible as Col. Nicholson and b) I'm a huge fan of watching William Holden without a shirt on.

Lisa Hirsch said...

I'm a huge Guiness fan - my mother introduced me to Kind Hearts and Coronets at a tender age - but it wasn't enough to overcome my dislike to the film.

Michael Strickland said...

Well, leave it to me to dislike both Bridge on the River Kwai and Lawrence of Arabia, while also worshiping Peter O'Toole. Loved The Stunt Man though I agree with Daniel Wolf about the awful score. My favorite O'Toole film is The Ruling Class, which is a long, messy film from a polemical stage play but a very entertaining one nonetheless.