RIP Peter O’Toole! A Fond Look Back At This “Hellraiser!”

RIP Peter O’ Toole!

RIP Peter O' Toole

A screen legend has died – RIP Peter O’ Toole! Such sad news for a great acting legend – after a life of carousing and impressive career achievements — including eight Oscar nominations, an Emmy Award and four Golden Globes.

Here is what The Guardian newspaper in London is reporting:

The actor Peter O’Toole, who found stardom in David Lean’s masterpiece Lawrence of Arabia, has died aged 81, his agent has said.

The acclaimed leading man who overcame stomach cancer in the 1970s passed away on Saturday at the Wellington hospital in London following a long illness, Steve Kenis said.

Peter O' Toole RIP

O’Toole announced last year he was stopping acting saying: “I bid the profession a dry-eyed and profoundly grateful farewell.”

He said his career on stage and screen fulfilled him emotionally and financially, bringing him together “with fine people, good companions with whom I’ve shared the inevitable lot of all actors: flops and hits.”

Here is the official statement he released upon his retirement – beautifully written with the style and class he exhibited in life:


Dear All:
It is time for me to chuck in the sponge. To retire from films and stage. The heart for it has gone out of me: it won’t come back.

My professional acting life, stage and screen, has brought me public support, emotional fulfillment and material comfort. It has brought me together with fine people, good companions with whom I’ve shared the inevitable lot of all actors: flops and hits.

However, it’s my belief that one should decide for oneself when it is time to end one’s stay. So I bid the profession a dry-eyed and profoundly grateful farewell.

Ever
Peter O’Toole

The story adds: “No one who saw it will ever forget O’Toole’s golden hair and deep blue eyes on screen in the 1962 film ‘Lawrence of Arabia,’ in which he portrayed the flamboyantly weird British military leader T.E. Lawrence rallying Arab Bedouin tribesmen during World War I. Considered one of the most influential films ever, ‘Lawrence’ won seven Oscars and earned O’Toole his first of eight acting nominations.”

One of those eight nominations came for the 1982 comedy “My Favorite Year,” which is one of the best movies ever about TV. The movie takes place in 1954, and O’Toole steals the film playing a legendary screen personality who is a guest star on a TV show.

My Favorite Year – 1982. A hilarious love letter to the early days of live TV, with an Oscar-nominated performance by Peter O’Toole that showcased his amazing flair for comedy.

Here is the IMDB synopsis: Benjy Stone is the junior writer on the top rated, live weekly variety/comedy show, in the mid 50s. Alan Swann, an Errol Flynn type actor with a drinking problem is to be that weeks guest star. When King Kaiser, the headliner wants to throw Swann off the show, Benjy makes a pitch to save his childhood hero, and is made Swann’s babysitter.

Actor Richard Benjamin directed this film, which is hilarious, poignant and fast-paced. There are so many great Actors in this movie, from Mark Linn-Baker to Jessica Harper, Bill Macy to Joseph Bologna – and they are all terrific! But this is O’Toole’s movie, and he owns every frame of it as the swashbuckling drunk…such as when he shows up to the first writer’s meeting:

[an obviously drunken Swann meets the writing staff]
Sy: He’s plastered!
Alan Swann: So are some of the finest erections in Europe.

Then again, when he enters the women’s bathroom by mistake, and runs into Wardrobe Designer Lil:

Lil: This is for ladies only!
Alan Swann: [unzipping fly] So is *this*, ma’am, but every now and then I have to run a little water through it.

And finally, after he finds out the show is live, he panics and flees, and you find out he has been fleeing from everything in his life, including his daughter. He shares those fears with the young writer Benjy Stone…

Alan Swann: I’m afraid, Stone. I’m afraid. That’s why I couldn’t get out of the car to see my Tess, my child.
Benjy Stone: Alan Swann, afraid? The Defender of the Crown? Captain from Tortuga? The Last Knight of the Round Table?
Alan Swann: Those are movies, damn you! Look at me! I’m flesh and blood, life-size, no larger! I’m not that silly God-damned hero! I never was!
Benjy Stone: To *me* you were! Whoever you were in those movies, those silly goddamn heroes meant a lot to *me*! What does it matter if it was an illusion? It worked! So don’t tell me this is you life-size. I can’t use you life-size. I need Alan Swanns as big as I can get them! And let me tell you something: you couldn’t have convinced me the way you did unless somewhere in you you *had* that courage! Nobody’s that good an actor! You *are* that silly goddamn hero!

