Monday, December 16, 2013

Obituaries Of Note

Peter O’Toole, Star of ‘Lawrence of Arabia,’ Is Dead at 81

Imagine that your first leading film role is in a highly expensive production starring the venerable talent of the age [Anthony Quinn, Jose Ferrer, Anthony Quayle, Claude Rains, Alec Guinness, etc.] and directed by a living legend.  Imagine, then, fulfilling your job in such a way that it is impossible for anyone else to ever play the role.

While it recounts the wartime work of the archaeologist Thomas E. Lawrence, "Lawrence of Arabia" is much more about the exercise of free will and the quest for identity.  Robert Bolt's script is filled with marvelous dialogue, though my favorite moment may be when Lawrence is rendered speechless by a sentry's question, "Who are you?"

If you ever have the chance, and can find it, one of the great movies about appearance vs. reality is "The Stunt Man", also starring O'Toole.  In interviews, he would call it his favorite role.  Although, to be honest, his best role may have been playing himself.

[An aside: in seminary we would have an annual "Speak like Peter O'Toole Day", which often made for some memorable readings in the chapel.]

Tom Laughlin dies at 82; filmmaker drew huge following for 'Billy Jack'

At the other end of the cinematic spectrum was Tom Laughlin, who created the grind house movie character "Billy Jack".  If "Lawrence" encouraged me to study archaeology, the half-breed "Billy Jack" reminded me of the angst that is always a part of a divided genetic heritage.  That, and when one lives and works mostly with affluent whites, it's good to know some martial arts.

To his credit, Laughlin created a marketing strategy based not on what was familiar Hollywood practice, but on the manner in which the early rock and roll stars introduced new songs, namely by paying theaters to show the film and adverstising it in campaigns targeted towards a younger audience. It's now, and has been for some forty years, the way in which all films are marketed.

Here's Billy Jack practicing his particular brand of peace-making [Warning: there's a little bad language near the end].