Praising Peter

O’Toole as T.E. Lawrence (Horizon Pictures)

On Saturday, the world lost one of its premier actors and one of my personal favorites, Irish-born Peter Seamus O’Toole. He died peacefully at the ripe old age of 81.

O’Toole was a classically trained Shakespearean actor whose career began on the stage before shifting to television in 1954. He first appeared on film in 1959 when he accepted a small role in The Day They Robbed the Bank of England. This would mark the beginning of a long and illustrious acting career spanning more than 50 years. And let me tell you that it was quite a trip.

On screen, O’Toole played some of the most notable characters in film history, including the lead role in one of my favorite movies of all time, the David Lean epic Lawrence of Arabia in 1962. And his filmography includes titles recognizable to nearly any fan of the genre: Becket, The Lion in Winter, Casino Royale—the original, not the recent remake with Daniel Craig—Goodbye, Mr. Chips, Man of La Mancha, Man Friday, Caligula, The Stunt Man, My Favorite Year, The Last Emperor and Venus, to name a few.

He also had a minor role in another favorite film of mine, albeit kind of a cult classic: Club Paradise. Sadly, I’m still trying to forget about O’Toole’s role as King Priam in Troy, which to me seemed grossly over-acted. He was pretty old at the time, though, so I certainly don’t hold it against him.

Oddly enough—and despite all his accomplishments and accolades—O’Toole was nominated for an Oscar eight times but never won, making him the most nominated actor to never win the award. He was presented with an honorary Oscar in 2003 for his entire body of work—which was a nice “nod” from the Academy—but never received one for a single performance… and he had quite a few that were worthy.

O’Toole with Jimmy Cliff and Robin Williams in “Club Paradise” (Warner Brothers)

Fortunately, O’Toole did collect awards from all sorts of sources throughout his long and productive career, including Golden Globes, David di Donatello Awards, Sant Jordi Awards, National Board of Review awards, National Society of Film Critics’ Awards and more. He even won an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in 1999’s Joan of Arc.

In other words, Peter O’Toole had a long, successful and unforgettable career entertaining millions of people across many generations. I count myself among his many fans and, like them, appreciate the joy he brought to my life. He will be sorely missed, but at least he will live on as one of the world’s greatest performers. And I cannot wait to introduce my son to his body of work, starting of course with Lawrence of Arabia.

Rest well, my friend. And thanks for the memories.

Posted on December 16, 2013, in Perspectives and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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