Sunday, December 15, 2013

R.I.P. Peter O'Toole

Peter O’Toole was always my favorite of those hard-drinking Irish/Welsh/Scottish/British actors. Spectacular look, great voice, and he never took himself too seriously. There was always a twinkle in his eye. That might have been the liquor but I prefer to think not.

O’Toole passed away yesterday at age 81. Seeing him in his last movie, VENUS (from 2007) it is clear he lived every single day of those 81 years.

He was nominated eight times for Academy Awards -- the most nominated actor to never win. Sheepishly, the Academy gave him an honorary one in 2003.

He is of course best remembered for LAWRENCE OF ARABIA in which he played Lawrence of Arabia. The picture won Oscars for everyone including the camel but him.

O’Toole does a great comic turn in MY FAVORITE YEAR, a very funny film if you've never seen it. Imagine the worst guest-host ever on SNL.

But my favorite Peter O’Toole film (and performance) was STUNT MAN. This is a hidden little gem. O’Toole plays a mercurial film director in a world where reality and illusion collide. Run to Netflix.

Above all else, in everything he appeared in, Peter O'Toole had a presence and command that was unmistakable and riveting. It’s almost impossible to play larger-than-life and real at the same time. He had that gift.

I personally never met him. We thought about asking him to guest on the TONY RANDALL SHOW but opted for Annette O’Toole instead. Just as well. The character was a young woman. But I never heard any bad stories about Peter O’Toole. The scuttlebutt was he was gracious, kind, and the consummate professional.

He always seemed to view the world with a little half-smile. Not a bad way to go through life. He leaves us with a legacy of many great motion pictures and more than a half-smile when we think about him.

R.I.P. Peter O’Toole

31 comments:

welcometosherwood said...

People should seek out the YouTube video clip where O'Toole receives his honorary Oscar. He is the model of gracious dignity.

Ed from SFV said...

I am reminded of Rip Torn's Artie, the EP of the "Larry Sanders Show." He would be rapturously happy only when a star of stars was scheduled to appear. A star such as O'Toole. He would deride the staff for their excitement over the star du jour.

Back in the day, I was in the Chicago Hilton, which is the flagship for the entire chain. It has a gorgeous lobby filled with flags of many countries. There was a sign on an easel announcing that O' Toole was arriving that day for a stay. I remember lamenting that I would not see his arrival/entrance.

I admired his acting, but I loved him for his portrayal of Chips.

You are bang straight on, Ken, about "Stunt Man."

benson said...

My Favorite Year is in my personal Top 10. He was brilliant. But he also shined in an average movie like King Ralph. RIP.

Sean Farren said...

Love The Stunt Man but his performance in The Ruling Class was arguably the most flawless I've ever seen.

Steve said...

Regarding the Stunt Man, Ken, I saw it back in 1980 when it came out and was the only person in the theater. Fun, interesting movie and, yes, I have my own DVD copy.

Jeffro said...

Ave atque vale, Mr. Peter Seamus O'Toole. You will be missed.

(That was a beautifully touching tribute, Ken.)

Thomas Pinto said...

My Favorite Year is a forgotten gem, and just watching him tumble downstairs in a wheelchair is a scream.

joanneinjax said...

One of my favorite movies is O'Toole's "The Ruling Class", a 1972 British black comedy. O'Toole is terrific as the insane heir to a peerage, a clear satire of the British class system. The opening scene alone is priceless. I recommend that you try to see this marvelous, little-seen film.

Dale said...

Before people revisit Lawrence of Arabia, I suggest they read The seven pillars of wisdom. O'Toole's portrayal of Lawrence' shock after he was captured by the Turks is masterful. Knowledge of the book is key to understanding his performance.

Vale Peter O'Toole.

Mike said...

Sadly, my first recollection on hearing the news was this sketch from the '80s satirical puppet show Spitting Image.

luciuspaisley said...

"Consumate professional"

When he turned up...

http://youtu.be/R_CoggWEjeM

404 said...

My favorite was BECKET.

MacGilroy said...

@ Sean F and Steve -
Totally agree about the Ruling Class, and Steve - i was also one of the few who went to see Stunt Man when it was released. Very few of us in the theater in San Francisco. Still one of my favorites.

Hamid said...

I'm ashamed to say I've yet to see Laurence of Arabia. Just one of those epics, like Spartacus and Gone With The Wind, I keep meaning to see but haven't got round to yet.

I guess I should also be ashamed that the first thing I saw Peter O'Toole in was Supergirl, when I was a kid. On the other hand, thanks to Supergirl, I had my first childhood celebrity crush on the heavenly Helen Slater in a short red skirt.

Barry Traylor said...

Sad news. He was one of my favorite actors and I have lost count of how many times I have watched Lawrence of Arabia and my Favorite Year.

Storm said...

"I'm not an ACTOR, I'm a MOVIE STAR!"

Oh, darling man, you were surely both.

I haven't been this gutted since Cary Grant died, I love them both so much. Such class, mystery, wit, and oh, the beauty of those eyes, even in old age.

We've lost a lot of legends this year, in many fields, many of whom had a good long run (some into their 80's and 90's), but their loss is still such a drag. I live in a world with no Ray Manzarek, no Lou Reed, no Ray Harryhausen, and now no Peter O'Toole... can a legendary major asshole please die, too, balance out the scales, like? And could 2014 please suck a little less hard? Because that would be awesome.

