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« Best Pictures for Home Viewing | Main | Obligatory Superhero Update: "Fantastic Four" & "Doctor Strange" »
Saturday
Feb222014

8 Days Til Oscar. Peter O'Toole, The Actor Who Would Be... Nominated?

Here's new contributor Diana Drumm to talk about a man who will surely win pride of place in Oscar's In Memoriam a week from Sunday.

Crazy eights, ice-skating tricks, the infinity symbol standing upright, 8 is a fun number... unless you’re the late legendary actor Peter O’Toole.  Yes, the man who won the hearts (but not the majority) of Academy voters in his film debut as the titular Lawrence of Arabia, held his own in a televised Shakespeare discussion with Orson Welles, and bounded on and offscreen to various degrees of liquid courage would falter slightly, nay merely pause, at the mention of eight and Oscar in the same sentence. 

Your instructions: Read the following paragraph aloud or in your head with all of the O’Toole-ian gravitas you can muster, in the style of the opening of his “My Life” speech from The Lion in Winter (1968), which garnered him a third nomination for Best Actor...

His life, as it has been written, reads no better, possibly far worse, than it lived. Peter James O’Toole, first Hamlet at the British National Royal Theatre, an Oscar nominee at 30, the ablest actor of an able time. He led productions well, he cared for the written and spoken word (with a wee dram thrown in here and there for good measure), for fifty years, with a career as great as any Barrymore, Booth or Burton. He worked out of love, with an offscreen persona out of legend. Coming out of Ireland, or Leeds, or some other unspecified location on the Anglo-Irish isles, never has there been such a filmography -- playing pope, king, prince and Caesar; actor, director and movie star; knight errant and madman; working with Hepburn both Katharine and Audrey. It garnered him many nominations. But no Oscar wins. O’Toole had no wins. He had one whiskered Honorary Award, but he rejected it, then accepted it, then was nominated again a mere four years later, only to lose yet again, for the eighth time.  

Peter O'Toole with his Honorary... which he did eventually deign to acceptAs every single one of his obituaries noted late last year (frequently within the first line), O’Toole received a grand total of 8 nominations over the course of his 81 years roaming the earth, but never officially won. Yes, he was awarded an honorary Lifetime Achievement award in 2003, but that doesn't count... at least in the way he wanted it to. On the initial announcement, the man himself declined the award in a handwritten letter (the same mode in which he would announce his retirement a decade later) and writing that he was “still in the game and might win the lovely bugger outright.” Sure enough, he was nominated yet again for his close-to-life performance as an aged actor in My Favorite Year Venus (2006).

Can you name the eight? We’ll give you a second… Got them sorted? State your answers... Caligula (1979)? Well… Man of La Mancha (1972)? What the what? He was dubbed for half of that… King Ralph (1991)? No, just no. How dare you? We kid, not really… 

But seriously, read this roster of films and try not to swoon: Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Becket (1964), The Lion in Winter (1968), Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969), The Ruling Class (1972), The Stunt Man (1980), My Favorite Year (1982), and finally Venus (2006). Which of those performances do you think deserved the Oscar? Or a better question, who would you have pulled a Kanye on? Gregory Peck for To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), Rex Harrison for My Fair Lady (1964), Cliff Robertson for Charly (1968), John Wayne for True Grit (1969), Marlon Brando for The Godfather (1972), Robert De Niro for Raging Bull (1980), Ben Kingsley for Gandhi (1982), or Forest Whitaker for The Last King of Scotland (2006)? 

If you want to hear O’Toole’s voice bellow through cavernous castle stone hallways or watch him storm the Ed Sullivan Theater on camelback, or… well, scroll below for a bordering-on-excessive amount of clips (okay, eight) of O’Toole-ian mayhem, madness and majesty… 

Delivering lines plainly beneath him  - Spice Girls edition!

Peter O'Toole and Orson Welles discussing Hamlet

A heated scene in Becket (1964)

A botched Cyrano in What's New Pussycat? (1965)

 

He sings  (!) in The Ruling Class (1972)

Drunk on Johnny Carson

His famous camel ride on David Letterman

"Shall i compare thee to a summer's day?" in Venus (2006)

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Reader Comments (13)

Like Newman, he really is a victim that he was bested on a couple of occasions by a truly magnificent performance as his reason not to win.

