DATELINE: Rare Appearance
In one of his rare acting performances on the small screen, legendary Peter O’Toole took a role on a Ray Bradbury Theatre production of a short story called “Banshee.”
This anthology series ran for several years and featured notable stars in a thirty-minute Twilight Zone-style show.
Most of the summaries of the episode with O’Toole are oddly incorrect on various websites.
The man who was Lord Jim, Lawrence of Arabia, and Henry II (twice), plays an eccentric film director living in Ireland on his remote estate. He plays John Hampton, which clearly is a play on the real eccentric legendary director who lived in Ireland on his estate.
That was, of course, John Huston. The dialogue even has that lilt of Huston’s—and O’Toole wears jodhpurs and boots with swagger, to suggest Huston.
He is visited by a nebbish writer played by Charles Martin Smith who comes for a spooky interview with a script that O’Toole shreds to pieces.
Greeting the writer in the dead of night, the flamboyant director is more than a little unsettled by the cry of a banshee, an Irish female ghost, out in the dark, forboding woods around his estate. While he urges the writer to go out to find this creature who cries for death, Smith locates an ethereal beauty near a graveyard who wants O’Toole to come out.
The story was written by Ray Bradbury and seems a trifle, though highly moody and atmospheric. The show falls short of Twilight Zone quality, but who can complain when Peter O’Toole enlivens every scene.