Sunday, 7 November 2010

Best Actor 1962: Peter O'Toole in Lawrence of Arabia

Peter O'Toole received his first Oscar nomination for portraying T.E. Lawrence in Lawrence of Arabia.

Lawrence of Arabia is simply a fantastic film, a true epic, that is both a spectacular sight to behold, but also is brilliantly written, showing the interesting relationships between nations, and creating incredibly complex and memorable characters. On an interesting Oscar related side note this film has  not only Peter O'Toole who has the most unsuccessful Best Actor Nominations but also Claude Rains and Arthur Kennedy who share the most unsuccessful supporting actor Oscar nominations.   

Peter O'Toole seemed to be tailor made to play Lawrence, if it was not for their height difference I would say O'Toole is almost a dead ringer for the real Lawrence in this film. Like Gregory Peck from this year, O'Toole from the creation of the part just seems perfect for the part. I never for a moment question him as Lawrence, and this is something that is very good for his performance. He never needs to try to convince me he is Lawrence and merely is this saves time for O'Toole in a way, and adds no unneeded distractions in his performance such as a voice or mannerisms. Again like Gregory Peck seemed to be the only person who could be Atticus Finch, and only Peter O'Toole could really be T.E. Lawrence, which is a true achievement since unlike Atticus Finch, Lawrence was a real person.

Peter O'Toole also does something that seems rather simple in this part, but is essential to the success of the film. That is he is always completely watchable for the entire length of this very long film. His performance always remains interesting throughout the film, never loses his charisma or energy for a moment. This is very much needed for a long epic such as this, since O'Toole stays watchable he and the film never become at all boring, or tiresome, and the film stays interesting for its whole running time. O'Toole stays watchable therefore he stays as a character you can follow throughout this gigantic epic in a very similar way one could follow Vivien Leigh through Gone With The Wind, which is a true achievement. 

Peter O'Toole fulfills the role of a lead in an epic completely but his role is not that of a simple hero in anyway. O'Toole shows the various aspects of Lawrence brilliantly despite how strange and complicated some aspects of the character can be. O'Toole is particularly effective in showing Lawrence and his transformations throughout the film which are many and many different complications. One of his transformation is his original position of a fairly unassuming solider, who follows his orders and goes deep into the desert. He is a rather plain spoken man who wishes to learn and O'Toole early shows the proper earnestness and understanding of Lawrence as he finds out more about the Arab people. He shows both a great interest in their ways but later and distaste when his original guide is killed simply because the guide drank from the wrong water well. O'Toole mixes Lawrence feeling well, it seems fairly simple at times, but O'Toole is also the viewers guide into this life and O'Toole excels in this spectacularly well.

Lawrence though soon gains more knowledge of the Arabs, and transitions from an outsider to not one of them but something different. He becomes of Arabia but not an Arab in a odd but fascinating fashion. He gains their trust through his ability, and his connection with them. O'Toole here creates another presence that is larger than life. His gain in confidence and control is shown to have always been there by O'Toole and something that finally needed a chance to be realized. He becomes a hero of sorts to the Arabs, because of his command and charisma. It is certainly a challenge for O'Toole to have the right charisma and power in his performance but he does. I never questioned his ability to calm and lead the people who were incredibly energetic, and very much unsubdued. O'Toole is able to prove this great ability of Lawrence without absolutely no faults which is simply incredible.

O'Toole is fascinating also in showing an aspect of Lawrence that the film did not even need to draw attention but it does, and adds greatly to the character of Lawrence. This is the idea of Lawrence's masochism at first that slowly turns into sadism. The film does not draw that much attention to the film but it is shown with incredibly subtlety by O'Toole, the film overtly mentions briefly but the transition is all up tot O'Toole. Early on he shows his ability to hold a match for long, and his slight strange pleasure he clearly shows in his face when he blows out his match.

He changes over the film to sadism, a sadism that grows within in Lawrence, which O'Toole shows carefully and all too effectively. His pleasure he shows when he executes a friend of his is chilling because O'Toole shows it with complete naturalism. His love of killing grows and O'Toole is coldly realistic despite this oddity of Lawrence especially in his scene where he tells the General that he enjoyed killing. It is truly fascinating because O'Toole does not turn him into a psychopath but rather a man who simply gets an odd pleasure from killing which seems far more chilling than if he was just a psychopath. O'Toole is particularly haunting in his revenge scene where the purest brutality of Lawrence comes out when he calls for no prisoners. A that whole sequence O'Toole is truly freighting showing how Lawrence has changed and how his enjoyment of causing pain had grown to such a point.

