"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

The best of them won't come for money; they'll come for me…

Happy birthday to one of the true heavyweights of stage and screen – Peter O’Toole turns 78 today.  O’Toole is not only an exceptional actor, he’s also a true “star” in a way we rarely see anymore. He may have been riffing on Errol Flynn in his brilliant performance in My Favorite Year, but it was clear there was more than a little of himself in Alan Swann too.

O’Toole’s sometimes boozy, seemingly always cheerful, outsized personality and his talk show appearances are as legendary as his performances (remember him riding a camel onto the stage for David Letterman?). Nominated 8 times for the Best Actor Oscar, he’s never won, but did accept an honorary Academy Award for his body of work (which he initially refused). Here’s a snippet from one of those nominated performances, as movie director Eli Cross in Richard Rush’s 1980 film The Stunt Man:

Since attempting to watch Lawrence of Arabia at work seems like a bad idea, and its too early to raise a pint to the old Irishman, why not mark the occasion by reading Gay Talese’s terrific 1963 Esquire profile of O’Toole.

O'Toole and Richard Burton in Becket (1964)

Happy birthday, Peter. Let’s hope we see you up on the silver screen again soon.


1 BronxToCT   ~  Aug 2, 2010 2:31 pm

When I was a graduate student back in the early 1980's, I had the honor of showing Peter O'Toole and his daughter around the school, as she was thinking of applying. It was a rainy spring day, and I was wearing a tweed hat I picked up in a shop selling Irish goods. Right after we shook hands, he said, "You must know Mr. Millard," and he reached over and took the hat off my head. There, inside the hat, was the label showing the name of the hatmaker and proving that Mr. O'Toole, was, indeed, absolutely correct!

2 Alex Belth   ~  Aug 2, 2010 3:45 pm

Great story. Love My Favorite Year. Classic actor, indeed and very good piece by Talese. Good call, Matt.

3 The Mick536   ~  Aug 2, 2010 4:08 pm

Cannot do better than The Ruling Class.

4 Matt Blankman   ~  Aug 2, 2010 4:22 pm

Yeah, that is one of my favorite of Talese's profile pieces. O'Toole is just such an immensely likable presence on screen. He's a force of nature.

5 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Aug 2, 2010 5:06 pm


I'm too lazy to look it up right now, but Jesus, who did win best actor over his Lawrence performance?

6 Matt Blankman   ~  Aug 2, 2010 5:17 pm

[5] Gregory Peck for To Kill A Mockingbird. Excellent film, but O'Toole's performance was far more worthy than Peck's.

7 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Aug 2, 2010 5:46 pm

[6] Cheers! Yeah, his performance in that was just fine but what I remember about that film (and I only saw it once, probably on VHS) is the film itself. In other words, Peck didn't create a character like Lawrence or Travis Bickle or anything; the award should go to a towering, legendary performance. (Daniel Day-Lewis in "There Will Be Blood," e.g.)

8 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Aug 2, 2010 6:19 pm

The Lion In Winter.

That is all.

9 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Aug 2, 2010 6:57 pm

[8] :)

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