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Saluting Peter O'Toole

By Rich Heldenfels Published: July 11, 2012

The actor, nominated eight times for a competitive acting Oscar without a win,has announced his retirement. In the statement, he said, "The heart for it has gone out of me: it won't come back." And I regret that he will not, either.

In spite of too much drink, bad career choices and -- as the critic David Thomson once wrote -- occasional overacting to the point of ridiculousness, he has a bunch of memorable performances. He could be marvelous by himself (look at his eyes during the opening swordfight in "The Lion in Winter") or when daring other actors to keep up, whether the actor was his colleague Richard Burton (see "Becket"), Katharine Hepburn ("The Lion in Winter") or Robin Williams (the lamentable "Club Paradise"). I think of him in "Masada," "The Stunt Man," "The Ruling Class," "My Favorite Year" and "Becket" -- and of all of those before, say, "Lawrence of Arabia." I look at his Oscars record (which did include an honorary award) and puzzle again at the Academy choices; even more puzzling is that an actor so big that even a movie screen couldn't contain him has an Emmy (for "Joan of Arc") and two other TV nominations, but no Oscar..

Yes, there are some years when you could see the win wouldn't be his. In 1982, his "My Favorite Year' performance was better than winner Ben Kingsley's in "Gandhi," but they were also up against Dustin Hoffman in "Tootsie" and Paul Newman in "The Verdict," and either of those would have been a respectable Oscar win. But look below at 1964 and 1968 and tell me how O'Toole lost to those guys.

Here's the O'Toole box score:

1962. O"Toole in "Lawrence of Arabia." Winner: Gregory Peck, "To Kill a Mockingbird."

1964. "Becket." Winner: Rex Harrison, "My Fair Lady."

1968. "The Lion in Winter." Cliff Robertson, "Charly."

1969. "Goodbye, Mr. Chips;" John Wayne, "True Grit."

1972. "The Ruling Class." Marlon Brando, "The Godfather."

1980. "The Stunt Man." Robert DeNiro, "Raging Bull."

1982. "My Favorite Year." Kingsley.

2006. "Venus." Forest Whitaker, "The Last King of Scotland."


 

 

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