peter otoole

Peter O’Toole, an acting legend who left his indelible print upon celluloid with performances in such films as Lawrence of Arabia, The Stunt Man, My Favorite Year, and The Ruling Class, died on Saturday at the age of 81, according to the actor’s agent, Steve Kenis.

O’Toole, who survived cancer in the 1970s (itself due in part to digestive defects and heavy alcoholism) as well as subsequent insulin-dependent diabetes, passed away due to an unspecified illness, and Kenis stated that O’Toole had been ill for some time:

“In due course there will be a memorial filled with song and good cheer, as he would have wished…We will be happy to speak to you all then but in the meantime if you could give Peter O’Toole the respect he deserves and allow us to grieve privately we’d appreciate it.”

While O’Toole was definitely a figurehead for a generation of actors whose personal lives were marked by bawdy, boozy tumult, on screen he was a titan of the craft, earning eight Oscar nominations in his lifetime.

In July of last year, however, O’Toole bid farewell to the craft in a statement as graceful and dignified as his approach to the profession itself:

“It is time for me to chuck in the sponge. To retire from films and stage. The heart for it has gone out of me: it won’t come back. My professional acting life, stage and screen, has brought me public support, emotional fulfillment and material comfort. It has brought me together with fine people, good companions with whom I’ve shared the inevitable lot of all actors: flops and hits. However, it’s my belief that one should decide for oneself when it is time to end one’s stay. So I bid the profession a dry-eyed and profoundly grateful farewell.”

What is your favorite O’Toole performance?