Peter O'Toole Movies: 'Lawrence of Arabia,' 'The Last Emperor'

by Andre Soares
Peter O'Toole, Omar Sharif, Lawrence of Arabia
Peter O'Toole, Omar Sharif in David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia

Peter O'Toole on Turner Classic Movies on Saturday, Aug. 28., '10, TCM's “Summer Under the Stars” series has only four more days to go. (See TCM's Peter O'Toole movie schedule further below.)

O'Toole isn't one of my favorite actors – I usually find his acting, well, actorish – but he is one of the favorite actors of a whole lot of people. O'Toole fans, it's time to rejoice.

TCM's presentation includes O'Toole's most famous film, David Lean's Oscar-winning epic Lawrence of Arabia (1962); four other vehicles for which O'Toole received a Best Actor nomination – Becket (1964), The Ruling Class (1972), The Stunt Man (1980), and My Favorite Year (1982); and Richard Brooks' Lord Jim (1965).

Many found Lord Jim, an adaptation of Joseph Conrad's novel, an artistic disappointment. Though hardly one of the greatest movies ever made, I found it an intriguing attempt to translate Conrad's tale of human arrogance and cultural ethnocentrism to the screen.

Lord Jim, in fact, has a lot in common with Lawrence of Arabia, which many consider one of the greatest movies ever made. In my view, it's just one of the biggest (not including Bollywood musicals, of course). But the desert vistas are indeed beautiful (cinematography by Freddy Young), Alec Guinness and Claude Rains are flawless in supporting roles, and poor Lawrence's rape and its aftermath are unintentionally hilarious.

The subtle David Lean of Brief Encounter, This Happy Breed, Blithe Spirit, The Passionate Friends, and Hobson's Choice was long gone by then.

I find Peter Glenville's highly theatrical Becket – a gay love story if there ever was one – all but unwatchable, but Richard Rush's The Stunt Man – a surprise Academy Award nominee for Best Actor and Best Director – has some good things going for it, especially Barbara Hershey, a talented and way underrated actress.

The Last Emperor (1987) is Bernardo Bertolucci gone Hollywood. One of the director's most conventional and simplistic movies, this sentimental, by-the-book “history” of China's last emperor (John Lone) won a basketful of Oscars, including Best Picture. But lush, sumptuous, and “epic” it is. If that's your cup of ginseng, don't miss it.

If you catch Richard Benjamin's not-very-funny comedy My Favorite Year, in which O'Toole plays a sort of aging Errol Flynn (or aging O'Toole, to a certain extent), look for Titanic's/The Old Dark House's Gloria Stuart in a supporting role.

I haven't seen Anatole Litvak's The Night of the Generals (1967), but this tale of a serial-killer on the loose in Nazi Germany sounds a bit like Robert Siodmak's The Devil Strikes at Night (1957). I also haven't gotten around to watching Peter Medak's The Ruling Class, but the premise – “When a deranged nobleman inherits a fortune, his relatives conspire to seize power” – sounds fascinating.

Before I wrap this up: my favorite Peter O'Toole performance is found in the bloated musical Goodbye Mr. Chips (1969), which TCM has shown in the past.

Peter O'Toole, Lawrence of Arabia
Peter O'Toole in David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia

Schedule (PT) and synopses from the TCM website:

3:00 AM Day They Robbed The Bank Of England, The (1960)
Turn-of-the-century Irish patriots plan to overthrow the British government. Cast: Peter O'Toole, Aldo Ray, Elizabeth Sellars. Dir.: John Guillermin. Black and white. 85 min.

4:30 AM Night of the Generals, The (1967)
A Nazi officer tries to catch a serial killer attacking prostitutes. Cast: Peter O'Toole, Omar Sharif, Tom Courtenay. Dir.: Anatole Litvak. Color. 144 min.

7:00 AM My Favorite Year (1982)
A flamboyant star throws a TV comedy show into chaos. Cast: Peter O'Toole, Mark Linn-Baker, Jessica Harper. Dir.: Richard Benjamin. Color. 92 min.

8:45 AM Becket (1964)
England's King Henry II appoints his best friend Archbishop of Canterbury then turns on him. Cast: Richard Burton, Peter O'Toole, John Gielgud. Dir.: Peter Glenville. Color. 148 min.

11:30 AM Last Emperor, The (1987)
China's final emperor, Pu Yi, becomes a pawn of imperial forces, the invading Japanese and the Communist government. Cast: John Lone, Joan Chen, Peter O'Toole. Dir.: Bernardo Bertolucci. Color. 163 min.

2:15 PM Lord Jim (1965)
After turning coward, a naval officer tries to redeem himself by helping Asian natives stage a revolution. Cast: Peter O'Toole, James Mason, Eli Wallach. Dir.: Richard Brooks. Color. 154 min.

5:00 PM Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
A British military officer enlists the Arabs for desert warfare in World War I. Cast: Peter O'Toole, Omar Sharif, Alec Guinness. Dir.: David Lean. Color. 227 min.

9:00 PM Ruling Class, The (1972)
When a deranged nobleman inherits a fortune, his relatives conspire to seize power. Cast: Peter O'Toole, Arthur Lowe, Coral Browne. Dir.: Peter Medak. Color. 153 min.

12:00 AMStunt Man, The (1980)
A man on the run joins an embattled film company run by a maniacal director. Cast: Peter O'Toole, Steven Railsback, Barbara Hershey. Dir.: Richard Rush. Color. 131 min.

 

Peter O'Toole movies' schedule via the TCM website.

4 comments

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4 comments

EDDIE HANDIBODE -

Probally, the GREATEST ACTOR of ALL-TIME. 98.5% of Hollywood, doesn't even hold a Candle to this Man.

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Daniel -

I am a great fan of Peter O'Toole's; I love the way he can enunciate words. That being said, I understand completely your description of him as 'actorish'. He has a capacity to invest great emotion into his words, which may be a quality he developed in his Shakespearean theatrical schooling. Regardless, it is one he exhibits frequently, although in the case of odd characters such as Lawrence (a sadistic asexual egoist) and Henry (a disgruntled old king), I find his particular style to be perfect.

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Louis -

Forgot to add that I liked the snippet, though somewhat self-serving, of O'Toole talking about the quasi ad-libbing in one of the scenes in “Lawrence.”

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Louis -

Haven't ever caught that many of O'Toole's movies, I think you're spot-on about the “actorish” thing. However, one film of his that I DO especially like is “The Lion in Winter.” I find him great in that, holding his own with Hepburn et al. It's a film I never get tired of watching (and I've probably watched it a dozen times, not counting times I've caught it in bits).

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