Peter O’Toole: a legend

24th December 2021

Oscar-nominated actor Peter O'Toole

During the 1950s a new group of actors emerged who captivated audiences, firstly on stage, later on screen. Talent, charm, charisma, personality, magnetism, attributes that could never be taught; actors such as Richard Burton, Richard Harris, John Hurt and Peter O’Toole had these gifts in abundance.

I was lucky in that living in London, I was able to go to the theatre and saw Mr John Hurt in ‘Month in the Country’, while I caught Peter O’Toole in ‘Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell’. Additionally, I once ‘met’ Mr O’Toole at a book signing in London.

Actor Peter O'Toole new book expose | UK | News | Express.co.uk
Peter O’Toole in ‘Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell’

As for Mr Richard Harris, I had the pleasure of serving him one time in an upmarket bakery in west London. He was on form that day, possibly having partaken of a liquid lunch. Unfortunately, I did not get the opportunity to see Mr Richard Burton. Now, back to Peter O’Toole.

I have a great clip of the magnificent Irish actor being interviewed by the fast-talking USA TV host David Letterman. Students can compare the two accents.

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Letterman asks O’Toole if he has a story about fellow actor, Richard Harris. Instead of a rather pedestrian, “Let me see …,” O’Toole, cigarette in hand, responds, “Oh, I’ll shuffle through my memory,” before proceeding to tell said story (this occurs at 0:32 – 3:33).

The activity can be extended by asking the students to copy O’Toole’s voice and elocution. Obviously I don’t condone smoking but students have had great fun sitting crossed legged, imaginary cigarette held aloft, and repeating, “Oh, I’ll shuffle through my memory.”

The serious aspect here is to demonstrate the rhythms and stresses in English – the elongated “oh,” as he thinks, the focus on the verb, “shuffle’, the linking of “through my,” and the final stressed but downwards – intonations of “memory.” A lot of work covered in just six words. Good value for your teaching bucks !

Peter O'Toole Documentary | Brendan O'Connor - RTÉ Radio 1

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