If you have never seen this film you must stop reading right now and go get it. Or, do what we do and watch it every six months to remind you of why you love movies..and then watch this Best Picture winner that made Peter O’ Toole a household name…

LAWRENCE OF ARABIA – 1962.

This is the epic film that made Peter O’Toole a star, and considered one of the greatest films ever made.

Peter O’Toole’s performance as T.E. Lawrence is the #1 ranked performance of all time in Premiere Magazine’s 100 Greatest Performances of All Time.

Thomas Edward Lawrence blazed his way to glory in the Arabian desert, then sought anonymity as a common soldier under an assumed name. The story opens with the death of Lawrence in a motorcycle accident in Dorset at the age of 46, then flashbacks to recount his adventures: as a young intelligence officer in Cairo in 1916, he is given leave to investigate the progress of the Arab revolt against the Turks in World War I.

In the desert, he organizes a guerrilla army and–for two years–leads the Arabs in harassing the Turks with desert raids, train-wrecking and camel attacks. Eventually, he leads his army northward and helps a British General destroy the power of the Ottoman Empire.

During an appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in the 1970s, Peter O’Toole was describing just how long the movie took to make by referring to the scene when T.E. Lawrence and Gen. Allenby, after their meeting, continue talking while walking down a staircase. According to O’Toole, part of the scene had to be reshot much later, “so in the final print, when I get to the bottom of the stairs, I’m a year older than I was when I started walking down them.”

Years later, in an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Peter O’Toole confessed quite proudly that, out of fear of falling off during a big camel riding scene, he and Omar Sharif decided to get absolutely hammered and then tied themselves down on the camels before shooting. By his own admission, he was so drunk he had no idea where he was or what he was doing for the entire scene (attack on Akaba).

And if you want to know if Peter O’Toole drank much, then you HAVE to read this book!



Hellraisers – by Robert Sellers – originally published in 2009

RICHARD BURTON. OLIVER REED. RICHARD HARRIS. PETER O’ TOOLE. The most legendary English drinkers in movie history!

Here is what Amazon had to say about this hilarious book: “This highly entertaining biography of four charismatic and much loved actors follows them through five decades of boozing, brawling and braggadocio.”

At their career peaks, these four controversial actors had the whole world at their feet and lived through some of the wildest exploits Hollywood has ever seen. But all that fame had a price; Richard Burton’s liver was shot by the time he was 50, Richard Harris’s film career stalled for over a decade. Peter O’Toole’s drinking almost put him in the grave before his 43rd birthday, and Oliver Reed ended up dying prematurely.

“I did quite enjoy the days when one went for a beer at one’s local in Paris and woke up in Corsica,” Mr. O’Toole once quipped.

This is the story of four of the greatest thespian boozers who ever walked — or staggered — off a film set into a pub. It’s a story of drunken binges of near biblical proportions, parties and orgies, broken marriages, drugs, riots and wanton sexual conquests. And yet these piss-artists were seemingly immune from the law.

Mr. Reed is said to have drunk 126 pints of beer in 24 hours, and as you can see, loved to carouse with The Who drummer and legendary mad man Keith Moon.

Mr. Harris joked of having formed a support group called Alcoholics Unanimous that worked this way: “If you don’t feel like a drink, you ring another member and he comes over to persuade you.” Mr. Reed, by far the most hellish of the four, had an eagle’s head tattooed on his shoulder.

Oliver Reed also had the eagle’s claws tattooed on the part of his body that he most enjoyed exposing without warning. “Would you like to see where it’s perched?” he liked to ask about the bird.

And what about Richard Burton? Mr. Elizabeth Taylor – TWICE? Here’s a story about Mr. Burton during the filming of “The Klansman,” one of his worst. “If you want to interview a drunk or see a drunk fall in the camellia bushes, come ahead,” that film’s publicist supposedly told the press. And when the film’s makeup artist was complimented on how well he had prepared Mr. Burton for his death scene, the makeup man replied: “I haven’t touched him.”

They got away with it because of their extraordinary acting talent and because the public loved them. They were truly the last of a breed, the last of the movie hellraisers. This is a great great book – but it will make you thirsty!

We will miss you Peter!



Categories: 70's Cinema, Academy Awards, Awards, Books / Media, British Cinema, Comedy Movies, Golden Globes, Great Films, Independent Cinema, London, Movies, Movies About Movies, Obscure Movies, Talent/Celebrities, TV Show, Uncategorized

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