Actor Peter O’Toole: unforgettable

“I will not be a common man. I will stir the smooth sands of monotony.” Peter O’Toole

With Audrey Hepburn in "How to Steal a Million"
With Audrey Hepburn
in “How to Steal a Million”
As Lawrence of Arabia
As Lawrence of Arabia
With Richard Burton in "Becket"
With great pal and drinking buddy Richard Burton
in “Becket”
With Kate Hepburn in "The Lion in Winter"
With Kate Hepburn
in “The Lion in Winter”

A toast my lovelies to the magnificently flawed, endlessly entertaining, perennial hell-raiser Peter O’Toole, who died in a London hospital on December 14 at the age of eighty-one.

“Lawrence of Arabia, ” one of my favorite films, introduced the world to the flamboyant Irishman named Peter O’Toole and the pesky devil has been in our hearts ever since. Yes, O’Toole was a raging alcoholic, throughly impossible most of the time, but oh, those piercing baby blues, that fabulous wit, that talent!

I deeply admired O’Toole’s blustering performance as King Henry II in “The Lion in Winter,” and how he matched wits with Kate Hepburn (1968); loved him in “My Favorite Year” (what a fantastic supporting cast), and just about everything else he tackled, even the flops.  

O’Toole set a record with eight Oscar nominations and no win, one of Hollywood’s greatest travesties. Visit Wikipedia and see the list of actors he was up against for the coveted statuette and you’ll be flabbergasted at the winners (I am still reeling from his 1964 loss to Rex Harrison, of all people, and his 1968 loss to Cliff Robertson). Any sane person knows O’Toole deserved the Oscar for his magnificent portrayal of T.E. Lawrence in David Lean’s epic Lawrence of Arabia, a film forever etched in our collective memories.

Peter O’Toole knew all 154 of Shakespeare’s sonnets; his best friend was Omar Sharif, he got along famously with Kate Hepburn, with whom he starred in “The Lion in Winter,” (in fact named one of his daughters after Ms. Hepburn), was a huge rugby fan, and his father was a bookie.

Britain’s Telegraph has ten O’Toole stories you’ll want to read and The New York Times has a fabulous write-up, as always.

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