May 22, 2013
Written by Mark Schumann, Father of Three
Thursday, 26 July 2012 11:18
For all of us who love movies, the film work of the great Peter O’Toole is something to savor. When he recently announced his retirement from the screen, O’Toole reminded us how many movie memories he has created. This week, the Reel Dad remembers what will always make the work of this actor so special on screen.
He burst onto the screen, some 50 years ago, with a daring sense of bravery to leap to the core of any character he played. As he matured on screen, he hit a rough spot now and then, as do people in real life; as he aged before us he would surprise, now and then, by delivering one more bravura “comeback” performance to remind us why he created such a fuss in the first place.
With eight Academy Award nominations, he holds the record for the most acting nods without a win. And if that ever bothered him, he never let us know. For Peter O’Toole, the work is the reward. Here are a few of his most memorable films.
Lawrence of Arabia. No other actor could have captured the elusive qualities of the mysterious T.E. Lawrence. In this Oscar-winner from 1962, O’Toole inhabits the soul of the controversial hero in a performance that refuses to comply with anything typically Hollywood. He never resorts to deliver the “big speech” or embellish the dialogue with unnecessary histrionics. He simply is. And the work is magical.
Becket. Two years later, O’Toole brings a burning sense of fire to his portrayal of a young King Henry II in this classic historical drama co-starring Richard Burton. Unlike his natural approach to Lawrence, this work inspires O’Toole to bring his classic theatrical training to the screen in a portrayal just mannered enough to be totally fascinating.
The Lion in Winter. By 1968, O’Toole is bold enough to return to the character of King Henry II — as an older man, many years later — in the film version of The Lion in Winter. He comes alive as the aging king, bitter from years of turbulence with his queen, who dares to imprison her as he decides who should succeed his throne. The actor captivates as he masters this transition.
Goodbye, Mr. Chips. So, with such a strong start to his career, what else does O’Toole want to prove? That he can do a musical, of course. And even though his singing voice may not be of a Broadway belter, O’Toole brings sincere authenticity to his portrayal of this favorite literary character. He is completely believable even when singing some overly sentimental tunes.
The Ruling Class. As the 1970s begin, O’Toole takes new chances with his work, some successful and some not. He stuns the screen with his portrayal of an outrageous religious zealot in this film in 1972, the same year he is a disaster in his second musical, Man of La Mancha. But he keeps stretching.
My Favorite Year. By 1982, O’Toole is secure enough in his career to poke fun at his image. In this delightful comedy, he magically creates a larger-than-life movie actor who is scheduled to appear as the guest star on a live television variety show in the 1950s. O’Toole is hysterical in his comical examination of ego and stage fright.
Venus. After languishing for several years in minor roles on small and big screens, O’Toole makes a surprise comeback in 2006 in this delightful look at what can happen when a couple of veteran actors meet a fun-loving teenager. Despite the passage of time, O’Toole’s ability to command the screen is as strong as ever. And he has a grand time at the Academy Awards knowing, most likely, he will once again be bypassed for the Oscar. Which, of course, he is.
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