Peter O’Toole’s archive bought for €370k in US

The personal archive of Peter O’Toole, one of the great actors of stage and screen who died in 2013, has been bought by the University of Texas for $400,000 (€373,000).

Among the memorabilia are unpublished manuscripts and letters, a spiral notebook from his early days working as a newspaper reporter and a sword used to fight — and occasionally scare — fellow actor Derek Jacobi in a 1963 production of Hamlet at the National Theatre in London.

The collection includes letters to equally famous film and stage actors like Marlon Brando, Vanessa Redgrave, John Gielgud, Katharine Hepburn, Dustin Hoffman and Paul Newman.

O’Toole’s stamina, hellraising ways and his capacity to drink copious amounts of alcohol were as legendary as his film and stage roles. 

It was a January night in 1968 when staff of the ‘Connacht Tribune’ in Galway celebrated an apprentice ‘completing his time’ and Peter O’Toole became a very welcome ‘gatecrasher’ who joined in the revelry. Picture: Connacht Tribune

Jacobi will never forget his nervousness when playing opposite him as Laertes in the last scene of Hamlet as O’Toole was often well lubricated on stage.

“If he gave me a wink — and he usually did, this wild Irishman — it meant a very hard fight,” he told The Guardian newspaper. 

“It was even dangerous to be sitting in the front row when he flashed out his sword like Douglas Fairbanks.”

Eric Colleary of the university’s Harry Ransom Center which bought the collection, is curating it. 

The Ransom Center already houses manuscripts of David Foster Wallace, Julia Alvarez, and Gabriel García Márquez, as well as the hat that accompanied the green curtain dress worn by Vivien Leigh in the movie Gone With The Wind.

Peter O’Toole in Lawrence of Arabia.

“The personal nature of his archive reveals a more complex and nuanced individual who fiercely stood by his friends, who deeply cared for his family, who worried about his career and its direction, and who had an incredible curiosity about the world around him,” Colleary told the newspaper.

While often playing the part of the quintessential Englishman, O’Toole always saw himself as Irish, insisting that he was born in Connemara, though his birthplace was most likely to have been Leeds.

He loved the ‘craic’ in Ireland and once gatecrashed the Connacht Tribune office party where he sang and drank like one of the staff.

Part of the collection shows the actor’s playfulness and his tendency to be unfazed by anyone, even Peter Hall, who led the Royal Shakespeare Company. 

Kate O’Toole with her famous father. Picture: Andrew Downes

In a hastily scribbled letter he turns down the part of Henry II in Becket, telling the the pre-eminent British theatre director: “Had to dash to New York. I think the play fine but the part not for me suggestions for anything else welcome. O’Toole.”

What the letter failed to reveal was that the reason for going to New York was to be announced for his role in Lawrence of Arabia, the movie that made him famous and prompted the playwright and composer Noel Coward to quip: “If he was any prettier, he’d be Florence of Arabia.”

© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved

Email Updates

Receive our lunchtime briefing straight to your inbox

More in this Section

Judges warn of ‘flaws’ in judicial reform

Half of sexual violence centre’s clients did not report incident to gardaí

Couple separated for first time in 63 years of marriage

Man burnt neighbour’s van over spying fears


Breaking Stories

Coveney confident ’heavy lifting’ on restoring northern institutions will will be done by tomorrow

Husband of missing Tina Satchwell, 45, makes emotional Crimecall appeal

Pedestrian killed in Dublin tonight after being struck by truck

Council vote to green light redevelopment of protected warehouses in Cork

Lifestyle

Inistearaght: The Blasket that looks like a Skellig

Meet the woman turning the oceans’ trash into photographic gold

20 years later, people are still spellbound by Harry Potter

A passion for Harry Potter - the books that taught a generation about friendship, courage and learning

More From The Irish Examiner