Guest Post: A tribute to PETER O’TOOLE – He will be missed but certainly not forgotten

Huge thanks to Dave W. for this special tribute of his personal favorite thespian


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Peter O’Toole – Always a Bridesmaid, Never a Bride

With the passing of Peter O’Toole at age 81 this past weekend cinema has lost one of the truly great actors in the history of film. I thought it fitting to honor him as he was a personal favorite of mine. He has been out of the limelight for some time since he retired from acting but his legacy should not be forgotten. This truly was a man who commanded the silver screen as few ever have.

It was once suggested by playwright Noël Coward that if Peter O’Toole was any prettier that he would have been called “Florence of Arabia”. With handsome looks and his devil-may-care attitude, he became quite known for cavorting about town with his close pals Richard Burton and Richard Harris when it was still considered ‘charming’ to be an alcoholic. Consider the time that Peter and Peter Finch (Network) were refused last orders in a pub. Not to be deterred, they whipped out their checkbooks and bought the pub. Realizing what they did the next day they went down to the pub to find that the owner hadn’t cashed their checks and he graciously offered to rip them up. They soon became fast friends and even attend the owner’s funeral a year later. Of course they showed up at the wrong one. Standing their sobbing while their friend was being put to rest 100 yards away. As Peter famously said of himself “I loved the drinking, and waking up in the morning to find I was in Mexico,” “It was part and parcel of being an idiot.”

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O’Toole with one of his ‘Hellraiser’ buddies Richard Harris

What shouldn’t be lost is what a tremendous actor he really was despite all his bad boy behavior. Sadly he’s is known for having the most Oscar nominations without a win (8). When told he’d be receiving an honorary Oscar he replied in a letter to the academy “I am still in the game and might win the lovely bugger outright. Would the Academy please defer the honor until I am 80?” After some convincing he finally accepted his long overdue Oscar from the Academy.

While not a definitive list, here’s 5 good places to start to see what all the fuss is about.

LAWRENCE OF ARABIA

To say that they don’t make ‘em like they used to anymore is an understatement. Required viewing for any serious film buff this film is at the apex of great filmmaking. Peter’s first major film role as T.E. Lawrence was a performance for the ages. If there was ever a film meant to be seen on the big screen David Lean’s epic was it… and I’ve been lucky enough to see it twice in the theater.

THE LION IN WINTER

The Lion In Winter was actually Anthony Hopkins first film role. In this clip he speaks graciously of working with O’Toole and Hepburn. Watching these titans go head to head in person must have been something to see for the fledgling actor.

Peter sent the script to Katherine only a week after her longtime love Spencer Tracy died. She phoned up right away and said “I might as well do it before I die.” Unbeknownst to many O’Toole was quite fond of Katherine Hepburn. Although he has never publicly talked about their relationship, he later admitted he worshipped Hepburn. “I loved her, no question, in the proper platonic sense but, yes, I loved her. We were filming one day and I kept her waiting on set because I was still in my caravan, playing cards. She stormed in and shouted: “You are a real nut and I’ve met some nuts in my day.” And then she hit me. A couple of hours later, I went to see her and gave her a present to say I was sorry for keeping her waiting.  She said: “Don’t worry, pig. I only hit the people I love.” Pig. LOL.

THE STUNT MAN

The Stunt Man was a kind of rebirth for Peter in the 80’s. With his career flagging… the bombastic, over the top, perfectly suited role of Eli Cross, a tyrannical film director whose ego knew no boundaries, came along. One of the best “films within a film” ever made. Even if a bit dated and Steve Railsback’s performance is not so great it’s still a great watch. Peter said of the film upon finally being released after being unable to find a distributor, “This film didn’t get released, it escaped.”

MY FAVORITE YEAR

Following on the heels of The Stunt Man came another winner in My Favorite Year.  Swashbuckling actor Allan Swann (read: Errol Flynn) is a washed-up, boozing womanizer who’s the idol of a young, idealistic TV writer Benjy Stone. Swann is in town to do a guest spot on a variety show, Benjy must babysit the perpetually inebriated actor and that’s when the hijinks ensue. It’s a nostalgic look at 50’s TV and one can’t but help but feel the character of Allan Swann in not that much of a stretch for the perpetually inebriated O’Toole. Mel Brooks executive produced the film basing Mark Linn-Baker’s character Benjy on himself and Woody Allen who wrote for Sid Caesar’s Your Show of Shows.

