I think I’d like to be described as ‘pliably amused’

Lawrence of Arabia is my favourite film. The greatest film, I think, even on the days when I’m not looking for four hours of complex and dramatic history.

Even without that, though, it would have been hard not to love Peter O’Toole – or even just the idea of him.  The gentleman and the wit. The sense of graceful propriety and mischievous impropriety. The deep understanding of joy (and pain) lurking in the corners.

courteously stiff but pliably amused, far too urbane to be shocked, and perfectly at home with modes of life that other men might shy from as surreal…

I’m very sad he’s gone.

But I’m glad that someone has managed to capture him, a bit, in reflection: here’s Anthony Lane’s New Yorker reflection – gorgeous and on-song:

The obituaries that latched onto O’Toole’s misdeeds as a boozer missed the point, or grabbed only half of it. Like many stars, he was actually twin stars, fused together; within his nature, the gentleman cohabited with the fearsome rake, just as, within his Lawrence, something fey and dreamy, bordering dangerously on the camp, consorted with the unappeased ferocity of the warrior. Both facets shone in his sapphire stare. And that voice! By what miracle of instinct did Lean manage to cast a man who sounded, even before he reached the desert, as though his words had been naturally sanded? He could strike his consonants hard, as Laurence Olivier did, but with less of a cluck, and that soft, rasping croon of his, when he chose to deploy it, had the ominous effect of making you want to stop the action and offer him a drink…

 

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