Rakish, charming, and everything I think of as an old-school movie star, Peter O’Toole is classic man candy. He reputedly had over 1,000 lovers, including fellow actors Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, and Vivien Leigh, plus he had an eight-year affair with Britain’s Princess Margaret. O’Toole was known as a hard-drinking hell-raiser, but he was also a romantic who had memorized all of Shakespeare’s sonnets and re-read them daily. He made many historical costume movies and TV series throughout his life, working steadily until his death in 2013.
Robin MacGregor in Kidnapped (1960)
Capt. Monty Fitch in The Day They Robbed the Bank of England (1960)
T.E. Lawrence in Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
King Henry II in Becket (1964)
James Burke in Lord Jim (1965)
Henry II in The Lion in Winter (1968)
Capt. Charles Edstaston in Great Catherine (1968)
Arthur Chipping in Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969)
Don Quixote De La Mancha / Miguel de Cervantes / Alonso Quijana in Man of La Mancha (1972)
Robinson Crusoe in Man Friday (1975)
Tiberius in Caligula (1979)
General Cornelius Flavius Silva in Masada (1981)
Alan Swann in My Favorite Year (1982)
Professor Henry Higgins in Pygmalion (1983)
Reginald ‘R. J.’ Johnston in The Last Emperor (1987)
Maj. Lyautey in Isabelle Eberhardt (1991)
Lord Sarn in Rebecca’s Daughters (1992)
Sam Trump in Heaven & Hell: North & South, Book III (1994)
Clarence, Earl of Emsworth in Heavy Weather (1995)
Emperor of Lilliput in Gulliver’s Travels (1996)
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in FairyTale: A True Story (1997)
William Williamson in Molokai (1999)
Bishop Pierre Cauchon in Joan of Arc (1999)
Colonel Blount in Bright Young Things (2003)
President Paul von Hindenburg in Hitler: The Rise of Evil (2003)
Augustus Caesar in Imperium: Augustus (2003)
Priam in Troy (2004)
Older Casanova in Casanova (2005)
The Duke of Rudling in Lassie (2005)
Samuel, the Prophet in One Night With the King (2006)
Pope Paul III in The Tudors (2008)
Fisk Senior in My Talks With Dean Spanley (2008)
What’s your favorite of Peter O’Toole’s historical costume movie or TV roles?
Loved him in Becket and Lion in Winter. He remarkably held his own against both Burton and the incomparable Kate Hepburn.
Everyone in that movie is brilliant! It might win for our Most Frequently Referred to Frock Flick That We Really Don’t Talk About The Costumes.
I agree with your assessment of the brilliance of the whole cast. It’s my touchstone on how I see Queen Eleanor.
My god, he was a beautiful man. It’s not a costume flick, but the scene in How to Steal A Million where he and Audrey Hepburn are trapped in a tiny closet Sigh. I was lucky enough to see him on stage in Pygmalion in New York. The Lion in Winter with Katherine Hepburn is still one of my favorite movies. I can quote every line.
How to Steal a Million – oh my word, that closet scene!
I will never forget our first look at O’Toole in ‘How to Steal a Million’, standing there, staring at Audrey Hepburn with those blue, blue eyes…
He’s one of my classic favorites, and when I think of Henry II, he looks like Peter O’Toole in my mind. And while Lawrence of Arabia is very problematic, I had the opportunity to see the restored version in the newly restored Fox Theatre (a truly opulent movie palace of the old school) in Detroit many years ago. I will never forget it.
I’m with the other commenters — “How to Steal a Million” is my favorite of his movies.
Though I always start laughing hysterically whenever I hate-watch The Tudors, and he pops up with his droll humor, sarcastic inferences, and above all, that terrific line — “What of this Anne Boleyn, the king’s whore? Why doesn’t someone just get RID of her?”
Definitely Lion In Winter
I have so many questions about the Neil Patrick Harris thing, but my favorite things I’ve seen him in were Troy and Casanova. He completely salvaged the former, outclassing everyone (but especially Brad Pitt) with that one scene where he asks for Hector’s body back. And the scene in Casanova where he gets Rose Byrne all worked up just by talking is gold.
That Casanova scene absolutely does it for me too – it’s such a perfect seduction and a reminder that real charisma never grows old.
He is the perfect elder Casanova — he still had it!
Oh God yes, he just wipes the floor with the rest of the cast and totally out acts Brad Pitt.
Ah, Peter O’Toole! Grew up with Becket and Man of La Mancha.. I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea but I adored the film version of the play, and then I read the play itself and did my final costume design project renderings on it—and came to the realization as I was working on it that it really belonged as a play, rather than a film, where one’s own imagination as the audience would have to participate to realize the world Cervantes was creating in that prison. And yet still, I love it. :-)
Also, Lawrence.. I’m sure if I rewatched it (haven’t seen it in probably 12 years..) now I’d notice things that were problematic, but I can accept that and also recognize that it’s cinematically stunning.
Sadly I don’t know that I’ve ever seen Lion in Winter all the way through! But the bits I have seen he’s great. He is one of a very few actors who got Oscar leading actor/actress nominations for playing the same person in two different films.. My parents’ extensive classic movie connection came in handy when that was a Jeopardy question quite a while ago, although I missed Bing Crosby because I don’t think they’d ever owned Going My Way (I knew Paul Newman; since then Cate Blanchett has joined this rare group with Elizabeth I).
Lawrence of Arabia. The scene with Lawrence walking atop the train cars is etched in my brain. My god, he was beautiful! Second is Becket. MY favorite non-FF movie would be The Ruling Class.
Yes to “The Ruling Class”! It’s full of wonderful comic performances (until the end, which sours, because this is about–well, class). Note that O’Toole’s character thinks he’s god, and I agree.
Thank you! Not period, but my favorite of all O’Toole’s performances!
Actually I’m really busy today, but you went and did it, didn’t you? I mean, there’s Lawrence, a big-budget lavish blockbuster that actually has a brain, such a great film, even more now it’s been redigitised. Really love My Favourite Year (even though it’s not a historical) and OMG the double act with Hepburn in The Lion In Winter – it just doesn’t get better than that.
And there’s even a few up there that I haven’t seen, so thank you for that!
My Favourite Year is set in the 1950s (early live-TV era) & O’Toole’s character is an Errol Flynn-style movie star who peaked in the 1930s, so it’s historical by my reckoning ;)
My Favourite Year is one of those movies to look for when everything in your life is going wrong, because you simply have to laugh!
I love, love, LOVE My Favorite Year. The scene in which Alan Swann dances with “the fair Anne” (played by Gloria Stuart, aka “Old Rose in Titanic) is wonderful. Despite the fact that Swann is about to cut out a Hot Young Thing, when he’s dancing with older woman Anne, he’s DANCING WITH HER. His eyes never leave hers, and for that span of dancing moments, he is hers, all hers. That’s why women adore Alan Swan — and is probably why they adored Errol Flynn.
Another historical film I have always liked is “Kim” where O’Toole has such an unlikely part as a Tibetan lama and plays it in an un-typical way. But whoever was in charge of lighting must have had eyes closed while editing… the plastic bald-maker sometimes seems to have a life of its own. Dang, cannot seem to paste a picture to this…
Oh, dear what choices!! I loved Bright Young Things, until the end which totally departed from the book. Like many people have said, he completely outclassed everyone in Troy. He was at his most beautiful in Lawrence of Arabia, but alas Omar Sharif was even more beautiful!