Friday, August 3, 2012

Friday Dance Party: Alive, King, and Fifty All At Once.

Actually he's 80, having become an octogenarian only yesterday.  But I would submit that, even in his advanced years, Peter O'Toole remains Actor Royalty.  His film performances are plentiful and memorable, beginning with his breakout role as Lawrence of Arabia in 1962. 
Marlon Brando and Albert Finney both turned it down, and Anthony Perkins, Montgomery Clift, and Alec Guinness were also considered, but in the end, Lawrence of Arabia went to O'Toole.
The film turned Omar Shariff into a matinee idol, but catapulted O'Toole onto the A-list. 
O'Toole's good looks prompted Noel
Coward to quip, "It should have been
Florence of Arabia."

He remained the go-to guy for historical epics and top shelf stage-to-screen adaptations, including the film from which the title of this entry is plucked, The Lion In Winter
The Lion in Winter is not my favorite
film, but the chemistry between
Hepburn and O'Toole makes it
worth the effort.

When Peter was nominated for the Oscar for that performance, he became the only actor to receive Best Actor Oscar nods for playing the same character in two different films (he played England's Henry II in both Becket and The Lion in Winter. Al Pacino has also received Oscar nominations for the same role in two films, namely Michael Corleone, but his nod in the first Godfather was as a supporting actor, while his performance in Godfather II was rightly classified as leading).  Speaking of those pesky Oscars, O'Toole holds another record:  the most performance Oscar nominations without winning a single competitive award (he was awarded an honorary statue in 2003).
As Henry II in Beckett.

In his middle and later years, Peter revealed a talent for lighter fare, and delivered pristine comic performances in The Stuntman, The Ruling Class, and My Favorite Year
Breezing in and out of The Stuntman in a
pint-sized helicopter, Peter saved the film.

When he announced his retirement last month, it was a surprise, as actors of his generation tend to simply fade out as they age.  O'Toole, though a bit frail, still seemed on top of things in recent performances in Venus and The Tudors.  Still, at age 80, perhaps he's had enough.  He certainly has lived a full and colorful life.
Troy was supposed to be the summer blockbuster of 2004, but did not live up to expectations. O'Toole as Trojan King Priam lent gravitas opposite Orlando Bloom's lightweight but pretty Paris.
This week's Dance Party comes from one of O'Toole's misfires.  In 1972, the originators of the Broadway hit Man of La Mancha were hired to film the piece, with the expectation that the show's original stars, Richard Kiley and Joan Diener, would recreate their roles.  The stage director was hired to direct the film.  He promptly botched his stars' screen tests and was fired.  The rest of the creative team went with him, and his replacement decided to dump the songs and make a non-musical film.  It was at this point that Peter O'Toole signed onto the project. 
Peter never stood a chance in La Mancha. As somebody once quipped, "If you don't have a man with the pipes to deliver 'The Impossible Dream', do No No Nanette.
The second director was soon fired as well, and Arthur Hiller took over the reins, restoring the songs but keeping his non-musical actors.  Peter O'Toole's vocals were too weak to sustain a score which included that aria "The Impossible Dream," and he was dubbed by Simon Gilbert. 
Peter's stage career included

Everyone else sang their own numbers, and while James Coco as Sancho came off quite well, it's pretty difficult to get through Sophia Loren's Aldonza.  The finished film was a major flop, and has gained little respect in the intervening years.  This clip will illustrate why.  O'Toole is so heavily made-up that he looks like a marionette, and any emotion he displays is completely blanketed by the atrocious wig and facial hair.  Ah, well, at least he got a paycheck.