Gregory Peck in '62 for Mockingbird
Brando in '72 for Godfather
Kingsley (I don't love the film, but he's wonderful in it, and considering that lineup!) in '82

That being said....the fact that he couldn't manage a win for the Lion in Winter is one of the most appalling oversights in Academy history. Hepburn doesn't play Eleanor as well without her Henry II.

Just too bad.

February 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDrew C

Drew C -- that 82 lineup was a keeper yes, but my vote goes to Dustin Hoffman.

Diana -- I had never seen this camel bit on Letterman!

February 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

One of my all time favorite actors. I actually would've awarded him the statue for both Lawrence and The Lion in Winter, and in a lesser year, The Ruling Class, which I think is an underrated movie. Certainly a little "dated" for whatever that's worth, but it's a really funny, wacky, genre bending movie.

February 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCasey Fiore

Beyond the first 3 movies he was nominated for which are great, some of his nominated work has been for unwatchable dreck. Yes he's always great but the movies aren't. I'd picked his Lawrence over Peck.

February 22, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermurtada

I understand giving it to Peck for Mockingbird, but Roberston for Charly in '68? O'Toole's performance as King Henry II in 'The Lion in Winter' is one of the greatest performances I've ever seen. If he was going to win for anything, it should have been for that. I also believe had he been nominated for Supporting Actor for 'The Last Emperor', he probably would have won for that, too.

February 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJoe Gouveia

Absolutely for Lion in Winter in '68. I've never thought much of Cliff Robertson performance in Charly but I've read that he campaigned tirelessly for the award and then as now that can turn the tide unfairly.

Also My Favorite Year in '82 although that one's tougher because Ben Kingsley is such a great actor.

I loved him in Becket but can't imagine anyone else but Harrison winning that year.

February 22, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

I'd have given it to him for Venus. A very good, if underseen, film with a marvelous performance. Sure Whitaker is ferocious, but he can be up and win again. O'Toole was probably the best actor alive in the year 2013 (at least of his generation) and it makes me wonder who it would be now?

February 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSean Troutman

Rex Harrison would have to give that Oscar back. Cliff Robertson, on the other hand: Hang on to yours.

February 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Cliff Robertson, get the hell outta there for Mr. O'Toole! Shame on the Academy for pulling that shit.

February 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterIan

That Letterman clip is GOLD.

He absolutely should have won for The Lion in Winter and, frankly, for The Ruling Class. I mean, yes, it's Brando, but O'Toole's work in The Ruling Class is freaking GENIUS. Sad that film doesn't have a better reputation today.

February 22, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

Also I would have given the Oscars out thusly:

1962 - Gregory Peck - To Kill a Mockingbird
1964 - Anthony Quinn - Zorba the Greek
1968 - Alan Arkin - The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter
1969 - John Wayne - True Grit
1972 - Marlon Brando - The Godfather
1980 - John Hurt - The Elephant Man
1982 - Ben Kingsley - Gandhi
2006 - Peter O'Toole - Venus

February 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSean Troutman

Absolutely in 1968 for The Lion in Winter (probably his greatest performance), but also in 2006 for Venus over Forest Whitaker.

February 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterStefano

1962: A thunderbastard of a year. But Peck takes it easily for me - it's a terrific, iconic performance. I'd put it up there with Vivien Leigh's Scarlett O'Hara in the Hollywood cannon.

1964: Peter Sellers, obviously. His performance(s) and film don't merely stand the test of time, but obliterate it.

1968: Peter O'Toole. I don't much like this line-up, though.

1969: Dustin Hoffman easily

1972: Hmmm.... Al Pacino was in the wrong category, and he easily takes my vote here. But between Brando and O'Toole (Brando is a lead, he's just not THE lead), I slightly prefer O'Toole.

1980: Robert De Niro

1982: Another thunderbastard of a line-up and I agree with AMPAS - Ben Kinglsey makes Gandhi seem much better than it actually is.

2006: Forrest Whitaker.

February 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterArkaan

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