Peter O’Toole (1932-2013)

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The “last of the hard-drinking hellraisers” is dead, as was written December 14 by The Telegraph writer Robbie Collin.  Richard Burton, Richard Harris, Oliver Reed and others defined a generation of British actors hailing from Wales, Ireland, Scotland and England with their mix of imposing acting dexterity and their hell-raising personal lives.  Besides Richard Harris—perhaps—the most significant of these British hell-raisers was Peter O’Toole.  His significance was not born merely of his controversial life off the stage and away from the screen, but because he, above all others, was the greatest on that stage, and on that screen.  No actor in history has matched his volatility as a character actor, nor have they ever been able to meet him in his potent monologues.  There was something about his diction, a perfect blend of Irishman and Shakespearean reciter, that complimented his intensity of gaze, his angular expressions, and his physical simplicity.  His roles were a true masks of self, yet, somehow, reflections of that bombastic and flamboyant personality were found in each one of those roles.  For O’Toole, his own self was an integral part of every character he portrayed.  Perhaps this is best shown in own appraisal of his performance in Lord Jim—a role many considered a failure: “I was so wrong for the picture,” he said. “When I play reflective types, I tend to reflect myself right off the screen.” Continue reading