University of Texas at Austin

Peter O'Toole:

An Inventory of His Papers at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator: O'Toole, Peter, 1932-2013
Title: Peter O'Toole Papers
Dates: circa 1792-2015 (bulk 1953-2015)
Extent: 72 document boxes, 26 oversize boxes (osb) (41.64 linear feet), 25 oversize folders (osf), and 26 electronic files (49 MB)
Abstract: The Peter O'Toole Papers consist of scripts, production materials, manuscript drafts, correspondence, photographs, and other professional and personal papers belonging to actor Peter O'Toole. The collection documents the span of O'Toole's nearly sixty-year career on stage and screen as well as the research and writing process for his two-volume autobiographical work Loitering with Intent.
Call Number: Performing Arts Collection PA-00405
Language: English, French, German, and Japanese
Access: Open for research. A few documents in the collection contain private information about living persons, including Social Security numbers, bank account numbers, and personal phone numbers. These documents are restricted during the lifetime of the individuals mentioned. Redacted photocopies of these materials are provided in place of the original documents. Researchers must create an online Research Account and agree to the Materials Use Policy before using archival materials. Researchers must create an online Research Account and agree to the Materials Use Policy before using archival materials. To request access to electronic files, please email Reference. Part or all of this collection is housed off-site and may require up to three business days' notice for access in the Ransom Center's Reading and Viewing Room. Please contact the Center before requesting this material:
Use Policies: Ransom Center collections may contain material with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations. Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in the collections without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the Ransom Center and The University of Texas at Austin assume no responsibility.
Restrictions on Use: Certain restrictions apply to the use of electronic files. Researchers must agree to the Materials Use Policy for Electronic Files before accessing them. Original computer disks and forensic disk images are restricted. Copying electronic files, including screenshots and printouts, is not permitted. Authorization for publication is given on behalf of the University of Texas as the owner of the collection and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder which must be obtained by the researcher. For more information please see the Ransom Center's Open Access and Use Policies.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation Peter O'Toole Papers (Performing Arts Collection PA-00405). Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin.
Acquisition: Purchase, 2016; Gift, 2019 (16-08-028-P, 16-12-009-P, and 19-07-005-G)
Processed by: Ancelyn Krivak, 2019 Born digital materials processed, arranged, and described by Chance Adams and Brenna Edwards, 2016-2022.

Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin

Biographical Sketch

Peter James O'Toole was born in Leeds, England on August 2, 1932. His father, Patrick, was of Irish ancestry and had worked as a ship fitter in the shipyards of Sunderland, England as a young man. While earning a living as a racetrack bookmaker in Leeds, Patrick O'Toole met and married Constance Jane Ferguson. Their two children, Patricia and Peter, were raised in Hunslet, a working-class neighborhood of inner city Leeds. Peter O'Toole attended Catholic parochial school in Leeds and was evacuated to rural England during the Second World War. He left school as a teenager and worked a variety of odd jobs before finding a position at the Yorkshire Evening Post newspaper. His budding newspaper career interrupted by two years of compulsory service in the Royal Navy, on his return to Leeds, O'Toole found himself drawn to the city's Civic Theatre. After playing a small part in a Christmas pantomime there, in 1953 O'Toole was offered the lead role in Spring at Marino, an adaptation of Turgenev's Fathers and Sons. Having enjoyed the acclaim he received for his performance in Leeds, on impulse during a trip to London O'Toole applied for admission to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA). O'Toole was accepted and awarded a full scholarship; he graduated from RADA in 1955.
Following his graduation from RADA, O'Toole was accepted as a member of the company at the Theatre Royal, Bristol (now known as the Bristol Old Vic). He acted in over a dozen plays there from 1955 to 1957. His final production of the 1956-1957 season, a musical named Oh! My Papa!, transferred to London for a brief run. O'Toole remained in the city, where he acted in various plays over the next few years, including Willis Hall's anti-war play The Long and the Short and the Tall (1959), and picked up small roles in television and film. After seeing his performance in The Long and the Short and the Tall, American producer Jules Buck offered to represent O'Toole as an agent and got him cast in a film he was producing, The Day They Robbed the Bank of England (1960). O'Toole's performance in that movie attracted the attention of producer Sam Spiegel and director David Lean, who were looking for an actor to play the lead role in their film Lawrence of Arabia (1962). O'Toole's iconic performance in that film led to his first Academy Award nomination for Best Actor, and O'Toole and Buck formed a production company together, Keep Films, which produced several of the films O'Toole starred in during the 1960s and 1970s, including Becket (1964), Lord Jim (1965), Great Catherine (1968), and The Ruling Class (1972). Meanwhile, O'Toole's stage career continued with great success throughout the 1960s. Among his most critically acclaimed roles of the decade were his performance as Shylock in The Merchant of Venice at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon in 1960; his Hamlet, directed by Laurence Olivier in the inaugural production of London's National Theatre in 1963; and his portrayal of John Tanner in Man and Superman at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin in 1969.
O'Toole's film and stage career waned during the 1970s, as ill health led to a series of hospitalizations and his experiences filming Man of La Mancha (1972) and Caligula (1980) stoked feelings of dissatisfaction with the movie business. Keep Films produced its last feature film in 1976 and Jules Buck formally withdrew his partnership in 1980. O'Toole increasingly became interested in writing, creating his own adaptations of Uncle Vanya and Juno and the Paycock under a pen name, "Frederick Monnoyer," and recording stories from his life for a planned memoir titled "Thus Far." By the early 1980s, things were looking up for O'Toole as he received his sixth and seventh Academy Award nominations for The Stunt Man (1980) and My Favorite Year (1982). After starring in a production of Macbeth in 1980 at London's Old Vic Theatre that was reviled by critics, his stage career was similarly revitalized when he appeared as Professor Higgins in Pygmalion on the London stage in 1983 and Broadway in 1987. Perhaps his most celebrated stage role was that of journalist Jeffrey Bernard (a real-life friend of O'Toole) in Keith Waterhouse's Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell, which ran in London at the Apollo Theatre in 1989, the Shaftesbury Theatre in 1991, and at the Old Vic in 1999. O'Toole won a Laurence Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement from the Society for London Theatre for Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell in 2000.
In 1990, O'Toole returned to the memoir he had worked on intermittently throughout the 1980s and composed the manuscript for the first volume of his autobiography, Loitering with Intent: The Child (1992). A second volume, Loitering with Intent: The Apprentice followed in 1996. O'Toole employed a non-linear, stream of consciousness style to tell the story of his life from early childhood through his education at RADA, interweaving his own memories with world events. A third volume tentatively titled "Loitering with Intent: The Actor (or The Professional)" focusing primarily on his years in Bristol was planned but never completed. O'Toole continued to act in film and television roles throughout the decade of the 2000s. He received an Honorary Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2003, and subsequently his eighth Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for Venus (2006). In addition to his home in London, for many decades O'Toole maintained a residence in Clifden, Ireland. He was an avid sports fan, particularly interested in horseracing, rugby, and cricket. In the 1980s, O'Toole founded the Lazarusians Cricket Club, an amateur team, and continued to play matches with them into the 1990s.
Peter O'Toole died in London on December 14, 2013. He was survived by his sister, Patricia Coombs-O'Toole; his former wife, actress Siân Phillips; and his children, Kate, Pat, and Lorcan.


In addition to materials within the collection, the following sources were used:
O'Toole, Peter. Loitering with Intent: The Child. London: Macmillan, 1992.
O'Toole, Peter. Loitering with Intent: The Apprentice. London: Pan Books, 1997.
Sellers, Robert. Peter O'Toole: The Definitive Biography. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, St. Martin's Press, 2015.

