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The Passing of Peter O'Toole
"There were giants in the earth in those days." Genesis Chapter 6 verse 4
2 August 1932 – 14 December 2013

The 70mm Newsletter
Written by: Mark Lyndon, London, UKDate: 19.12.2013
The passing of Peter O'Toole marks the definitive ending of an epic era of film making. From the legendary title role of Lawrence of Arabia to the highly rated portrayal of RJ Johnston, the tutor of Pu Yi - The Last Emperor, his 70mm career spanned twenty five glorious years within a much longer range of half a century plus.

A 70mm festival programmer would, in an ideal world, have Lawrence of Arabia, Beckett, The Bible - In the Beginning, The Lion in Winter, Goodbye Mr Chips, Man of La Mancha, Supergirl, and The Last Emperor; no less than eight 70mm prints to choose from. Maybe such a thing is theoretically possible.

What is certain is that Peter O'Toole bestrode the worlds of stage and screen like a colossus, bringing to those worlds an immense range of subtlety, wit and intelligence.

With his immense stature, presence and prestige he left a cinematic legacy that has still to run its' full course. Next year we will see his portrayal of Gallus, the Roman orator, in the film "Katherine of Alexandria".

Richard Burton said of him that he was " The most original actor to come out of Britain since the war," with "something odd, mystical and deeply disturbing" in his work. His stage performances were the stuff of legend from Estragon in Godot in the Abbey Theatre to a "shattering" Hamlet in the Old Vic and the National Theatre.

His production of Macbeth in 1980 was said to be a "disaster", some critics said the worst disaster in British theatrical history. A brief glance at the box office told another story. Tickets could not be had for love or money.

The critics were much kinder to his great theatrical swansong "Geoffrey Bernard is unwell". This writer had a small part in that production, in the final run at The Old Vic. There was a tricky sight gag, in the second half, involving the catching of an egg in a glass. I was in the second row, our eyes met and somehow we began working together to time the trick and make it work. We pulled it off. It was marvellous, but it can never happen again.

However, his golden heritage remains. Future programmers of 70mm festivals will have a truly rich legacy to draw upon.
More in 70mm reading:

Omar Sharif Passed Away Remembers

Restoration of "Lawrence of Arabia"

Freddie Young

Dave Strohmaier and Randy Gitsch - in conversation with Mark Lyndon

Carl Davis Interview

Kevin Brownlow Interview

Internet link:

Peter O'Toole wiki

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Updated 21-12-18