Monday, 16 December 2013

The Lion in Winter Departs


 I am feeling a little sad and teary eyed this morning; not my usual state at this time of day and nothing to do with the trauma of working for eight hours this evening.

 No, the greatest actor I ever had the privilege of watching has passed away in London over the weekend.

 Peter O'Toole, who found immortal fame by playing another legendary bugger, TE Lawrence in "Lawrence of Arabia, has shuffled off the mortal coil aged 81. It was surprising he lasted so long. There is some hell raising going on in heaven as I write I'm sure!


 I had heard of "Lawrence of Arabia" and Peter O'Toole of course, long before I ever saw the movie. As a young fellow, three hour epics of that type were not really my cup of tea and it wasn't until my early twenties, when, one day before going to work, I turned on my television and watched part of the midday movie called "Rogue Male" that I began to revel in the greatness and passion a gifted actor can create.

 Peter O"Toole played a British aristocrat who unsuccessfully attempts to assassinate Adolf Hitler. He is arrested and tortured by the Nazis and the interrogation and torture scene which O'Toole played captured my mind like no other. It was acting of the highest calibre. So real it was scary and really made me appreciate O'Toole and his mastery of the craft which he practised.

 It is an odd thing that we can be so emotionally invested in the lives of people we have never met and really know nothing about but as I began to investigate O"Toole's work and read of his incredible life a tidal wave of adoration swept over me and I have never shaken it. Thus I am a little upset today.

 Not long after seeing "Rogue Male", I came across "The Lion in Winter" one Sunday afternoon on the box and as my disinterested parents and siblings bemoaned my perceived enthusiasm for historical epics, I sat spellbound as O'Toole ate up the screen as King Henry II alongside the equally great Katherine Hepburn. Nothing would be the same again.

 Of course I watched "Lawrence of Arabia" at long last and enjoyed many of O'Toole's other roles, famous and not so famous, brilliant and not so brilliant but he always gave his all and I always enjoyed his acting even it it was only for his mere presence on the screen.

 Of course it was a life well lived and it is hard to mourn the passing of a man who died with few regrets and lived so large. It was a life to celebrate.

  In an era when actors don't want to be film stars any more it is worth remembering a man who was both and revelled in it.

 In one of his finest roles and one of his eight Academy Award nominated performances, "My Favorite Year," O'Toole's character, ageing thespian Alan Swann, at one point bellows, "I'm not an actor, I'm a movie star!"

 Peter, you were damn right!

 Rest in peace.


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