Turner Classic Movies typically slots a multiple-film tribute quickly upon a screen staple’s death, but this weekend marks the rarity of two in one day.
The channel splits its schedule Sunday (Dec. 29) between Joan Fontaine during the daytime and Peter O’Toole at night. The portion honoring Fontaine, who died Dec. 15, includes her Oscar-winning turn in the Alfred Hitchcock-directed “Suspicion” plus her nominated performances in “The Constant Nymph” and Hitchcock’s “Rebecca.”
O’Toole, who died Dec. 14, was an eight-time Oscar nominee and received an honorary award in 2003. TCM will remember him by showing his star-making work in “Lawrence of Arabia” as well as “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” and “My Favorite Year.” Also slated is the “Live From the TCM Classic Film Festival” special from 2011, in which principal channel host Robert Osborne interviewed the actor.
“I’m so grateful for the time we had with him,” Osborne tells Zap2it, “because he was such a nice fellow … and so kind to me, because he hated doing interviews. It was great having that personal connection with him. He was so ‘on’ that day, so witty and bright.”
However, Osborne adds O’Toole’s famous penchants for drinking and general hell-raising had “done so much damage to his body, he looked a good 10 or 15 years older than he was, so his death didn’t surprise me that much. For some reason, Joan Fontaine’s did.”
Osborne says he respects Fontaine’s career “for those five to seven years when she was really clicking, but after a while, she more or less walked through parts. I think she gave up wanting to be a great actress and just kind of took the money, whereas I’ve always felt Olivia de Havilland did it for the work and not the money.”
Two-time Oscar winner and “Gone With the Wind” legend de Havilland is Fontaine’s sister, but they were long estranged.
“I have a very good relationship with Olivia and always have,” Osborne says, “so I didn’t really want to get into certain aspects of Joan Fontaine and rock the boat, but I have great respect for ‘Rebecca’ and ‘Suspicion’ and ‘Letter From an Unknown Woman.’ I don’t think there was anyone better as a heroine in films than she was at that point.”
Also a longtime Hollywood historian whose book “85 Years of the Oscar: The Official History of the Academy Awards” was published in November, Osborne is pleased TCM has the rights to 1962’s “Lawrence of Arabia” — a winner of seven Oscars, including best picture and best director (David Lean) — at a time when it counts so much in saluting O’Toole.
“You have to show that,” Osborne reasons simply. “And his ‘Goodbye, Mr. Chips’ is so underrated, and ‘My Favorite Year’ is just so wonderful.”
TCM’s tribute to Fontaine and O’Toole kicks off at 6:30 a.m. ET Sunday with Fontaine’s 1938 movie “Blonde Cheat.” Four films starring O’Toole will air starting at 8 p.m. with “Lawrence of Arabia.”