Goodbye to a Great | Peter O’Toole

I couldn’t let the passing of Peter O’Toole go by without at least a quick nod to the late great actor. Best known, of course, for his portrayal of T.E. Lawrence in David Lean’s grand epic, Lawrence of Arabia, O’Toole was a man of flamboyant talent in both acting and life.

peter o'tooleColumbia Pictures/Photofest

One of my favorite quotes is the famous line from Noel Coward,  “If you’d been prettier, it would have been ‘Florence of Arabia.'” With his striking blue eyes and tall lanky stature, he added a handsome roguish charisma to each of his characters.

peter o'tooleFrom his legendary portrayals of Henry II, opposite Richard Burton in Becket, above, and then again in Lion in Winter to Katharine Hepburn’s Oscar winning performance as Eleanor of Aquitaine, below,

Peter O'TooleAP Photo, Avco Embassy Pictures

to the sentimental favorite Mr. Chips, to the cult classic The Ruling Class, he threw himself wholeheartedly into each role with a gusto and larger than life persona. The combination of intellect and bad-boy antics is a dangerously appealing marriage, resulting in one of his most charming, albeit lighter, roles in How to Steal a Million.

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A frothy romantic comedy, O’Toole stars with the ever stylish (in Givenchy naturally) Audrey Hepburn in William Wyler’s third feature with the actress (after Roman Holiday and The Children’s Hour). I reviewed this movie several years ago, so for those who are newer readers or missed it the first time round, let me reprise.

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Hepburn plays Nicole Bonnet, the daughter of Charles Bonnet (played marvelously by Hugh Griffith and his crazy eyebrows) a wealthy art collector who just happens to also be a forger. Things have gone swimmingly until he decides to donate his fake Cellini Venus statue to a museum, which proceeds to announce plans to have an art specialist examine the piece. Hepburn realizes the only solution is to steal the statue, which is supposedly worth a million dollars – hence the title.

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This movie has everything going for it. First is the fabulous location – all over fashionable Paris, from the Bonnet’s chic home to the Ritz. Then there is the wardrobe. Givenchy designed an incredible array of fun and fashionable outfits for this movie including the Chantilly lace outfit Hepburn wore in the famous scene at the Ritz bar, above, which was eventually sold at auction for £60,000.

Peter O’ToolePeter O’Toole is devastingly charming as Simon Dermott, a burgler she catches trying to steal a painting from her house, and then later recruits to steal back the Cellini.

peter o'tooleBetween living at the Ritz, driving a sexy ’65 E-type Jaguar and those piercing blue eyes, O’Toole’s appeal is hard to resist. If you’d like to acquaint yourself with his charms, it’s a good place to start.

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15 thoughts on “Goodbye to a Great | Peter O’Toole

  1. So glad you wrote this, thank you! I think I watched Lawrence of Arabia for like the 15th time just last month. I”m not sure there is a greater epic movie with such acting as Peter’s. And somehow I’ve missed this movie with Audrey …plan to rent that this week for sure!

  2. In 1973 I saw Peter O’Toole walking down 2nd Ave, I was 21 and said to myself, ” That’s IT”. He was the handsomest man I have ever seen. My Favorite Year is my favorite film, by this charming and talented actor.

  3. A wonderful tribute to O’Toole — and to the world of talented icons who defined an era. I love all the details you shared too, which I hadn’t known.

  4. Just a fabulous actor – he could completely draw you into whatever character he played. I only wished he done more.

  5. One of the best movie lines of all time from My Favorite Year – “I’m not an actor, I’m a movie star!!!”

  6. Stacey, O’Toole was a great actor and his movies are epic! I must see “How to Steal A Million”! I watched Hitchcock’s “Indiscreet” again over the weekend, love the Dior gowns Bergman wears, as well as the stunning collection of art in the movie.

    Scalamandre Giveaway!

  7. Of sure he is one of the great actress in the world ,I think he was a teacher in a good film but I don’t remember the movie name ,please tell me to search of it and watch

  8. Great actor! I am a 64 year old woman now but I fell in love with him when I was twelve years old after seeing him as Lawrence. Oh, what a man!

    • The same here, Maria. My older sister showed me a color photo of him in a magazine and I was captivated by his eyes. Yes, I was around 12. I had that picture on the wall of my bedroom. I must have gone to see Lawrence of Arabia ten or twelve times. I knew the dialogue by heart, the music played in each scene. Actors like O’toole, Burton, and Poitier don’t come along much anymore. I will always ache a little when I think of Peter O’toole.

  9. Yes, the same. Teri, ‘ache’… Exactly. His bad, little boy ways just made him even more attractive. So sad he’s gone.

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