Lawrence of Arabia (1962) - Illustrated Reference
Lawrence of Arabia was directed by David Lean and premiered on 10th December 1962. Starring Peter O’Toole, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, Jack Hawkins, Omar Sharif, Jose Ferrer, Anthony Quayle, Claude Rains, Arthur Kennedy and Donald Wolfit. Screenplay by Robert Bolt. Music by Maurice Jarre. 216mins.
T.E. Lawrence and his involvement in the Arab revolt against the Turks.
Thomas Edward Lawrence (1888-1935) was born in Tremadog, Wales. During WWI he was stationed at the Arab bureau in Cairo. Lawrence spoke several languages fluently including Arabic and had first hand knowledge of Arab culture. The Foreign Office felt that he could be very useful in uniting the various Arab tribes.
Lawrence formed an alliance with Prince Faisal of Mecca and under Lawrence’s leadership Arab troops blew up railway lines and attacked trains supplying the Turks.
In 1917 Lawrence led an attack on the strategic port of Aqaba. The success of this attack made Lawrence a hero and was a huge boost for the morale of the Allies. General Allenby was full of praise for Lawrence and promoted him to Major.
After several more campaigns Lawrence returned to England. One day while riding his motorcycle in Dorset he swerved to avoid crashing into two boys on their bicycles. He lost control, left the road and flew off the motorbike. Lawrence suffered severe head injuries and died a few days later. He was 46.
Lawrence: The best of them won't come for money... they'll come for me.
Peter O’Toole (1932-2013) / T. E. Lawrence
Born in County Galway, Ireland, Peter O’Toole was Oscar nominated 8 times for the films – Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Becket (1964), The Lion in Winter (1968), Goodbye Mr. Chips (1969), The Ruling Class (1972), The Stunt Man (1980), My Favorite Year (1982) and Venus (2007).
Peter O’Toole received an Honorary Oscar in 2003 “Whose remarkable talents have provided cinema history with some of its most memorable characters.”
Prince Faisal: The English have a great hunger for desolate places. I fear they hunger for Arabia.
Alec Guinness (1914-2000) / Prince Faisal
Born in London, England, one of Britain’s greatest actors, Alec Guinness won a Best Actor Oscar for The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), he was also nominated for The Lavender Hill Mob (1951), The Horses Mouth (1958), Star Wars (1977 as Obi-Wan Kenobi) and Little Dorrit (1988).
Lawrence: My friends, we have been foolish. Auda will not come to Aqaba. Not for money
Auda abu Tayi: No.
Lawrence: ...for Feisal
Auda abu Tayi: No!
Lawrence: ...nor to drive away the Turks. He will come... because it is his pleasure.
Auda abu Tayi: Thy mother mated with a scorpion.
Anthony Quinn (1915-2001) / Auda abu Tayi
Born in Chihuahua, Mexico, Anthony Quinn won Best Supporting Actor Oscars for Viva Zapata (1952) and Lust for Life (1956) and was nominated Best Actor for Wild is the Wind (1957) and Zorba the Greek (1964).
Jack Hawkins (1910-1973) / General Allenby
Born in London, England, Jack Hawkins films include – The Black Rose (1950), The Cruel Sea (1953), Malta Story (1953), Land of the Pharaohs (1955 as Pharaoh Khufu), The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957as Major Warden), Ben-Hur (1959 as Quintus Arrius), The League of Gentlemen (1960)), Zulu (1964), Lord Jim (1965), Waterloo (1970), When Eight Bells Toll (1971) and Theatre of Blood (1973).
Sherif Ali: Truly, for some men nothing is written unless they write it.
Omar Sharif (1932-2015) / Sherif Ali
Born in Alexandria, Egypt, Omar Sharif was Oscar nominated Best Supporting Actor for Lawrence of Arabia.
His films include – The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964), Genghis Khan (1965), Doctor Zhivago (1965), The Night of the Generals (1967), Funny Girl (1968), Mackenna’s Gold (1969), Che! (1969). The Horsemen (1971), Juggernaut (1974), Top Secret! (1984) and The 13th Warrior (1999).
Anthony Quayle (1913-1989) / Colonel Brighton
Born in Lancashire, England, Anthony Quayle was Oscar nominated Best Supporting Actor for Anne of the Thousand Days (1969).
His films include – Hamlet (1948), The Wrong Man (1956), Ice Cold in Alex (1958), Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure (1959), The Guns of Navarone (1961), The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964), A Study in Terror (1965) and Murder by Decree (1979).
Prince Faisal: You, I suspect, are chief architect of this compromise. What do you think?
Mr. Dryden: Me, your Highness? On the whole, I wish I'd stayed in Tunbridge Wells.
Claude Rains (1889-1967) / Mr. Dryden
Born in London, England, Claude Rains was Oscar nominated Best Supporting Actor for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), Casablanca (1942), Mr. Skeffington (1944) and Notorious (1946).
Jackson Bentley: Yes, it was my privilege to know him and to make him known to the world. He was a poet, a scholar and a mighty warrior... he was also the most shameless exhibitionist since Barnum & Bailey.
Arthur Kennedy (1914-1990) / Jackson Bentley
Born in Worcester, Massachusetts, Arthur Kennedy was Oscar nominated Best Actor for Bright Victory (1951) and nominated Best Supporting Actor for Champion (1949), Trial (1955), Peyton Place (1957) and Some Came Running (1958).
Jose Ferrer (1912-1992) / Turkish Bey
Born in Santurce, Puerto Rico, Jose Ferrer won a Best Actor Oscar for Cyrano de Bergerac (1950), he received nominations for Joan of Arc (1948) and Moulin Rouge (1952).
