Silver screen legend Peter O'Toole dies at 81
Charismatic actor and hell-raiser best known as lead in 'Lawrence of Arabia'
His personal life and broad style recalled the excesses of Errol Flynn and Clark Gable. The son of an Irish bookmaker, actor Peter O'Toole was one of the world's final, larger-than-life movie stars. Best remembered in the lead role of "Lawrence of Arabia," in 1962, O'Toole has died at the age of 81.
Actor peter O'Toole's greatest screen triumph was as T. E. Lawrence in "Lawrence of Arabia" David Lean's wide-screen, almost-four-hour homage to the daring British soldier and adventurer who led an Arab rebellion against the Turks in the Middle East in World War I.
Blond, blue-eyed, six feet tall, O'Toole was a classically trained actor destined for leading man parts. On stage, he played an anguished, angular tramp in Beckett's "Waiting for Godot" and the title character in Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya."
O'Toole twice played King Henry II onscreen. He played opposite Richard Burton in "Becket" (1964) and then again with Katharine Hepburn as his queen in "The Lion in Winter" (1968). Both earned Oscar nominations for best actor. Versatile, O'Toole could also play dispirited, anguished characters such as the long-in-the-tooth schoolmaster in "Goodbye, Mr. Chips" in 1970 and the crazed, 14th Earl of Gurney in "The Ruling Class" in 1973.
O'Toole was a firm believer in "bravura acting." His approach was called by some as "hammy." The eccentric loops and whoops of his voice tended to reinforce the impression of power and extravagance.
Hailed by some as the next Laurence Olivier, O'Toole grabbed attention in a London production of "Hamlet" in 1958. It must be noted that his acting career was marked by some noticeable failures. A reprise of his role in "Hamlet" failed to win him new friends. O'Toole then played an adulterous alcoholic in "Ride a Cock Horse," in 1965, which was roundly booed at its London opening.
He continued to garner mixed reviews for his screen performers. Among his many roles was the cowardly naval officer seeking redemption in "Lord Jim;" as a playboy in "What's New, Pussycat?," a 1965 comedy with Peter Sellers that was written by a young Woody Allen; and as the Three Angels in "The Bible: In the Beginning," John Huston's 1966 recreation of Genesis.
O'Toole's sadistic Nazi general in Anatole Litvak's "Night of the Generals" (1967) was uniformly condemned.
Forthright about his dissolute lifestyle, O' Toole was "happy to grasp the hand of misfortune, dissipation, riotous living and violence." He cited Burton, Richard Harris, Robert Shaw, Francis Bacon, Trevor Howard, Laurence Harvey and Peter Finch among his drinking companions.
His greatest screen triumph was as T. E. Lawrence in "Lawrence of Arabia" David Lean's wide-screen, almost-four-hour homage to the daring British soldier and adventurer who led an Arab rebellion against the Turks in the Middle East in World War I.
His off-screen activities were to cut into his professional life. O'Toole lost much of his "Lawrence" earnings in two nights with Omar Sharif at casinos in Beirut and Casablanca.
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