Scope and Contents

The Peter O'Toole Papers consist of scripts and production materials, manuscript drafts, correspondence, photographs, and other professional and personal papers belonging to actor Peter O'Toole. The collection documents the span of O'Toole's nearly sixty-year career on stage and screen as well as the research and writing process for his two-volume autobiographical work Loitering with Intent. The collection is divided into five series: I. Plays, 1953-2002; II. Film and Television, 1961-2012; III. Projects, 1967-2011; IV. Writings, 1968-2012; and V. Personal and Career-Related, circa 1792-2015.
The original order of materials kept in vertical files by O'Toole's assistants (such as financial and legal documents and materials related to Loitering with Intent) has been preserved and these materials remain as they arrived at the Ransom Center. Folder titles are transcribed in the container list where present and indicated by single quotes. A photocopy of the folder label has been placed with materials that came to the Center in labeled file folders. However, many collection materials arrived in storage containers of unlabeled loose items and were subsequently arranged by order of production title, date, or subject for ease of access. Groupings of correspondence by date and photographs by subject, for example, were created by the archivist and do not reflect an original order that was present in the collection.
Series I. Plays contains scripts, production photographs, programs, posters, and other materials associated with plays O'Toole acted in from 1953 to 1999. The theater and year of production is identified within the container list wherever possible, either directly following the title of the play if all materials relate to a single production, or as part of an item or folder description if O'Toole acted in multiple productions of a play at different theaters. Because the majority of O'Toole's theatrical performances took place in London, the location of a theatre is only identified if it is not in London. Materials related to O'Toole's many performances as a member of the company of the Bristol Old Vic (formerly known as Theatre Royal, Bristol) are filed together under Bristol Old Vic. The most significant volume of material in this series relates to the play Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell in its successive productions from 1989 to 1999. In addition to annotated scripts, there is a particularly large volume of correspondence with author Keith Waterhouse and others involved with the production, fan mail from O'Toole's friends and acquaintances as well as the general public, and production documents such as contracts and box office statements. The scripts for Uncle Vanya in this series are a version that O'Toole wrote under the pen name "Frederick Monnoyer" that was produced for a brief North American tour in 1978.
Screenplays, production and publicity photographs, correspondence, posters, and various production documents related to O'Toole's film and television roles make up Series II. Film and Television. Of particular interest in this series are the production journals O'Toole kept on the sets of Man of La Mancha, Caligula, and The Last Emperor, which detail his experiences during the making of those films. Although many film and television productions are represented by only a few items, larger volumes of materials exist for The Last Emperor and Lawrence of Arabia. The collection is particularly rich in behind-the-scenes photographs taken during the production of Lawrence of Arabia in Jordan and other locations. Also of note is a scene painting of the abandoned building at the Suez Canal by Lawrence of Arabia's production designer, John Box. Although screenplays are present for many of his films, O'Toole did not annotate those from his early- and mid-career; many of the screenplays from the 2000s, however, do contain annotations. In order to maintain standardized language across Ransom Center finding aids and render descriptions accessible to a broad English-reading audience, documents from O'Toole's agent labeled "remittance advice statements" are described in the container list as "pay statements" and a "casting advice statement" is described as a "deal memo."
Series III. Projects is comprised of scripts, correspondence, and other materials related to stage and screen productions that were considered by O'Toole but either remained unproduced or were produced without his involvement. Noteworthy in this series are O'Toole's extensive correspondence with playwright John Osborne regarding Déjàvu, Osborne's sequel to Look Back in Anger, in which O'Toole was originally to play the lead. Also present in this series are files on some of O'Toole's own unrealized projects, including a one-man show, a documentary on Shakespeare as an actor, and a film about artist J. M. W. Turner.
Drafts, correspondence, publicity materials, and research materials for the two published volumes and an unfinished third volume of Loitering with Intent comprise the bulk of Series IV. Writings. Also in this series, however, are forewords O'Toole wrote for several of his friends' autobiographies (including Jeffrey Bernard), an unproduced screenplay for Juno and the Paycock written under the pen name "Frederick Monnoyer," and a few pieces of poetry and fiction.
Series V. Personal and Career-Related contains the largest volume of items in the collection. It contains materials related to awards, speeches, television appearances on talk shows and commercials, and other professional appearances at various events. Personal materials in the series include address books; business and membership cards; passports and driver's licenses; financial, legal, and medical documents; and scrapbooks. O'Toole's desk diaries and daily itineraries (printed on index cards by his assistants) document his activities from the 1980s through 2012, along with invitations, tickets, and programs collected from various artistic, social, and sporting events. The series also contains a wide variety of materials collected by O'Toole, including theater programs, magazines, and subject files kept about family members and close friends. Artworks, posters, playbills, programs, and photographs that originally hung on the walls of the "greenroom" in O'Toole's London home have been unframed and are described in the finding aid as "greenroom" materials where that information is known.
Personal correspondence in this series is chiefly arranged by date, with some folder groupings of correspondence from specific individuals and correspondence from "important" or "notable" people maintained in their original order. Among the notable individuals that O'Toole corresponded with are actors Kenneth Griffith, John Standing, Katharine Hepburn, Joyce Carey, Edward Hardwicke, Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud, Donald Wolfit, Alec Guinness, and Sophia Loren, and his personal friends Sir John Ackroyd and Charles, Earl Spencer. The largest volumes of correspondence in the collection are with his lawyer, David Wills, and his agent, Steve Kenis. Some folders in this series contain materials related to theatrical, film, and television productions not found elsewhere in the collection. For example, the folder of correspondence with the William Morris Agency documents several unrealized film and television projects not listed in the Projects series, and folders of legal documents contain contracts for various film and television appearances that are not duplicated in the Film and Television series. Selected correspondence from this and other series is indexed at this end of this finding aid. In general, fan mail and other letters from the general public are not indexed.
O'Toole frequently carried a small notebook or notepad around with him in which he recorded ideas and information, a habit said to have begun when he was a reporter in training at the Yorkshire Evening Post. The Personal and Career-Related series contains dozens of notebooks kept by O'Toole from the 1960s or 1970s to the 2010s. Some contained inserted material relating to theatrical and film productions. All inserted material is filed with the notebook it was removed from and is described in the container list. Also present in this series is a significant volume of photographs. In addition to a few folders containing photographs of O'Toole with members of the British royal family and other specific individuals, the photographs are roughly arranged in the following subject groupings: family photographs, head shots and other portraits of O'Toole, snapshots (casual photographs that may include O'Toole and/or other people), and travel photographs. The snapshots include photographs of O'Toole with various notable individuals including Noel Coward, Richard Harris, John Huston, Richard Burton, Kenneth Griffith, Charlotte Rampling, Sophia Loren, Michael Caine, and Geoffrey Household, and photographs of O'Toole with his racehorse, Eric the Red.
A few documents in the collection contain private information about living persons, including Social Security numbers, bank account numbers, and personal phone numbers. These documents are restricted during the lifetime of the individuals mentioned. Redacted photocopies of these materials are provided in place of the original documents.
Some posters, artworks, and photographs from the "greenroom" in O'Toole's London home were found to have mold contamination and were treated to remove spores. These materials are filed with a notice that they were treated for mold contamination; researchers with a high level of sensitivity to mold may wish to wear gloves and/or a mask while viewing these items.

