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Peter James O'Toole(1932-2013): R.I.P.
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Peter James O'Toole(1932-2013): R.I.P.

Peter James O'Toole(1932-2013) was an Irish-born, British educated, actor of fame who died last weekend. He began working in the theatre, and gaining recognition as a Shakespearean actor, while I was making a name for myself in a small town in Ontario in pee-wee and bantam baseball for teens and pre-teens. O'Toole made his film debut in 1959 when I was in grade 10, and in love with a girl around the corner named Susan Gregory.

I have put together several 100 words which follow, pieces of prose and poetry I wrote in recent years since retiring after a 50 year student and working life: 1949 to 1999, and after reinventing myself as a writer and author, poet and publisher, online blogger and journalist. These words below serve as a personal reflection on the man and his life, and my own life, our lives sometimes in a curious and, for me at least, interesting synchronicity-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, George Town, Tasmania.

Part 1:

Perhaps I was attracted to the autobiographical aspect, the epic story, of a larger-than-life adventurer, T.E. Lawrence(1888-1935). His Arabian adventure in the film Lawrence of Arabia moved me, I recall, even after the passing of more than half a century. Perhaps it was the impressive cinematography that got to my emotions. Perhaps it was the music, the rich lyrical scores, of Maurice Jarre.

By the time I came to write this prose-poem, this reflection, after the passing of Peter O'Toole last weekend, I had seen the film Lawrence of Arabia twice in the 54 years since the start of its production history began back in October 1959. October 1959 was the month that the famous TV series The Twilight Zone started. I also joined the Bahá’í Faith that same month. O'Toole married for the first time in 1959; 1959 was a big year for this now famous man who has acted for the last time. O'Toole was into autobiography and memoirs which you can read about in the detailed account of his life at Wikipedia. I have now been working on my own autobiography for 30 years, I do not possess the genius for words which this man who is said to have memorized all 154 of Shakespeare's sonnets.

O'Toole played the role of Lawrence in Lawrence of Arabia. The film was first released three months after my travelling-pioneering venture began in Canada in September 1962 for the Canadian Baha’i community. Lawrence's life and personality were enigmatic and complex, solitary and adventurous. He was, we are told, given to masochism; he was often beaten when a child by his mother; his sex-life was problematic; we are also told he was excessively arrogant. These are qualities I have myself exhibited but, after more than 50 years of living, and after some reflection and reading, I don't think I have ever exhibited these qualities and these problems with anything like the same intensity as Lawrence did.

I have not been tested by envy or jealousy except on the rarest of occasions. I've never had trouble with sex in anything like the same way and extent as was the case with Lawrence. Fame and wealth, the frenzy of renown, have also eluded me and, in some ways, I am thankful. O'Toole has had to deal with alcohol and cancer, diabetes and a blood disorder; I think I've had a healthier, and far less frenetic life; alcohol has never been a problem nor have drugs, although I've had to deal with the perils of bipolar I disorder.

These qualities, these human problems and attributes to which I have referred above in the lives of either Lawrence or O'Toole , are features of life that characterize people's life-narratives, millions of people, in various degrees. People sometimes become more conscious of them, more articulate, when they go to write their autobiography as I have done in recent decades, and as Lawrence did in writing his, his Seven Pillars of Wisdom.

Part 2:

Peter O’Toole(1932- ), as I say, had his problems with alcohol, marriage, and health. He also had to deal with an extreme eccentricity, and a brilliance of sorts; he is and was a useful exemplar for students in the field of abnormal psychology. It seems, though, that they were useful qualities for his role in Lawrence, a man of brilliance and eccentricity as well. O'Toole said he was “a retired Christian” who had given up organized religion in his teens when my own life was just getting started back in the 1940s.

The historical man, T. E. Lawrence, took on the task, among others, of uniting the Arabian Bedouins against their Turkish oppressors. My task was one of trying to bring unity to a people as well, although in the years 1959 to 1962, my adolescence, when I first began to deal with this task, I had no idea of the scale, the nature and the complexity of the exercise, an exercise I have come to be involved with myself in some three dozen towns where I lived since my adolescence—some 50 years ago. My task did not operate on anything like the scale that Lawrence’s did. My world was a micro-world; my mise-en-scene, was: small towns and cities, schools and places of work, families and small groups.

I don't want to summarize the story of Lawrence nor the movie here, suffice it to say, the cinematography was breathtaking, and the music captivating. The music has hung around in my memory bank for decades. Some argue that these were the main reasons for seeing the film. Lawrence seemed to possess the paradoxical qualities of a man blinded by his ego, desirous of fame and yet, at the same time, self-effacing. The film works with themes of fate and war, Arab tribal disunity and national politics. Lawrence exists as a dark, blank shadow, a complex, jelly-like personality in a brightly lit desert. He is a man incomprehensible even to those who knew him best: intelligent, charismatic and slightly mad. In the end he could not bring unity to the Arab tribes, could not even begin to create an Arab state. It's been a problem writ-large during the recent Arab spring.

Part 3:

Unity was elusive for Lawrence and for the Arabs for many reasons, as it is elusive for us in our 21st century planetizing world. The pioneers of our generations beginning, say, with the silent generation(1919-1939), have been able to construct only a portion of this unity, a stage along the way to the unity of humankind in the many generations to come. These several generations have got some help from science and technology which have catapulted us into a neighborhood virtually overnight, at least as the bird of history flies. As Buckminster Fuller once put it: it’s utopia or oblivion. I’m going for utopia; there is little point in working for oblivion.-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 28/12/'06 to 16/12/'13.

I had no idea back then that
I would be a bit mad, too, as
I journeyed across the desert,
the Arctic-ice, the many great
tracts of land playing my part
in trying to unite the peoples
of the Earth who did not seem
to want to unite at least through
the mechanism which I advised
and suggested-again and again-
for over fifty years, say, back to
the '50s as we were just starting
to go to the moon, to rock-'n-roll.

The cinematography, the mise-
en-scene of my days, could be
magnificent in the hands of a
David Lean, a poetic imagery
with super-Panavision 70 mm
scope. You could even capture
the hills and valleys of my life
with a spectacular epic story, a
much larger-than-life idealistic
adventure & reduce my several
decades to, say, 150 minutes!!!

I had my eccentricity, but it was
nothing like Peter O’Toole’s, &
I married someone who helped
to keep my eccentricities within
bounds of social propriety—and
thus function in society….in the
classroom and in the community
with its heterogeneity. But fame
and wealth would never be mine.

Ron Price
28/12/'06 to 16/12/'13.

Old Post Dec 31st, 2013 11:15 AM
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As for me Peter O'Toole was one of the best British actor. His performances in such movies like Becket, The Lion in winter, My favorite year were brilliant. He was a great drama actor as well as comedy actor, for example How to steal a Million. So great actors is becoming less and less.

Old Post Feb 3rd, 2014 08:09 AM
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