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Posts Tagged ‘Gregory Peck’

Peter O'Toole Lion in  WinterI was saddened to discover yesterday that Peter O’Toole had died over the weekend  in London at the age of 81.   He was definitely a favorite of mine.   The Irish-born actor was famous for his partying and brawling alongside his longtime chum Richard Harris, but first and foremost was legend on the stage and on the screen, casting a magnificent presence into all his roles.   And what great roles they were-  the ethereal Lawrence in Lawrence of Arabia,  his comic twist as Allan Swann in My Favorite Year and  my favorites, two times as King Henry II in Beckett and in The Lion In Winter.

O’Toole holds a dubious record , being the most nominated best actor ( 8 times) without ever winning the Oscar.  I can’t fault most of the winning choices in the years that he lost.  Most were incredible performances such as Marlon Brando in 1972’s The Godfather, Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird in 1962, Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady in 1964, John Wayne in True Grit in 1969, Robert DeNiro in Raging Bull in 1980, and Ben Kingsley in Gandhi in 1982.  All of these are legendary roles.  Even his loss to Forrest Whitaker in 2006’s The Last King of Scotland is understandable.

No, the one where his performance was by far the greatest of that year (and most others in my opinion) was in 1968 when he portrayed  Henry II in The Lion in Winter.  He lost to Cliff Robertson in Charly, which was a great role and a fine movie, the film version of Flowers For Algernon.  I take nothing away from Cliff Robertson but O’Toole’s portrayal was one for the ages, matched as he was with Katherine Hepburn  and a young Anthony Hopkins.  It’s a film that I cannot help but watching whenever it comes on.  O’Toole is mesmerizing in that film, just dominating the screen.  He was truly the Lion in that film.

I think I’ll watch it again today just to see him roar once more.

Here’s a taste:

 

 

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I Am SpartacusI am Spartacus.

If you’re familiar with that classic line or the movie Roman Holiday with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck or Steve McQueen’s gritty performance in Papillon, you already know the work of Dalton Trumbo, the great screenwriter/novelist who died in 1976.  I was lucky to have found him in a high school class where we read his anti-war classic Johnny Got His Gun, a book that still haunts me.

I was finally able to catch an episode of American Masters on PBS that focused on Trumbo and his involvement in the Communist witch hunts of the late 40’s and 50’s here in the US.  Without rehashing all the hideous events of that time, Trumbo and a number of others, called the Hollywood Ten, were called before Sen. Joe McCarthy’s now infamous senate committee, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), to testify as to their Communist leanings.

It was an ugly spectacle, a black mark on our history.  Trumbo and others refused to cooperate and many were imprisoned, Trumbo for eleven months.  Some that called cooperated and named names, destroying the lives of many.  A blacklist existed throughout the 50’s that kept many people in many different fields from working, although the blacklisted Hollywood writers and actors are the best known.  Trumbo was able to keep working somewhat under fake names and behind fronts, people who would put their name to his work.  There was an incident where Trumbo’s script for The Brave One won the Academy Award in 1957 but was never claimed as it was under another name.  He finally received it in 1975.

It was truly a terrible time in our country, a time of fear-mongering and ignorance.  The reason I bring it up today is that in it, watching those grainy films of the bloated bullies of the HUAC acting like the Spanish Inquisition, I cannot fail to see huge parallels between the behavior of those enemies of free speech and the behavior of those who oppose all change today, awash in stupidity and fear.  And as much as their actions then and now seem, it is the actions of those enable them that most disappoint.  Once you kowtow to the demands of the rabidly fearful and ignorant, all hope is lost.  In the 50’s those participated in blacklisting citizens enabled the hatred of the accusers.  Today, when we allow lies and mistruths to go unchallenged, we do the same.

We cannot let the fearful and the ignorant choose our path.

Okay, I know this is probably not as coherent as it might be.  I highly recommend that anyone interested try to watch this episode of American Masters.  Perhaps you’ll see what I’m flailing to say…

Here is a small bit from the end of the episode, featuring a piece of Trumbo’s writing where he defended his experience as an American to those who questioned his love and loyalty for this land-

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