VENUS

Some 24 years passed between My Favorite Year and Venus for Peter to receive his last Academy Award nomination but what a charming, sweet performance to go out on. Falling for a girl, Jessie, 50 years his junior, who is out to care for him, he walks a fine line with his delicate performance of a man who’s found love in the twilight of his life. The film never gets creepy or maudlin thanks to the fine direction and performances. Watch out for Vanessa Redgrave who plays a small but wonderful bit part in this. The scene below with Jessie (Venus), a young Jodie Whittaker of Broadchurch fame, has Peter quoting Shakespeare… like only he can.

While the above films are a good start feel free to delve into his other works like Beckett, Goodbye Mr. Chips, The Ruling Class, Lord Jim, etc. A talent like this doesn’t come around very often.

Peter O’Toole will be missed but certainly not forgotten.


So in celebration of his wonderful work, what’s YOUR favorite Peter O’Toole film?

The Weekend That Was… RIP Peter O’Toole & Interstellar teaser

How’s your weekend everyone? Was it an eventful one or busy with Christmas shopping? Well, the arctic air still hasn’t left us yet, it’s really getting pathetic that we got excited when temps go even 15 above zero! Today it’s almost 30˚ F and boy did it feel good! Here’s a recap of what I saw, as well as a few film-related events happening this weekend:

Well this weekend I got to see the new *rePOTO_CameronMackintoshimagined* version of The Phantom of the Opera, created by Cameron Mackintosh. It’s incredible that POTO is celebrating 25 years on Broadway this year and this new production — with a new set, choreography, lighting and scenic design — has premiered in the UK last year. This is the third time I saw POTO on stage and I was mesmerized once again. It’s really all about those gorgeous, haunting music and the younger cast definitely bring the story to life. I LOVE the stage production but it also makes me appreciate the 2004 film with Gerry Butler in the title role, which is decidedly faithful to the stage version. I appreciate both format but the nice thing about the film is that I can easily watch that over and over again on my Blu-ray 😀

As I saw three advanced screening during the weekThe Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (check out my thoughts on the movie), Saving Mr. Banks and Inside Llewyn Davis), so this weekend I opted for home cinema. Thanks to Kim and Fernando for recommending these two animated features.

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As a big fan of How to Train Your Dragon, I definitely enjoyed this short film immensely. The baby dragons are as adorable as ever, but once again, the relationship between Hiccup and Toothless the Night Fury is at the heart of it. I can’t wait for the follow-up to HTTYD coming next year!

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I actually have seen Hunchback of Notre Dame a long time ago but for some reason I didn’t remember much of it. It’s darker than the average Disney animated features, but the story demands it so it works well here. Of course it’s not without the conventional Disney ballads and goofy-but-endearing characters, but the story definitely has a good message of good vs. evil and a heartwarming tale about the triumph of the outcasts.


This weekend, we saw the passing of a true Hollywood legend, Peter O’Toole. Apparently he was being treated at London’s Wellington hospital after a long illness. He was 81.

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I had just seen his most iconic role in Lawrence of Arabia for the first time earlier this year. In fact, I got the Blu-ray version and both my husband and I was really blown away by it. It definitely lives up to the masterpiece status, both the film and Mr. O’Toole’s performance are hugely iconic. I have only seen Mr. O’Toole in The Lion in Winter, his cameo in One Night with the King, and his voice work in Ratatouille. I should try to see his comedic work in My Favorite Year (which my friend Kevin has reviewed here) and How To Steal A Million with Audrey Hepburn.

Farewell Mr. O’Toole, may you rest in peace.


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As 2013 draws to a close, soon comes a time of huge buzz and anticipation for 2014 movies. One of the big ones is Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi INTERSTELLAR. I just had to post the trailer here in case you haven’t seen it yet:

In the future, governments and economies across the globe have collapsed, food is scarce, NASA is no more, and the 20th Century is to blame. A mysterious rip in spacetime opens and it’s up to whatever is left of NASA to explore and offer up hope for mankind.