Related Material

The Ransom Center holds additional materials relating to Peter O'Toole in several other manuscript collections. The Peter Glenville Papers contain correspondence from Peter O'Toole and other materials related to the film Becket. The John Osborne Papers contain correspondence from Peter O'Toole. The John Hall Papers contain scripts for the play The Holiday. The Anne Jackson and Eli Wallach Papers contain production photographs and other materials from the film Lord Jim. The Ransom Center's T. E. Lawrence Collection contains correspondence related to the film Lawrence of Arabia , and its Irwin Margulies Collection is comprised primarily of production materials from that film.

Separated Material

The following materials were transferred for specialized housing or description:
80 books owned by Peter O'Toole were transferred to the Ransom Center Library.
128 costumes, props, and personal effects were transferred to the Center's Costume and Personal Effects Collection.
151 unpublished, non-commercial audio recordings were transferred to the Center's Sound Recordings Collection.
31 unpublished, non-commercial video recordings were transferred to the Center's Moving Image Collection.
5 computer disks were transferred to the Center's Electronic Records Collection.

Index Terms


O'Toole, Peter, 1932-2013.


Actors--Great Britain.
Made-for-TV movies.
Motion picture actors and actresses.
Motion pictures.
Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616--Dramatic production.
Television actors and actresses.
Television mini-series.
Television series.
Theaters--Great Britain--History.
Theatrical productions.

Document Types

Address books.
Appointment books.
Costume design drawings.
Electronic documents.
Film stills.
Legal documents.
Serials (publications).
Sheet music.

Container List