RIP: Peter O’Toole (1932-2013)

220px-Peter_O'Toole_--_LOA_trailerDiane just advised me that the wonderful British actor, Peter O’Toole has passed away.

I get this is a rock’n’roll site–or at least largely a music site–but often music and film are inexorably linked.

Although, I must admit, not so much in O’Toole’s case.

It is more of a case that his face is as iconic as the roles he played.

Among those films of his I love:

Lawrence of Arabia (1962): O’Toole’s mesmerizing film debut (also Omar Sharif’s) was in arguably one of the greatest cinematic achievements ever. I think the first half of this film is as fine a piece of film making–as in script, photography, acting, and music–as has ever been assembled.

The Lion in Winter (1968): Incomparable historical piece with O’Toole as Henry II to Katherine Hepburn’s Elanor of Aquitaine, with a witty and intelligent a script that allow the brilliance of the actors to shine (this time Anthony Hopkins made his film debut).

The Ruling Class (1972): As dark as dark and funny can get, O’Toole plays the mad 14th Earl of Gurney. O’Toole thinks he is Jesus (he has a big wooden cross on which he roosts from time-to-time) although he likes to be referred to as either “Bert” or “JC,” though his given name is Jack. The catch is his relatives want to seize the assets that are Bert’s, but in order to do that, he has to be declared insane and a threat. So, they marry him off to his uncle’s mistress so they can have a child/heir, and thus simplify the insanity process. Of course nothing  goes according to plot, but ultimately Jack is forced to jettison his loving and happy-go-lucky Jesus alter ego, and assumes that of another Jack, as in The Ripper.

The Stunt Man (1980): O’Toole as an autocratic film director who pushes a walk on stunt man (Steve Railsback), who is on the run from the law, into going further and further on a limb with the stunts. O’Toole is great at this–roles on the verge of losing it–and this film is no exception. Also filmed around the lovely Hotel Del Coronado, in San Diego, where Some Like it Hot was also largely set.

My Favorite Year (1982): A lovely sentimental comedy about TV in the 50’s, ostensibly based upon Mel Brooks’ early days writing for Sid Caesar and his Show of Shows. O’Toole plays Allan Swann, an Errol Flynn-like swashbuckling star of the 30’s who can still give women wobbly knees. He accepts a role on a TV show in order to earn some extra moolah and even himself out with the IRS.  This movie, directed by comedian Richard Benjamin, is as sweet as they come.

Amazingly, O’Toole was nominated for the Oscar for all five of the above (I did not realize that when I picked them as my faves as I was thinking about it) and had a total of eight nominations (also Becket, Goodbye Mr. Chips, and Venus), but never actually won for those films. Rather, he did get a lifetime achievement award from the Academy in 2003.

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