Movies In Focus On The Passing Of Peter O’Toole


Movies In Focus gives me the unique platform to talk about films and filmmakers that interest me. This site doesn’t choose between young, old, modern or classic – it’s about what makes films special – it quite simply puts the movies in focus. The passing of Peter O’Toole is a sad moment in cinematic history and I felt obliged to write about it. However, I knew that my father, a life-long fan of O’Toole could talk about the man with more passion and poignancy than even I could muster. I therefore threw the platform over to him, so that he could share his memories of Peter O’Toole with you.

Yesterday the final curtain came down on the stage and screen career of legendary Irish actor Peter O’Toole. O’Toole shot to international stardom in David Lean’s Oscar-laden epic, Lawrence of Arabia. It was a film which saw O’Toole play the enigmatic title role, a part which would be his cinematic debut.

Over the next four decades or so Peter O’Toole played a wide variety of roles in his own individual style, bringing to most of his roles an edgy side which added so much depth to the characters he acted. Nominated eight times for the coveted Oscar, he finally received an Honorary Oscar in 2003, believing his chances of Oscar nominations were by now limited. At first he declined the invitation, but he eventually relented after being promised that it didn’t mean an end to his illustrious career (he later received his final nomination for 2006’s Venus).

Becket, My Favourite Year, High Spirits and not forgetting the epic mini-series Masada were diamonds in a well-worn crown of his acting abilities. However, it should be noted that every O’Toole performance holds something special, no matter how large or small it may be.

I first saw Lawrence of Arabia at the age of fourteen and sat through a double screening of it, amazed by the brilliance not only of the movie but by the acting, especially Peter O’Toole. After that I made every effort to watch it again – in the age before video and DVD. Many years later while on holiday in Paris with my family, I managed to persuade them to a special screening of the then newly restored version of the film. That afternoon still resonates a special moment in my life – maybe because my wife never lets me forget about the ‘lost afternoon’ in Paris. Or maybe it was because of the film’s perfect presentation.

A few years later while holidaying in London, a special screening of ‘Lawrence’ in honour of Freddie Young (the film’s cinematographer) was due to be held in the Odeon in Leicester Square. Reluctantly, I shied away from going. Two weeks later an episode of ‘This Is Your Life’ was broadcast with its guest Freddie Young, surrounded by the cast of ‘Lawrence’. Yes, it was a recording of that special screening of Lean’s film – I was frustratingly close to being near the legends behind such a defining moment of my childhood.

Peter O’Toole was a great actor, who gave me and others great memories and we should be forever thankful that he has left over 50 years of great movie performances to watch again and again.


Kevin Browne