Oscar Justice: Peter O’Toole

Welcome to Oscar Justice, a new weekly feature at Ice Creams for Freaks.  It’s a simple concept: I give an Oscar to someone who rightfully deserved it, then I follow the repercussions down the line until I am satisfied.

This week on Oscar Justice: Peter O’Toole in The Lion in Winter


1962 Best Actor, Lawrence of Arabia – Lost to Gregory Peck, To Kill a Mockingbird
1964 Best Actor, Becket – Lost to Rex Harrison, My Fair Lady
1968 Best Actor, The Lion in Winter – Lost to Cliff Robertson, Charly
1969 Best Actor, Goodbye Mr. Chips – Lost to John Wayne, True Grit
1972 Best Actor, The Ruling Class – Lost to Marlon Brando, The Godfather
1980 Best Actor, The Stunt Man – Lost to Robert De Niro, Raging Bull
1982 Best Actor, My Favorite Year – Lost to Ben Kingsley, Gandhi
2006 Best Actor, Venus – Lost to Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland


Peter O’Toole has cemented himself as one of the best and most enigmatic actors of his generation in just a few short years.  After breaking through with the titular role in Best Picture winner Lawrence of Arabia in 1962, O’Toole continued to alternate between the big screen and the stage with equal success.  Following his second Oscar nomination in 1964 for playing Henry II in Becket, O’Toole returned to the role in 1968 alongside Katherine Hepburn for The Lion in Winter.

O’Toole’s accolades for The Lion in Winter were matched by his awards for Becket.  He received Best Actor – Drama from the Golden Globes and received nominations from the Oscars as well.  On Oscar night, Hepburn tied Barbara Streisand for Best Actress, but O’Toole came up empty again, this time to Cliff Robertson in Charly.
To add insult to injury, Time Magazine published a report two weeks after the ceremony over concerns with the Academy.  The story is quoted as the Academy being swayed by an “excessive and vulgar solicitation of votes” in favor of Robertson’s performance.


Peter O’Toole defeats Cliff Robertson in 1968 and wins his one and only competitive Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role.


O’Toole is famous for his Oscar losses, but if you look at the performances he ended up behind, it’s no wonder.  Peck, Harrison, Wayne, Brando, De Niro, Kingsley and Whitaker are all all-time performances.  My first impulse was to give him the Oscar for Lawrence of Arabia, but I couldn’t in good conscience take away an Oscar from Atticus Finch.

I also considered the 1969 Oscars, but I decided against it.  Though John Wayne isn’t for everyone, I like the victory for True Grit.  His other nomination came in 1949 for The Sands of Iwo Jima, but Wayne would not be usurping the Best Actor trophy from Broderick Crawford in All the King’s Men.

Robertson proved to be the only opponent that felt slight.  It helps The Lion in Winter is definitely not a performance to shake a stick at.  O’Toole would have proven to be a solid winner.


With O’Toole winning his Oscar in 1968, Cliff Robertson is left Oscar-less. Robertson is never again nominated for an Oscar and never comes close, though he did win an Emmy in 1966 for Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theater.  By the way, he beat Ed Begley, Melvyn Douglas, Trevor Howard and Christopher Plummer in that category.

Robertson was the subject of a five-year blacklisting by Hollywood producers due to being the whistleblower in an embezzlement scandal by the head of Columbia Pictures David Begelman.  In 1977, Robertson discovered the scandal and spoke to the press.  He wouldn’t work another studio picture until 1983.

Robertson’s career was in no way insignificant as he worked steadily through the new millennium.  Most notably, he appeared in Three Days of the Condor, portrayed Hugh Hefner in Star 80 and played the president in Escape from L.A.  Younger audiences remember Robertson as Uncle Ben from the Sam Raimi/Tobey Maguire Spider-Man films.  Robertson was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1986.


Peter O’Toole wins Best Actor in 1968 over Cliff Robertson

Next time on Oscar Justice…Al Pacino gets his Oscar for his best performance, which creates a quagmire for the 1999-2001 Best Actor races.

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