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Opening Arguments

Peter O'Toole

RIP, Peter O'Toole. God almighty, what a freakisly handsome man he was in his "Lawrence of Arabia" days. He was the first man I noticed for his sheer physical beauty, the kind of looks that sparks lust in women and envy in men. But he was a hell of a talented actor on top of it. In fact, he holds the record for the most Oscar nominations without a win. Kinda think he should have won for "Lawrence," but he lost out to Gregory Peck in "To Kill A Mockingbird." I liked that movie, and Peck was good it it, but his low-key Atticus Finch was just a version of Peck, so, not really much acting there.

I was in high school when "Lawrence" came out, working after school and on weekends as an usher at the Jefferson Theater. I've probably seen that movie more times than any other (even "Key Largo," which I will watch any chance I get even after I've seen in 100 times). But I saw it in little pieces, in between chores such as changing the marquee signs, picking up candy wrappers and shining my flashlight on too-amorous couples (yep, they really made me do that). I didn't have a sense of the movie's story arc until years later when it came out on video and I sat through the whole thing. The thing that struck me most about it was the magnificent scenery, the dominating presence of the desert.

I wasn't politically savvy enough in high school to get all the geoplolitical implications, but even then I knew a good line when I heard one. This still ranks as one of the best I've heard in the movies:


So long as the Arabs fight tribe against tribe, so long will they be a little people, a silly people. Greedy, barbarous and cruel, as you are.

A little people, a silly people, barbarous and cruel. Lot of that going around these days.

Since this is a largely political-issues blog, I can't resist throwing this in:


He recalled that after he struck it rich in the 1960s, he tried to bully everyone in his household into voting Labour. He thought he had succeeded with everyone, until his working-class driver told him he had taken the Rolls down to the polling station and voted Conservative because his own taxes were too high. That, he said, got him to thinking. He admitted his fellow actors Michael Caine and Sean Connery had a point when they said Britain’s high tax rates did discourage work, and moved themselves overseas. The year we spoke, Margaret Thatcher began cutting Britain’s tax rates, negating the need for O’Toole to ponder joining them.

How about that. Somebody who can afford the luxury of confiscating and spending other people's money learning something from somebody desperate to keep his money. Not enough of that going around these days.