Peter O’Toole repeating himself in his 1960s films

Further to yesterday’s post about movie depictions of the three “angels” who visited Abraham, I figured I’d also revisit a post I wrote last year on Peter O’Toole, who played all three of these “angels” in The Bible: In the Beginning… (1966).

In that post, I noted that I’ve always been inclined to see O’Toole’s role in that film — where he visits the city of Sodom and brings destruction to it after the men of that town demand the opportunity to rape both of the angels he is playing — as “sort of a meta-sequel in which O’Toole gets revenge for the rape his character endured in a similar Middle Eastern town in Lawrence of Arabia (1962).”

But it wasn’t until watching The Bible again this week that I realized the later film might hark back to the previous film not only in its casting and narrative, but visually as well. Consider how both films make use of close-ups of Peter O’Toole’s eyes.

In Lawrence of Arabia, we get a tight close-up on O’Toole’s eyes as the Turkish officer played by José Ferrer begins to fondle Lawrence’s bare skin:

And then, in The Bible, we get a tight close-up of O’Toole’s eyes as one of the angels stares at the men of Sodom and, by doing so, takes away their ability to see:

Now, of course, I can’t say whether this was an intentional callback to the earlier film. But it’s certainly an interesting one — and it’s fun to have yet another item to add to the list of duplications that we can see in the Peter O’Toole films of the 1960s.

Other examples I have mentioned here include the way his right shoulder is shot in Lawrence of Arabia and How to Steal a Million (1966), and the way he played Henry II at different stages of his life in Becket (1964) and The Lion in Winter (1968).

(Hmmm, and in both of those examples, the later film paired him with an actress named Hepburn… Alas, there are no Hepburns in The Bible.)

About Peter T. Chattaway

Peter T. Chattaway was the regular film critic for BC Christian News from 1992 to 2011. In addition to his award-winning film column for that paper, his news and opinion pieces have appeared in such publications as Books & Culture, Christianity Today, Bible Review and the Vancouver Sun. He has also contributed essays to the books Re-Viewing The Passion: Mel Gibson’s Film and Its Critics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), Scandalizing Jesus?: Kazantzakis’s The Last Temptation of Christ Fifty Years on (Continuum, 2005) and The Bible in Motion: A Handbook of the Bible and Its Reception in Film (De Gruyter, 2016).