In the two previous entries in this series, I covered Peter O’Toole’s Oscar-nominated performances and his comedies. The next batch will feature everything else, loosely collected in the "drama" category. And without further ado…
Film: The Bible: In the Beginning... (John Huston, 1966)
Role: The Three Angels
The Bible is pretty much as its title claims: a filmic recreation of the Book of Genesis. And as you might expect from an adaptation of a sacred text, it's thorough. The first ten minutes of the film are word-for-word from the beginning of Genesis, the creation of the Earth and Sky depicted in dramatic documentary-style footage of volcanoes, clouds, mountains--all the majesty of nature. Then come the birds of the air, the fish of the sea, the beasts of the earth; Adam and Eve, Noah, all that jazz.
O'Toole plays the three angels who come to Abraham to tell his wife Sarah she will give birth to a son, even though they're both, like, a hundred. In an awesome bit of casting, Abraham and Sarah are played by firebrands George C. Scott and Ava Gardner. Scott fell madly in love with Gardner during shooting which would have been fine, I guess, had he not already been mad to begin with. They had one of those tempestuous Old Hollywood love affairs filled with booze and sex and violence--all while playing the founding mother and father of Christianity (not even taking into consideration Abraham's significance to Judaism and Islam). Gotta love it.
In another scene, O'Toole's angels are also the ones to guide Lot into Sodom to search for godly men. That doesn't go so well. The scene is pretty cool, however, as Sodom is portrayed as a stinking hellhole, all shadows and sensuality, its denizens dressed up in gaudy makeup that's a cross between Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra and Ziggy Stardust. O'Toole doesn't stand for this though and uses his super angelic baby blues to part the writhing hoard so he and Lot can escape.
Boom! Nobody's sleeping with these virgins now, bitches.
As much fun as I'm poking at this film now, it's actually pretty descent. It is rather slow but what Biblical epic isn't? Huston's assured hand and lavish photography reminds us that Old Testament stories are actually kind of cool and fraught with all too-human frailties. In essence, they're great drama.