Peter O’Toole, 1932-2013

One of the greatest actors has died at the age of 81. At home in both dramatic roles and in wacky comedies, I wrote an appreciation of his career when he retired last year so I won’t repeat myself. Peter Bradshaw provides a much fuller appreciation of a mercurial film and stage career in which he received eight Oscar nominations but failed to win any.

No one who has seen his debut in a major role in Lawrence of Arabia (1962) will ever forget him or that film. While I loved much of O’Toole’s work, the film that I have watched several times is his dark comedy The Ruling Class (1972) in which he plays a schizophrenic who thinks that he is god and inherits his father’s title as an Earl, to the consternation of his grasping and scheming relatives. It is a brilliant film that ferociously mixes religion and class and provided him with an opportunity to show his range of abilities from gentle to dangerous sociopath. Here is one of the best scenes from that film.

Thank you, Peter O’Toole, for providing so much pleasure to so many.


  1. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says


    I’ve enjoyed him in quite a number of things. I don’t know anything about the man, but the actor was amazing.
    In this clip, I do love the line,

    You mean he went to public school?

    despite it being spoken by an actor not named Peter O’Toole.

  2. Aaroninmelbourne says

    I liked the “We’ve always been C of E” comment… an easy illustration of the underlying meaning is from “Yes, Prime Minister” when the PM’s wife asks why, when he must recommend an appointment of a new Bishop, he should reject the atheist candidate in favor of someone who at least believes in a God. The PM says, “Yes, they offered me one of those, but he wants to turn the Church of England into a religious movement.”

    I loved this clip; the way O’Toole can be so deadpan while being totally OTT is just awesome to behold.

    The first time I really saw a Peter O’Toole film was in “High Spirits”, and have enjoyed his performances in a range of films since.

    RIP Peter O’Toole.

  3. Rob Grigjanis says

    My Favorite Year, The Lion in Winter, Becket, The Night of the Generals, Murphy’s War, on and on. Holy crap, what a career. His scene in Troy with Brad Pitt (Priam begging Achilles for Hector’s body) is a gem.

    My favourite is Lord Jim.

  4. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    Lawrence of Arabia is a great movie – saw that recently in a special remastered rescreening with my Dad. Brilliant picture, great acting. Sad news.

  5. Bob Dowling says

    I don’t know how long this will stay up, but YouTube currently has the complete “Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell”. It’s a masterpiece in comedy writing (Waterhouse) and performing (O’Toole).

    Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell

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