Peter O’Toole (2 August 1932 to 14 December 2013)
Peter was one of the great British drunks of stage and screen (he was born to play Jeffrey Bernard), with enough star power to bedazzle even the full moon in Connemara. We remember him on his birthday with affection (but not complete admiration – see below).
He is terrific in Becket (1964) as Henry II, with fellow legendary drunk Richard Burton; and his off-the-wall, ecstatic approach ignites The Ruling Class (1972), (where he plays a man playing, in turn, Jesus and Jack the Ripper). He is superb as megalomaniac film director Eli Cross in The Stunt Man (1980) (once again, there is violent disagreement in The Vanished Culture‘s offices about that one). And we like some late oddities: My Favourite Year (1982), Venus (2007) and Dean Spanley (2009).
Whilst always a presence, and interesting more often than not, there is no doubt that, by both bellowing and smirking, he could, at times turn movie champagne into a bucket of cold sick (so to speak). We have not seen his infamous Macbeth on the London stage (though a close friend has, and confirms its execrable quality), but let’s face it, even his admirers (and I am one) can take or leave Man of La Mancha, Lord Jim, Goodbye Mr Chips, and quite a few others (but he was rarely boring).