Ok so yes I’m a bit of a Nolan groupie but his trailers always get me salivating and frustrated that we have to wait a whole year for this!! The story is intriguing and mysterious, as every Nolan film is shrouded in secrecy. But the cast also got me excited. Matthew McConaughey is hotter than hot right now and I LOVE Jessica Chastain, plus the supporting cast looks great with Nolan regular Michael Caine, John Lithgow, David Oyelowo, Anne Hathaway and Casey Affleck!

Oh, I also just came across this brilliant fan-made, crossover video from episodes of BBC’s Dr. Who and Sherlock. It’s too awesome not to share:


Well, that’s the weekend recap folks, what did you watch this weekend?

Monthly Roundup: What I Watched in March

Well, it’s been fun folks! After about three + years of blogging… FlixChatter is closing up shop so this is the last monthly recap you’ll see on this blog. THANK YOU for being such loyal supporters of this blog… I really appreciate your readership and all the wonderful comments. I’ll be moving to Antarctica next week on a secret expedition, and that is why I haven’t mentioned about it on Twitter nor on the blog. I’d imagine it’d be tough to be online whilst I’m on the ship… so for now, I wish you all a wonderful Spring season and hope to see you all again soon!

MikeWazowkiAprilFools He..he.. did I fool you a bit there? 😀 Sorry folks, can’t help myself. Nah, I’m not giving up blogging that easily, sorry to disappoint you, ahah. I meant every word about being thankful for all your support though! MarchRecap Well, March has been relatively slow in terms of movie watching, believe it or not. I’ve been quite busy at work so I couldn’t go to too many press screenings. I actually declined the press screenings to see The Host, The Croods, and G.I. Joe, but my friend Ted and my hubby did go to see G.I. Joe, in fact, I’ll be posting Ted’s review tomorrow, so stay tuned!

Here are some posts you might’ve missed in March:

Oh and if you missed it, my blog pals Terrence, Keith and I put together a special collaborative list of 10 Redeeming Films we’d recommend. Check it out and add your own pick to the list! Now, as far as movie watching, it’s actually been a pretty good month as I saw about 20 films and TV shows. That’s quite a lot for my standards, usually I can only fit a dozen or so.

New to Me:

Holy Motors

HolyMotors

 Jack The Giant Slayer

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Lawrence of Arabia

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Olympus Has Fallen

Olympus

Oz The Great & Powerful

Oz

Red Cliff

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Stoker

Stoker

The Intouchables

Intouchables

Wreck-It-Ralph

Ralph


Rewatch:

Ben-Hur

BenHur Mrs Brown

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Favorite Movie seen in March:

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I finally bought the Blu-ray of Lawrence of Arabia which was practically a steal at only $10 bucks on Amazon!! It’s perhaps one of the best Blu-ray purchases ever as the transfer is so amazingly good. This is the FIRST time I saw Sir David Lean’s masterpiece and though I was a bit puzzled about the story due to my lack of history knowledge, I was floored by this film. I mean, just the visuals alone, all those spectacular long shots in the dessert — not to mention the sublime beauty of Peter O’Toole and Omar Sharif, ehm — it made me regret not seeing this on the big screen when it was re-released last October!!

I just saw the Making Of documentary that’s included in the disc last night, it was so entertaining it made me want to see it again! Well, I’m planning to see it again relatively soon anyway, but not until I read more about the historical background of the subject matter. I think that’d make me appreciate this film even more. I will do an appreciation post at some point, I feel really inadequate to review this right now, but let’s just say, yes I was most definitely impressed. I really think this film has stood the test of time.

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Well, that’s my March Recap. What’s YOUR favorite movie seen the past month?

Comedy Done Right: My Favorite Year (1982)

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Greetings and all sundry!

Please allow me a few moments of your time to broach a topic that has through the years has shown a minute, yet steady degradation from its heydays of the 1940s through mid 1960s. To present day. Where once reigned clever, slyly written, often melodic dialogue. Only to be replaced with sloppy, lazy double entendres and inevitable toilet, in jokes and gastric humor. In plots whose outcome is designed by committees.Instead of a clutch of writers throwing out sometimes raunchy first drafts. Then through repetition and variants, polish their work to a high gloss.

