Sunday, December 15, 2013

Peter O'Toole

I'd never been much of an O'Toole fancier until I watched and heard his elegant honorary Oscar acceptance speech at the 2003 Academy Awards. I was so enchanted by its graceful, eloquent brevity that I immediately went on ABEbooks and purchased both volumes of Loitering With Intent, his autobiography.  What a wonderful tale-teller he was! And what a miracle he lived as long as he did, given his astounding promiscuity, and mind-blowing alcohol and cigarette consumption!  He was a stunningly beautiful youth--a "flower boy" before the garden of these gods became crowded with surgically-enhanced lovelies--who aged with gut-wrenching rapidity due to his profligate lifestyle. But his acting ability remained exceptionally vital, even as his external appearance verged on cadaverous.

My two favorite O'Toole films are on either end of his vast thematic and stylistic range: the lighthearted modern romantic comedy (with the ever-chic Audrey Hepburn) How to Steal a Million, and that searing historical portrait of a severely dysfunctional late medieval family (with grande dame Katherine Hepburn) The Lion in Winter.

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