Monday, December 16, 2013

RIP Peter O'Toole (1932 - 2013) and Joan Fontaine (1917 - 2013)

This weekend we lost two legendary actors: on Saturday, Peter O'Toole was pronounced dead at the age of 81 by his publicist, and on Sunday, Joan Fontaine died at the age of 96.

Peter O'Toole was most famous for his star-making turn in David Lean's 1962 epic Lawrence of Arabia. Though that film was a behemoth at the Oscars and O'Toole had become an instant overnight sensation, O'Toole failed to win an Oscar for his performance. In fact, he would go on to lose on all eight of his nominations, the most ever for an actor without a win. Always a fighter, he quipped he'd "win the bugger outright" one day in refusing an Honorary Oscar in 2002. He appeared in a number of classic roles, but I'll personally remember him most fondly as King Henry II in 1968's The Lion in Winter. It was my first exposure to him as an actor, and watching it in a high school drama class, I was riveted by his roaring energy and incredible rapport with Katharine Hepburn. Though I never did follow up on becoming an actor, I can distinctly remember thinking in that moment that I wanted be as good as O'Toole.

Joan Fontaine is well-known for her two films with Alfred Hitchcock - 1940's Best Picture winner Rebecca, and the following year's Suspicion, for which she won the Best Actress Oscar - but is perhaps best known for her decades-long feud with sister Olivia de Havilland. Though Fontaine's career as a star faded as she got older (her theatrical appearance was in the 1966 Hammer horror film The Witches), she had a string of incredible roles in the 1940s, including the aforementioned Hitchcock films and Max Ophuls' 1948 drama Letter from an Unknown Woman. I'm not as familiar with Fontaine's work, having only seen Rebecca, but in that film she's astonishing as the second wife of a mysterious man who's realizing the horrors she's married into. As an added bit of trivia, she is the only actor to have ever won an acting Oscar for a Hitchcock film.

Both O'Toole and Fontaine will be greatly missed, though their performances will live on.

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