This was a rough weekend for the film community. Two great acting legends, Peter O’Toole and Joan Fontaine, have died.
Like his good friend Richard Burton, O’Toole began his acting career in the theater, where he made a name for himself performing Shakespeare at both the famous Old Vic and the English Stage Company. After a few minor TV and film roles, he broke out as a world-class movie star with the lead in David Lean’s monumental epic ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, which would also land him his first Oscar nomination. Just 30-years-old at the time, that kind of early career success would have been difficult, if not nearly impossible, for any actor to live up to. Yet O’Toole went on to a series of celebrated performances in acclaimed films including ‘Becket’, ‘Lord Jim’, ‘The Lion in Winter’, ‘Goodbye, Mr. Chips’, ‘My Favorite Year’ and ‘The Last Emperor’. A résumé like that is truly an astonishing achievement.
For much of his life (again like his friends Richard Burton and Richard Harris), he had a reputation as a hard-drinking alcoholic and hell-raiser. His drunken escapades almost cost him both his career and his life in the 1970s. O’Toole very nearly died from drinking-related abdominal problems in 1975. His life was saved at that time by surgery, but the damage to his digestive system left him unable to consume alcohol. Forced to clean up his act, he also rebounded in his career with another Oscar-nominated turn as a maniacal movie director in the 1980 cult film ‘The Stunt Man’.
O’Toole was nominated for Academy Awards no less than eight times, most recently for the 2006 film ‘Venus’. Shockingly, he never won, not even for ‘Lawrence of Arabia’. However, the Academy granted him an honorary award in 2003. Younger generations may recognize his voice as the food critic Anton Ego in Pixar’s ‘Ratatouille’.
The actor passed away from natural causes on Saturday at the age of 81.
The following titles featuring Peter O’Toole are currently available on Blu-ray.
- ‘Lawrence of Arabia‘
- ‘Casino Royale‘ (1967)
- ‘Zulu Dawn‘
- ‘The Stunt Man‘
- ‘The Last Emperor‘
Although he lived a life fuller than many men could even dream, and had announced his retirement from acting a year ago, Peter O’Toole’s death is still a devastating loss for film lovers everywhere.
I hate to tack this onto the end of another post at the last minute, but it appears that actress Joan Fontaine also passed away this weekend. The star of Hitchcock’s ‘Rebecca‘ and the 1944 adaptation of ‘Jane Eyre‘ (opposite Orson Welles) was famous for her bitter rivalry with sister Olivia de Havilland, with whom she competed for many roles and awards.
Fontaine was nominated for Academy Awards three times, winning once for 1942’s ‘Suspicion‘ (again working with Hitchcock). Despite their estrangement, she and de Havilland are the only siblings to have both won acting Oscars (de Havilland twice, for 1946’s ‘To Each Their Own’ and 1949’s ‘The Heiress’).
Joan Fontaine was 96-years-old. Her sister is currently still alive at 97.
[Source: USA Today.]