The Late Actor Recalls His Youth During the War
O’Toole achieved ever-lasting fame when he portrayed T.E. Lawrence in director David Lean’s film masterpiece Lawrence of Arabia. Though Lawrence was a short man with red hair and O’Toole was tall and blond, the Oscar-winning picture captured the spirit of adventure that made Churchill such an admirer of Lawrence. When Churchill became Colonial Secretary in 1921, Lawrence joined him as a special advisor on Arab affairs. This collaboration influenced the decisions taken at the seminal Cairo Conference, which essentially created the modern Middle East.
Churchill and Lawrence remained friends. Several times Lawrence rode his motorcycle to Chartwell for visits. He became a popular favorite of the family. In her memoirs Churchill’s youngest daughter, Mary, recalls that “he would arrive dressed in his air force uniform with a great roar. My parents had of course told us children about Aircraftman Shaw’s true identity and about his amazing adventures in the desert.” One night Churchill called Mary down to dinner early where she found her friend Lawrence, “attired in the robes of a Prince of Arabia!”
Churchill said of Lawrence: “He had the art of backing uneasily into the limelight. He was a very remarkable character and very careful of that fact.” The first part of that description could not apply to O’Toole, who handled the limelight with great panache. But O’Toole certainly was a very remarkable character who will most certainly be missed.