Marking the Passing of Peter O’Toole

We decided to take a moment to pay tribute to one of our best loved and most iconic stars of stage and screen- Peter O’Toole who died yesterday (15.11.13).  The iconic actor was born in Ireland and brought up in Liverpool and was the son of a nurse and a metal plater/footballer/book maker.  He was evacuated during the second world war and cared for in a Catholic school forcing the creative left-hander to use his right.  He later commented on the harsh discipline and repression of earthly delights in that environment “I used to be scared stiff of the nuns: their whole denial of womanhood – the black dresses and the shaving of the hair – was so horrible, so terrifying,” later saying “Of course, that’s all been stopped. They’re sipping gin and tonic in the Dublin pubs now, and a couple of them flashed their pretty ankles at me just the other day.”  He later found employment at the Evening Post as a photographer and journalist revealing an early aptitude for observation and creativity before he was called up for national service in the navy.  He revealed to an officer at the time that he dreamed of being a poet or an actor and true to his ambitions he went on to study at RADA where his contemporaries included  Albert Finnry, Brian Badford and Alan Bates.  O’Toole refined his craft and built his reputation and career in Shakespearean theatre and made 1 or two onscreen appearances before being chosen for the role which was arguably his most famous and his most important in Lawrence of Arabia in 1962.  The performance was and still is recognised as one of the greatest and most influential of all time and the film is among the best known and best loved in cinematic history, catapulting him to world wide acclaim.  A self confessed hell raiser during the 60s, O’Toole’s presence was felt socially and was as revolutionary and notable as his stage career at a time when experimentation was taboo and dangerous.    “We heralded the ’60s,” he once said. “Me, [Richard] Burton, Richard Harris; we did in public what everyone else did in private then, and does for show now. We drank in public, we knew about pot.”  Other notable roles included King Henry II in Becket and the Lion in Winter and he is among a select minority of actors to have been nominated for an Oscar in 2 films playing the same role.   Having overcome stomach cancer in the 1970s, O’Toole was as strong in constitution as in character and talent and those who knew him frequently recount the grace with which he performed and lived.  Despite the treatment resulting in diabetes and later contracting a near fatal blood disease later on, O’Toole continued to work in to his old age.  In his youth he actively opposed British involvement in the Korean War and the Vietnam war and stood his ground throughout his life reportedly turning down a knighthood in 1987 for personal and political reasons.  Although his loss is not tragic and is the natural demise of an old man, it is a poignant and terrible loss.  Peter O’Toole was a man of principal, an inspirational and consummate performer who exemplified a love of Shakespearean literature and leaves a legacy of extraordinary and moving performances that are immortalised on screen and in the hearts of his audience and all those who knew him.  RIP.

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