To that end. I have a selection to proffer. A film that is equal parts superb period piece. Augmented by a cast of unknowns and up and comers orbiting around proven Jack of All Trades from across the pond and you have…

Comedy Done Right: My Favorite Year

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A near anomaly that arrived with little fanfare in early 1982. Directed with pleasantly detailed love and reminiscence by one time page at 30 Rockefeller Center. Turned comedic actor and given the reins of a project near and dear to his heart. The live, make or break variety and comedy shows that filled weekend night during the infancy of some newfangled thing called “Television” in the early 1950s. Spearheaded by vaudevillian and schlock meister, “Uncle Miltie”, Milton Berle. Whose direct and steadfast competition was Sid Caesar and ‘Your Show of Shows’. Upon which this marvelous, compact gem is based.

Any good director worth his salt knows that a film’s opening scene should be its most important and focused. And here it is writ large with the voice of intern writer, Benjy Stone (Mark Linn-Baker) explaining why 1954 was his favorite year. As he makes his way along with a crowd of pedestrians across intersections jammed with battle ship sized Buicks and Lincolns and Chevys and into 30 Rockefeller Center. Where he is bursting at the seams over the arrival of his childhood hero, Allan Swann (Peter O’Toole playing Peter O’Toole playing Errol Flynn) being the show’s scheduled guest star. Who arrives very late after being diverted by a pair of Trans Continental stewardesses.

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Visibly drunk, though hiding it well enough when not impressing the show’s head writer, Sy Benson (Bill Macy. Never more blustery and spineless). Who makes a bet that Benjy cannot baby sit Swann through the week and until the show. Swann stands erect, and sneers, “Treble the bet, you toad!” the way only O’Toole can and Benjy and Swann are off to the races. First to Swann’s suite. With the aid of a hand truck and Swann passed out atop a stack of luggage. Where Benjy and Swann’s chaffeur, Alfie (Tony DiBenedetto) pull Swann and the had truck up a curved staircase and Swann suddenly keeps time with “The 1812 Overture” as the hand truck clears each riser. From there to the bath. Where Alfie opens Swann’s “Drunk Suit” as Swann ad libs to beat the band. Suspended in the shower. Then lowered into the bath tub. Further inspector reveals many bottles of Pinch scotch as Alfie explains that Swann is broke and is doing King Kaiser’s ‘Comedy Cavalcade’ as a way to pay back taxes.

Bathed and refreshed, Swann and Benjy head to the Stork Club. Where mayhem ensues and destruction surpasses Swann’s last visit a year and half earlier. The following morning, King Kaiser (Joe Bologna playing Sid Caesar) has a visit from Karl Rojeck (A grunting, gravelly voiced thug, Cameron Mitchell) and his lawyer complaining that Kaiser’s popular character, “Boss Hijack” is a bit to close to home for the well dressed gangster. The confrontation between Kaiser and Rojeck is wonderful to watch. As a smiling and cheerful Kaiser blatantly steals and mimics each one of Rojeck’s gestures, shurgs and grunts. From the way Rojeck sits to the way he rolls his cigar. Stakes escalate as Rojeck tosses Kaiser’s logo placard out of the open office window. Kaiser throws Rojack’s cashmere coat moments behind it. And Rojeck hints at “accidents” before slapping on Kaiser’s largely over sized Fedora and leaving.

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In the interim, Benjy is trying to make time K.C. Downing (Jessica Harper) who is very easy on the eyes. Cannot tell a joke, but comes up with some good writing and script ideas. And reads Benjy like a book. Sharing take out Chinese food that ends well for both. Better than a dinner with Swann being invited over to Benjy’s mother and her Filipino husband out in Brooklyn. And Swann and Benjy crashing the very upscale and WASP cocktail party thrown by K.C’s parents. Via an unreeled fire hose secured on the roof above.

Undaunted, hung over and stranded. Swann and Benjy wander around Central Park as Swann slowly bares his soul. His career, bad habits and daughter Tess are revealed as a New York Mounted Policeman is spotted riding in the distance. Swann, in a pique of bold swashing of buckles decides to steal the horse. As rehearsals quickly beckon. Swann claims the horse. Grabs Benjy on the fly and the two ride off.

