The dreamy student of Wittenberg 2

December 22 2013

Monitor, BBC television, recorded October 1963. Peter O’Toole, Orson Welles, Ernest Milton. Moderator Huw Wheldon. On Monitor, see this old post.

O’Toole was playing Hamlet with the new National Theatre Company at the Old Vic under the direction of Laurence Olivier.

Milton had joined the Old Vic in 1918. He is forgotten now, but Alec Guinness called him the greatest Hamlet he had ever seen.

Welles respects, perhaps envies, O’Toole. Isn’t it the jealous look of an older man on a younger? Don’t they both subtly patronise Milton?

Wheldon doesn’t interrupt, doesn’t noisily “drive” the conversation, doesn’t worry if there is a pause of a second or two, because the discussion never dries up. This is how British television was.

The Telegraph obituary describes O’Toole’s Hamlet as “acceptable but uninspiring”. His disastrous 1980 Macbeth was also at the Old Vic. 

O’Toole is great in Becket (1964), the film after the play by Jean Anouilh. You might expect him to play the turbulent priest and Richard Burton Henry II, but it is the other way round. The turbulent character is the king.

The Lion in Winter (1968) is his other Henry II film, where he plays opposite Katharine Hepburn’s Eleanor of Aquitaine.

Hamlet in performance (Wikipedia).

3 Responses to “The dreamy student of Wittenberg 2”

  1. davidderrick Says:

    O’Toole with Charlie Rose, circa 1992:

  2. […] The dreamy student of Wittenberg 2 […]

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