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Posts Tagged ‘Peter O’Toole’

The last one is gone.

Yesterday, the last of my Deities of Cinema, Peter O’Toole, passed away at the age of 81.

Born on an unknown date in an unknown location, he was the son of a Scottish nurse and an Irish bookie who made their way through the underclass of war-torn Britain. O’Toole came from little, but followed his nose and his talent, and eventually built a larger-than-life-sized persona to match his larger-than-life-sized career. He was a colossus in a profession filled with stars and showed himself able to handle anything from farcical comedy to tragic drama to subtle, supporting roles. He could be urbane, crude, boisterous, bombastic, kind, loving, cruel, imperious, or callow as the role required, and he gave us iconic performances as Lawrence, Lord Jim, a young Henry II (Becket), an elder Henry II (The Lion in Winter), Mr. Chips, Don Quixote, Alan Swann, and dozens of others.

There are other great actors alive in the world today; this cannot be denied. But there are no more giants. The industry has changed, and it can no longer contain the type of personality O’Toole presented to us.

Working with O’Toole during the filming of King Ralph, John Goodman, asked the revered actor if he might borrow an ashtray.

O’Toole flicked his cigar ash on the floor.

“Make the world your ashtray, my boy.”

The last one is gone.

k

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It’s not often that I can tie together what is arguably the grittiest crime drama on network television with a 1966 rom-com–OK, I’ve never done it, so today’s a first–and I’ll be frank with you, tieing these two objects together is going to take some doing, so have patience. I’ll get there.

Yesterday during my workout I watched “How to Steal a Million” (1966), starring Audrey Hepburn and Peter O’Toole. It is a light-hearted bit of fluff about the daughter of an art forger and a purported art thief who need to steal something to protect a secret. It’s set in Paris, Audrey is swathed in Givenchy throughout, O’Toole sports around in an XK-E, and it has several temporal “shout-outs” to the stars’ previous hits, so I’m sure it was doubly enjoyable for folks back in ’66 who’d been following these two icons through their early careers. It’s a little less believable than most romantic comedies (which means it was totally farcical), but one doesn’t watch a rom-com for believability or with any doubts as to the outcome. We watch them for the interaction, for the play, for the fun of it, and in this respect, “How to Steal a Million” delivers, even today.

I thought it was out-dated, though, because of its treatment of Ms. Hepburn’s character. (more…)

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I’ve seen Lawrence of Arabia many, many times—it’s one of my all-time favorite films—but last night it was like the first time, all over again.

Last night, I went to the 50th anniversary celebration of the film’s 1962 release, put on by Fathom Events. This was a one-night-only, cross-country showing of the newly-restored version of the classic, and all I can say about it is…wow!

Seriously, this was like a whole new movie. Completely restored, digitally scanned from original color negatives, processed and projected in 4k, this was a stunning upgrade to the movie. The depth of color, the depth of focus, the details that were all just so amazingly clear, worked together to make an immersive experience. You could see grains of sand, camel chin-whiskers. You could hear the creak of rope and the jangle of harnesses. You could see clearly the foreground actors and the wadi rim, miles distant. It was beautiful.

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Full disclosure: The 1968 O’Toole/Hepburn version of “The Lion in Winter” is one of my all-time favorite films.

Last night my wife and I screened the 2003 remake, starring Patrick Stewart and Glenn Close as part of a fine ensemble cast. This movie is a very fine production in every way, and to be honest, it is even better than the 1968 version in several ways, but for my money, it still falls a little short of its predecessor.

This version was made-for-TV, and that hurts it right off the bat. The 4:3 ratio is jarring these days, when everything comes across to us widescreen. When such high quality color and filming gets crammed into the restrictive ratio, it’s just confining. You know what you’re missing here.

The 2003 version has an outstanding supporting cast and this is one area in which it surpasses the 1968 version. The three sons and the princess-pawn Alais are far away superior performances, and I truly wish I could pick them up and CGI them into the older movie. Richard is less whiny, Geoffrey is more cunning, John is more believably dunderheaded, and Alais is much less innocent.

Unfortunately, while the Stewart/Close pair at the top of the bill are excellent, they do not meet the gold standard set by O’Toole/Hepburn. Stewart can rage as well as O’Toole, but he lacks chemistry with Close, and while Close was stunning in her own tirades, she just lacked the ease with which Hepburn switched from tumult to tease, from vengeful to loving, layering each emotion one atop the other like a pastry, whereas Close merely shifted gears.

This newer version was filmed at Spiš Castle in Slovakia, and though neither you nor I can probably tell the difference between a 12th century castle and one from the 15th, this one just seemed too “new.” The walls were too clean, and the wooden doors were so fresh and yellow you could practically smell the sap. The dogs were too clean, the lighting too bright, and while most of the costuming was grand and suitable to the Christmas in a stone castle setting, someone decided to put Alais in a slinky polyester velvet sheath with a Viginia-Mayo-esque zipper line up the back. I mean, the gal looked great in blue, but come on!

Thus, I must say that the 2003 version ranks second to the one from 1968. It is good, especially for a television production, but comes up lacking in comparison. Worth watching? Definitely. After all, it had stiff competition.

k

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