Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Britain says " Happy Birthday " to an old actor called Peter O'Toole

Peter O'Toole is 79 today.

Things you possibly didn't know about Peter, that he was :

* born Peter Seamus Lorcan O'Toole in Ireland or possibly in the West Riding of Yorkshire, England, where he grew up. He is not certain of his birthplace or date.

* the son of a Scottish nurse and an Irish metal plater, football player and racecourse bookmaker.

* one year old when his family began a five-year tour of major racecourse towns in Northern England.

* evacuated from Leeds early in The Second World War and went to a Roman Catholic school for seven or eight years.

* after leaving school, employed as a 'trainee journalist' on the 'Yorkshire Evening Post'.

* called up for 'National Service' as a signaller in the Royal Navy.

* a student at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art from 1952 to 1954 after being rejected by the Abbey Theatre's Drama School in Dublin because he couldn't speak Irish.

* at RADA, in the same class as Albert Finney, Alan Bates and Brian Bedford and described this as : "the most remarkable class the academy ever had, though we weren't reckoned for much at the time. We were all considered dotty."

* was active in protesting against British involvement in the Korean War and in the 1960s, an active opponent of the Vietnam War.

* working in the theatre as as a Shakespearean actor before making his television debut in 1954 and a very minor film debut in 1959.

* chosen to play T. E. Lawrence in David Lean's film 'Lawrence of Arabia' in 1962.

* one of a handful of actors to be Oscar-nominated for playing the same role in two different films : King Henry II in both 'Becket' and 'The Lion in Winter'.

* able to fulfil a lifetime ambition when taking to the stage of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin in 1970 to play in Samuel Beckett's 'Waiting for Godot'.

* suffering from severe illness in the late 1970s, when, because of his heavy drinking, underwent surgery and developed insulin-dependent diabetes and in 1978 nearly died from a blood disorder.

* seen again on the screen playing in the Brad Pitt film 'Troy' as King Priam in 2005

* offered a knighthood or honorary knighthood in 1987 and turned it down for personal and political reasons.

* and still is fan of the 'Rugby Union' and is a lifelong player, coach and enthusiast of cricket.

* able to say that the actor he most enjoyed working with was Katharine Hepburn, his close friend, with whom he played Henry II to her Eleanor of Aquitaine in 'The Lion in Winter'.

In reply to John's comment below :

John, thanks for the comment. I'm pleased you like my blog. Your James Kennaway was an interesting man. I remember seeing his 'Tunes of Glory' but don't recall 'Country Dance'. What I can tell you is that it was released in 1970 under the title 'The Same Skin' in UK and 'Brotherly Love' in the USA. You can see the trailer at TCM : http://www.tcm.com/mediaroom/video/31781/Brotherly-Love-Original-Trailer-.html and synopsis : http://www.tcm.com/this-month/article/161057%7C0/Brotherly-Love.html I'm pretty sure it hasn't had a DVD release, hence your difficulty in getting a copy. Best wishes to you.

1 comment:

  1. The inimitable Peter O'Toole did a film early in his career. It was based on a novel of James Kennaway's, 'Household Ghosts'. I believe the movie people may have changed the title to 'Country Dance'. Without success I have been trying to find it on DVD or even video. Can you recall the film, John? O'Toole played a somewhat doomed Scottish aristocrat. The charming Susannah York played his troubled sister. Brian Blessed was the village policeman. The location was, of course, Perthshire, which was Kennaway's birthplace and spiritual homeland. The novelist died in a car accident at the age of 40, in 1968, I believe. He had suffered a massive heart attack at the wheel. I think of all he might have done had he lived. Almost certainly he would have been against the break-up of the United Kingdom, as I am against it. Kennaway wrote the screenplay from Morris West's novel 'The Shoes of the Fisherman' (about the election of a Pope and starring Anthony Quinn) and also the script of 'The Mind Benders' which starred Dirk Bogarde and Mary Ure. (The Mind Benders is available on DVD.) Kennaway's first novel, 'Tunes of Glory', was of course filmed with Alec Guinness, John Mills, Susannah York and Dennis Price. Again available on DVD. The story takes the theme of men in crisis, an echo of your own most agreeable website, John. My only quarrel with the film is that it never featured the haunting sound of the pibroch. I am a fan of pibroch playing. It obsessed Kennaway like the call of antiquity. Like the characters in the story, Kennaway served in a Perthshire Highland regiment in which he was a young subaltern. The film was shot around Stirling Castle, and there is an evocative night scene in which John Mills tears down Edinburgh's Royal Mile (in the direction of Holyrood Palace) in an army jeep. All this is a long way from Peter O'Toole. One more anecdote. The poet and novelist PJ Kavanagh (now living in Gloucestershire) appears in a brief scene in 'Lawrence of Arabia'. He plays a young subaltern at HQ and conducts Lawrence into the presence of General Allenby (Jack Hawkins). Mr Kavanagh, one of my favourite writers, told me he had never watched the film. He had however a great time on location with the film crew. (John Haggerty, Glasgow.)