O'Toole still has one last point of his performance which is the most compelling and essential. That is Lawrence's growing madness of sorts. Not the traditional madness of going insane or his sadism, but his growth of his belief that he is some sort of savior to the Arab people. O'Toole brilliantly suggests this early by Lawrence's confidence in his plans and his abilities. He brilliantly leads this to his own view of himself growing larger and larger in his eyes. He is especially strong because Lawrence starts fairly unsure at the first moment. He grows though but not completely after an early victory. But he shows both a confidence and fear when he announces his victory to his command. He shows that Lawrence seems partially afraid and partially astounded by what he has done and what he is becoming. Lawrence even more so develops his own image of being this odd savior to these people. O'Toole excels in showing Lawrence's larger than life dementia of sorts, something that seems completely odd and impossible, but isn't because O'Toole makes it so. He becomes a man of complete power and control, over these people, a man who believes many serve his cause simply because he is the one in charge. This aspect of his performance is awe inspiring to behold, and simple magnificent.

Here is a performance that is simply perfect, yet all too incredible because Lawrence is a complex character, one of the most complex in a film. O'Toole finds the right tone, the right madness, and the right reality for every aspect of Lawrence's psyche. O'Toole performance is one that I could write and write about because there is simply so much to it. Every single scene O'Toole shows such magnificence in his performance, that only the greatest of performances can have. O'Toole never seems false or strange but real, and makes Lawrence completely as Lawrence should be. O'Toole's performance has so much to it that I could not really even described completely everything there is to his performance. I did not even mention many of his incredible individual scenes showing Lawrence's history with Ali (Omar Sharif),or spectacular single scenes such as when he fakes the proper British mannerisms in an odd attempt to fit in with the world where he is not more than a man. This is performance that I find is something that is truly awesome to behold. O'Toole performance is one that I believe should be considered even more legendary than it is, it is that great and perfect in my opinion.

17 comments:

joe burns said...

He'll be your choice...


I liked him a lot, but I need to rewatch it. fantastic review!


Is it your Best Picture pick?

And since I say I'll do a Best Actor year sometime, will you do a Best Actress year?

Louis Morgan said...

Thanks Joe, and it most certainly is my best picture pick.

I perhaps could do a Best Actress eventually, but I would only probably do one, just because its a incredibly well covered category.

Tom said...

I think we've got our winner here. :) Excellent review.

Fritz said...

Great review! You praised him so much and so detailed, he has to be your winner!

Sage Slowdive said...

Yeah, I think I would give him a 5 too.

dshultz said...

Quite possibly my favorite performance of all time. Absolutely stunning.

Groggy Dundee said...

Excellent analysis of my all-time favorite performance by my all-time favorite actor in my all-time favorite film. Glad I found this blog.

Louis Morgan said...

Thank you.

Tanvir Bashar said...

Just askin which actors would u consider o tooles contemporaries

Louis Morgan said...

In terms of talent and intentional stardom I'd say his buddies Richard Harris and Richard Burton fit the bill.

Tanvir Bashar said...

Won't u consider Connery, Caine, Eastwood, or Lemmon

Louis Morgan said...

Technically they were popular at the same time but I feel that had different public perceptions. O'Toole, Harris and Burton all had certain acting reputations that seemed to come first before there stardom. Connery and Caine I think where regarded as stars first, despite both being great actors. Eastwood always was kinda on his own as Clint Eastwood. As for Lemmon I feel he was from a whole different crowd.

Tanvir Bashar said...

Just askin Louis if u no was te lawrence homosexual

Louis Morgan said...

Hard to say. He definitely seemed to be a sadomasochist though.

Tanvir Bashar said...

Wat is tht exactly

Louis Morgan said...

It means he enjoyed pain both feeling it and giving it. He actually hired someone simply to beat him.

Anonymous said...

In your opinion, who was the best actor in the 60s?