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Rehearsals for ‘The Three Musketeers’ skit go very well before show time. When Benjy off handedly mentions that the show will be done live. Which sends Swann into a stammering panic attack and into the night. Benjy chases Swann, finding solace in a bottle. As a crew of Rojeck’s men sneak inside the studio and plan an intervention with King Kaiser. It’s Benjy’s turn to bare his soul. Explaining that Swann was always been his bigger than life hero. In whatever film Swann happened to be in, Benjy believed. He had to, because no actor is that good! And Benjy needs that real life hero right now!

Whjich would be good, because the show has begun and Kaiser has already fended off one attack from Rojeck’s goons. Decking Sy as an unintended after thought. A triumphant shrug brings a second wave as the ‘Boss Hijack’ skit begins. Hangs for a moment and picks up as King falls through a flimsy prop wall with goons attached. Up in the camera booth, K.C., the writers and directors watch King fends off the goons and Swann appears still in his Musketeer costume up in the balcony.

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Spotlights and camera follow as the audience erupts in applause. Swann grabs a cable and swings down onto the slug fest set. Landing atop two thugs and evens the score with fists, slashing sabers, brass pommels and whatever is handy. The audience is none the wiser and responds with a thundering standing ovation. As Benjy finishes up his soliloquy with Alfie’s line about “With Swann. You have to forgive a lot, you know?”

What Makes This Film Good?

Superb on location shooting for many key scenes. And near complete overall attention that lulls you into believing you are in 1954. Huge, chrome adorned cars. White wall tires. Wide ties. Modest, below the knee, often pleated skirts. A plethora of sensible shoes for the ladies.

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Occasional seamed stockings beneath over sized dancing cigarette packs. Amongst glimpses of the monstrous anachronistic revolving sized and lensed cameras of that time. All aid often rapid fire dialogues and occasional arguments. Especially amongst the writers. Where Bill Macy’s Sy bullies one moment. Then caves spinelessly and kowtows once Joe Bologna’s King Kaiser enters the room. In a close environment seething with Testosterone and inner adolescence. Where the ladies in attendance have to be as quick, clever and funny as the men.

Also the often sub rosa advice given by Mel Brooks. Who helped produce the film and gave  its writers and director insights and perspectives into its leading characters.

What Makes This Film Great?

A cast of mostly then unknowns working with a well written, fairly family friend script. And given time to develop and get comfortable with their character’s quirks, (Especially Basil Hoffman’s who whispers to co-writer Anne DeSalvo to deliver his snide comments to Sy) tics, gestures and habits. Joe Bologna is a treat to watch as the father figure of this near insane asylum. Constantly doubting himself. Then making amends for imagined slights. On the cheap.

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Also a notable first big screen role for Mark Linn-Baker as Benjy. Possessing a better than decent sense of timing with either glib, off hand remarks. Or coming close to losing it as Swann disappears from an apartment building roof and the fire hose Swann holds onto quickly unreels. High marks also for the just being recognized Jessica Harper’s K.C. Downing. Who’s worked hard to get where she is and has distinct plans for the future. Which may or may not include Benjy.

MFY_PeterOToolePeter O’Toole being given the chance to play himself. Eloquent. well versed. A very credible substitute for the usually bigger than life Errol Flynn. Asked to join this project just after his madcap director’s role in ‘The Stunt Man’.

Cinematography by Gerald Herschfeld is top notch. Following director Richard Benjamin‘s penchant to draw back within a set to capture the sense of tension and claustrophobia. While keeping close ups to a minimum and allowing the cast to be an ensemble. Set design by Donald Remacle varies from minimalist in the studios and offices. To cramped and a bit spartan in Brooklyn. To downright opulent for the Stork Club, Swann’s suite and of course, Central Park in shadowy sunlight.

Kudos also to May Routh‘s spot on costume design and composer Ralph Burns’ original, definitely of-its-time soundtrack.

All culminating in a film that is rarely rushed. Has no weak or lagging spots. Tells a story very well and has a happy ending!


Check out Jack’s other posts and reviews



Well, what do you think of Jack’s pick of comedy done right? Thoughts on ‘My Favorite Year?’