A fond but not entirely reverent remembrance of Peter O’Toole by Hollywood Reporter critic Todd McCarthy is worth a read. O’Toole wrote two books about his life before he made it big-time — Loitering With Intent: The Child and Loitering With Intent: The Apprentice. McCarthy laments that O’Toole never wrote about his career from Lawrence of Arabia onward.
Everyone wrote yesterday that O’Toole was unfairly robbed of a Best Actor Oscar for his T.E. Lawrence portrayal. But the real robbery happened in April ’65 when his career-peak performance as Henry II in Becket lost to Rex Harrison‘s Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady. That’s the Academy for you.
McCarthy saw O’Toole play Professor Higgins, badly, in a 1987 London stage presentation of Pygmalion. I saw O’Toole in that reviled Macbeth at the Old Vic in 1980. It was slow and turgid and altogether horrid, and the audience all but booed at the curtain call. The look on O’Toole’s face at that moment was ghastly in itself. I felt sorry for him. I wanted to comfort him on some level. All such thoughts went out the window when I interviewed O’Toole in his Hampstead Heath home two or three days later.