Cheers, thanks for the obit, it made me cry AGAIN,

Storm

Hamid said...

can a legendary major asshole please die

I gave up waiting on Cheney to kick the bucket. After surviving so many heart attacks, I concluded he must've stopped off at a crossroads in Mississippi many years ago.

barriowolf said...

Loved reading that post Mr. Levine. Thanks

Wendy M. Grossman said...

I loved him in MY FAVORITE YEAR, too. But I'm surprised no one has mentioned LION IN WINTER, which is my favorite movie that he was in.

I was fortunate enough to see him on stage some years back in productions of PYGMALION and MAN AND SUPERMAN. Unfortunatley, the performance I narrowly missed but really wanted to see was JEFFREY BERNARD IS UNWELL, in which he played the long-time notoriously alcoholic Spectator columnist. The title is what they ran when his column failed to appear...

A friend of mine, a Scottish folksinger named Alex Campbell who died in the mid-1980s, had memories of drinking with O'Toole, though he never went into details. I can only imagine...

wg

VincentS said...

That was great, Ken. A fine tribute to a great actor. He will be missed.

Michael said...

He lived a full life, no question about it, and his drinking led to some serious problems, in his work and personal life. We know all that. We also know that to find a better actor, we might have to go somewhere on this planet or another planet where we have never been. It's hard to imagine a better performance than his Lawrence and yet, here we are, discussing other films where he probably was even better!

Jake Mabe said...

"That was a movie. THIS IS REAL LIFE!"

(Pause)

"What...is...the difference?"

-- MY FAVORITE YEAR

RIP

Wayne said...

Rewatching Peter O'Toole is on my Becket list.

Johnny Walker said...

It kind of broke my heart when the 74 year old Toole, clearly being given his last chance to win a competitive Oscar for his acting, lost it to Forest Whitaker. I swear you could see the disappointment in his eyes as the name was announced.

And Whitaker -- undoubtedly deserving of recognition -- giddy with excitement, didn't acknowledge O'Toole. I really wished he'd given part of his acceptance speech over to the unlucky nominee. Of course, it's easy to have these thoughts from the comfort of my armchair, I'm sure Whitaker doesn't even remember what he said on stage.

Hamid said...

Johnny, I have to disagree. I always cringe when a winner mentions the other nominess. It's so patronising. The worst example was when Helen Hunt said in her Oscar acceptance speech that when she'd seen Judi Dench's performance, she told her husband "that lady's going to win the Academy Award. And in my mind, tonight she has". Truly awful!

The Mutt said...

The number of DVDs I own could fit in a lunchbox. Lawrence of Arabia and My Favorite Year are two of them. O'Toole is truly one of the giants.

Peter O'Toole is dead. Dick Cheney still slouches towards Bethlehem. No justice.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Hamid: I think it depends how they do it. I remember Candice Bergen accepting one of her Emmys for MURPHY BROWN and saying she'd expected it to go to "my hero, Helen Hunt" and thinking that was rather nice. (Bergen eventually refused to be put forward for those Emmy any more, apparently feeling she'd won enough for that character.) You can openly admire the work of other nominees without playing fake-humble.

wg

D. McEwan said...

I was very sorry to learn of Peter O'Toole's passing. I did get to meet him (For me the upside is that now my O'Toole autograph, which is framed on my living room wall) shoots up in monatary value), and got to see him play Henry Higgins in Pygmalion on Broadway from the second row, a production that included Lionel Jeffries and Sir John Mills in the cast. Amanda Plummer is now that cast's sole survivor.) I could listen to that voice read the phone book.

(My younger brother one-ups me here though. He worked on My Favorite Year, and so not merely met, but worked with O'Toole. Duncan called me the moment he heard O'Toole had died, just devastated. He loved him, and has only joyous memories of working with him. I don't think he actually realized O'Toole was mortal; he was too godlike.)

However, I disagree that O'Toole's Alan Swann would have been the worst SNL host ever. Remember, Swann pulls through at the end, does the show and saves the day. It ends in a personal triumph for him. Ask Lorne Michaels; I'm sure he'd tell you he'd much rather have Alan Swann host than have Louise Lasser or Steven Seagal back.

The Stunt Man is one of my favorite movies also. (O'Toole received one of his Oscar noms for it), and I've had a VHS copy of it for around 3 decades. Great, great movie. I met Steve Railsback once, and while we did talk about Manson, most of our conversation was about The Stunt Man. Do I need to say how immensely proud of that movie Railsback is?

D. McEwan said...

@Hamid,

Now, you have to admit that Dick Cheney was terrific as The Great Goblin in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, a role he played without make-up or CGI.

Johnny Walker said...

Hamid: To each his own, but obviously I'd imagine a tasteful pause where O'Toole could be recognized by the audience. Something that acknowledged he was there. A legend in the room. Rather than someone forgotten as soon as Whitaker took stage.

Ann Jelen said...

Peter O'Toole leaves a tremendous void in this world. Ever since seeing him in VENUS, I could not forget him and watched many of his movies and television work. Even as an old man, he had such a big impact on me. I honestly think the world will never see a man like him again.