Monday, December 16, 2013

Peter O'Toole

It seems that this week a few well known entertainment celebrities have passed on.  For this one I wanted to celebrate Mr. O'Toole's work, and try to persuade some readers to see some of his work that the critics have failed to talk about.  Most of the news agencies have all done tributes to this great actor, but they always forget other works that need to be talked about and I'm here to remind others that there is a a number of Mr. O'Toole's films that need to be seen.  So let's start with the first.

Of course there is "Lawrence of Arabia", a film directed by none other then the famous director David Lean.   Not only is O'Toole's performance brilliant, but the film is epic in scope.  Alone for the photography the film is an interesting piece of cinema.   His performance is outstanding, and watching it one feels for his character.  But let's go on to other movies that O'Toole was in that aren't mentioned, but should be.

A film I once saw late at night on TV was a film called "Murphy's War".  In it O'Toole plays the sole survivor of his crew, that has been massacred by a German U-Boat in the closing days of World War II.  In it he is driven mad by his desire to extract revenge on the U-boats crew.  O'Toole gives a riveting performance in the film, and one I have always remembered for so long.  Not only is his performance fantastic, but the cinematography by Oscar winner Douglas Slocombe is beautiful.  O'Toole's performance as man driven to madness is quite breathtaking to witness, and O'Toole does make you believe that his obsession is just.  If you get a chance see this film you'll soon not forget the film or the performance.  I think it is the performance and the way O'Toole communicates his madness that made it so memorable for me.  I can still remember the last shot of the film, and though I won't give it away it stays with you, and is most fitting for the end.  It is a lesson about obsession and how obsession can burn us and why sometimes our obsessions should be just left alone, and not acted on.  Peter Yates directed the film, and it is a well directed piece of cinema that has been relegated to bottom of peoples list.  Not mine that's for sure.

Another film where O'Toole is at his top is a film that I consider a modern cult classic.  'The Stuntman" was released in 1980 by the director Richard Rush.  Rush had been trying to make this film for over ten years, and it is to his credit that he created a masterpiece of cinema, but it is O'Toole's performance that makes the film so memorable.  As Eli Cross the director of a fictional film in the film O'Toole pulls out all the stops.  One wonders if O'Toole is channeling all the directors he has worked with into his character or if he is just making it all up.  In the film O'Toole plays a manic director who is trying to complete a film about world war I, and in it comes our main protagonist Cameron played by Steve Railsback.  The scenes between O'Tool and Railsback are exceptional.  O'Toole plays Eli as a God like figure, and in a lot of the scenes he is seen floating on a camera crane giving orders and advice to his actors as if he was God.  "The Stuntman is a film for cine-files as well as a film for the general public.  It has so much to offer and the director plays the movie on so many levels.  I can remember taking this film apart in my film criticism class way back in college.  O'Toole's performance is flawless, and I was stunned when he didn't get a Oscar for this film alone.  It is also sad that he never got an Oscar for any of his nominations.  Which speaks to Hollywood's wisdom.  As  the screenwriter William Goldman said in his book "Adventures in the Screen Trade" nobody knows nothing, and in Hollywood that is so true it seems. 

Lastly I want to point out one of O'Toole's latest films.  Venus directed by Roger Michell.  O'Toole's performance in the film proves that even at an advanced age O'Toole was all about the performance.  I do not want to spoil anything about this film.  I will say that it is about some old actors getting their world turned around when they meet a brash young girl.  O'Toole's gift even for physical comedy is astounding, and in this part he shows that age is only a number.  I really liked the film, and it is a favorite.

Of course I have not mentioned all of O'Toole's performances that were exceptional.  There are so many films worth noting such as:  Becket, What's New Pussycat, The Lion in the WinterGoodbye Mr. Chips, Man of LaMancha, Caligula, and My Favorite Year.

Peter O'Toole leaves us with an impressive work, and he was a very extraordinary fellow.  Thanks Mr. O'Toole for the work and the performances.  He was a very gifted thespian, and one we will never see again.

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