News / Arts & Entertainment

'Lawrence of Arabia' Actor, Peter O'Toole, Dies at 81

FILE - Peter O'Toole is seen at the 2003 Academy Awards in Los Angeles.
FILE - Peter O'Toole is seen at the 2003 Academy Awards in Los Angeles.
Actor Peter O'Toole, who shot to instant stardom in Lawrence of Arabia and was nominated eight times for an Academy Award, died Saturday at the age of 81. O'Toole's agent said the actor died at a London hospital following a long illness.
 
Born in 1932 and raised in England, O'Toole, the son of an Irish bookmaker, first established himself as a stage actor in the late 1950s. It was not until 1962 that he got his big break in the movies, starring in director David Lean's epic Lawrence of Arabia.
 
O'Toole played British army officer T.E. Lawrence, who helped to lead an Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire in World War II. The role earned O'Toole the first of eight Oscar nominations for Best Actor.

  • Peter O'Toole is shown in an undated photograph.
  • Peter O'Toole is seen in this undated photograph.
  • Peter O'Toole speaks to film director Otto Preminger during shooting of "Rosebud" in Paris, July 27, 1974.
  • Peter O'Toole smokes during an interview at his London home, Dec. 23, 1980.
  • Peter O'Toole accepts his honorary Oscar from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences during the 75th annual Academy Awards telecast in Los Angeles, March 23, 2003.
  • Peter O'Toole arrives for the British premiere of the film 'Venus' in central London, Jan. 22, 2007.
  • Peter O’Toole places his handprints in cement as he is honored during the TCM Classic Film Festival at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles, April 11, 2011.

The film begins with a depiction of Lawrence of Arabia's death in 1935, followed by a memorial service in London where a fictional American journalist Jackson Bentley gives his opinion of the man.
 
“He was a poet, a scholar, and a mighty warrior. He was also the most shameless exhibitionist since Barnum and Bailey,” Bentley says.
 
From those recollections, the film becomes a giant flashback of Lawrence's life. Bentley follows Lawrence through the Arab world to record the officer's exploits.
 
O'Toole earned his second Oscar nomination for the 1964 film Becket, in which he plays King Henry II, the drunken and womanizing ruler of 12th century England.
 
Henry appoints his friend and adviser Thomas Becket as Archbishop of Canterbury in a bid to control the church, but the scheme backfires when Becket the priest opposes the king's interference.
 
Becket flees England and then returns, only to be killed by Henry's men when the king impulsively calls for the elimination of the meddlesome cleric. Stricken with guilt, Henry grants Becket a posthumous honor, naming him a saint and martyr and calling for him to be prayed to throughout the kingdom.
 
O'Toole received six more Oscar nominations in a movie career spanning more than 40 years, making him the most nominated male actor never to win. His last nomination came for playing an elderly actor in the 2006 film Venus.
 
However, the veteran star still managed to get his hands on a coveted Oscar statuette when the U.S. film industry gave him an honorary Academy Award in 2003.
 
In a 2001 interview, O'Toole spoke about how he interpreted a script writer's vision for his various roles, detailing the process through which characters come off the page and onto the screen.
 
“With all good scripts there's this extraordinary alchemy of - you look at the ink on the page, the ink goes into the eye, into the mind, and then comes out the mouth. I found [that] with all fine works, they live on the page, for an actor - for an actor's sensibilities," O’Toole said.



O'Toole also struggled with health problems for decades. He had a reputation as a chain smoker and heavy drinker, but gave up alcohol in 1975 after surviving stomach cancer.
 
Just before he turned 80 last year, O'Toole announced his retirement. He expressed gratitude for the companions with whom he shared what he called "the inevitable lot of all actors: flops and hits.''

Michael Lipin

Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

You May Like

US Investors Eye IPO for China's Alibaba

E-commerce giant handled 80 percent of China's online business last year, logging more Internet transactions than US-based Amazon.com and eBay combined More

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

As cease-fire begins, Palestinians celebrate in streets; Israelis remain wary More

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

In treatment of a 12-year-old boy Chinese doctors used a 3-D printer and special software to create an exact replica of vertebra More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implanti
X
August 27, 2014 4:53 PM
A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. VOA News reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Northern California Quake: No Way to Know When Next One Will Hit

A magnitude 6.0 earthquake rocked northern California’s Napa Valley on Sunday. Roads twisted and water mains burst. It was the wine country’s most severe quake in 15 years, and while hospitals treated many people, no one was killed. Arash Arabasadi has more from Washington on what the future may hold for those residents living on a fault line.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Beyond Category

Pianist Myra Melford’s new CD “Life Carries Me This Way” features solo piano interpretations of drawings by modern artist Don Reich. She performs songs from the album, talks about turning art into music, and joins host Eric Felten in some Chicago boogie-woogie on "Beyond Category."