His films include – The Caine Mutiny (1954), The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965), Ship of Fools (1965), The Big Brawl (1980), To Be or Not to Be (1983) and Dune (1984).
General Murray: I can't make out whether you're bloody bad-mannered or just half-witted.
Lawrence: I have the same problem, sir.
General Murray: Shut up!
Donald Wolfit (1902-1968) / General Murray
Born in Nottinghamshire, England, Donald Wolfit’s films include – The Pickwick Papers (1952), Svengali (1954), Blood of the Vampire (1958), Room at the Top (1959), The Hands of Orlac (1960), Dr. Crippen (1964), Becket (1964) and The Charge of the Light Brigade (1968).
Lawrence: Sherif Ali, so long as the Arabs fight tribe against tribe, so long will they be a little people, a silly people - greedy, barbarous, and cruel, as you are.
Lawrence of Arabia is based on T.E. Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom (1922) an autobiographical account of his experiences during the Arab revolt.
Lawrence’s younger brother Arnold wasn’t happy about a movie version of Lawrence’s life and refused to let the filmmakers use the title “Seven Pillars of Wisdom”
British producer Alexander Korda was interested in making a film of T.E. Lawrence life back in the 1940s with Laurence Olivier as Lawrence but financial difficulties put an end to the project.
After the super success of The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), David Lean and producer Sam Spiegel were considering an epic film on the life of Mohandas K. Gandhi with Alec Guinness playing the Indian leader before (mercifully) changing their minds.
Albert Finney was offered the part of Lawrence but turned it down not wanting to spend months filming in the baking hot desert.
Marlon Brando was also offered the part but declined, instead he signed on to play Fletcher Christian in the ill-fated Mutiny on the Bounty (1962) well at least that was set on tropical islands.
Montgomery Clift lobbied for the role, but after hearing of his drinking problem while filming Suddenly, Last Summer, Lean knew he would be unreliable.
Alec Guinness had played Lawrence on the stage, he wanted to play Lawrence on film too but Lean told him he was too old. He was offered the part of Prince Faisal after Laurence Olivier turned the role down.
Producer Sam Spiegel wanted Cary Grant to play General Allenby but Lean preferred Jack Hawkins who he had worked with on Bridge on the River Kwai.
Filming began in May 1961 and finished in October 1962, locations included Jordan and Morocco, some scenes were shot in Almeria, Spain the favoured setting of dozens of Spaghetti Westerns during the 60’s.
Peter O’Toole was a lot taller than T.E. Lawrence, O’Toole is 6ft 3in while Lawrence was 5ft 6in.
The film only hints at T.E. Lawrence's alleged homosexuality, in his book Lawrence talks about being beaten and sexually abused when captured by the Turkish military. The event had a strong psychological effect on him. Some critics complained that Lawrence remains an enigma by the end of the film, I thought that was the whole idea.
Lawrence of Arabia contains one of the most famous transitions in film history, when Lawrence blows out a match in one scene there's a sudden cut to the sun rising over the desert. David Lean was originally going to use a dissolve between the two scenes, it was his editor Anne Coates who suggested the sharp cut.
Holds the record as the longest film not to have any speaking roles for women,
One of the most memorable scenes in the film – Omar Sharif’s first appearance approaching on a camel in the shimmering desert like a mirage – was filmed using a special 482mm Panavision lens that was only ever used for that scene.
When Noel Coward saw the film he said of Peter O’Toole “If he’d been any prettier, they would have had to call the film 'Florence of Arabia'”
Maurice Jarre’s famous music score is the perfect accompaniment to the glorious visuals by ace cinematographer Freddie Young. Jarre was given just six weeks to come up with the score to the film. Both Jarre and Young were rewarded with Oscars for their work on the film.
Lawrence of Arabia was remastered and restored to its former glory in 1989 by film historian and preservationist Robert A. Harris. Scenes that were cut after its first release were added back in and some of the audio redubbed by O’Toole and Guinness.
On the Lawrence of Arabia DVD director Steven Spielberg talks at length about the film, he mentions that Lawrence is his favourite movie and that it was a major influence on his career.
Lawrence: No prisoners! No prisoners!
Lawrence of Arabia won 7 Oscars – Best Picture, Best Director (David Lean), Best Cinematography (Freddie Young), Best Art Direction, Best Film Editing, Best Music Score (Maurice Jarre) and Best Sound. It also received nominations for Best Screenplay, Best Actor (Peter O’Toole) and Best Supporting Actor (Omar Sharif).
At the British Academy Awards, the film won Best British Film, Best Film from any Source, Best Screenplay and Best Actor (Peter O’Toole), losing for Best Supporting Actor (Anthony Quinn).
Lawrence ranked #5 on the American Film Institute’s 100 Greatest films list, #30 on the AFI’s 100 most inspiring films list, #23 on the AFI’s most thrilling movies list, #1 on the AFI’s top 10 Epics list, T.E. Lawrence is #10 on the AFI’s 50 Greatest Heroes list and Maurice Jarre’s score #3 on the AFI’s 100 years of movie scores list.
The film had its premiere at the Odeon Leicester Square in London, England on the 10th of December 1962. It was a Royal Command Performance attended by the Queen.
Lawrence of Arabia cost $15m and was one of the biggest hits of the year, grossing $70m worldwide, it was selected for preservation by the National Film Registry in 1999.
One of the highest rated epics of all time, Lawrence of Arabia celebrated its 50th year in 2012 and is available on Blu-ray.
The Critics Wrote –
"It is the first film from Sam Spiegel-David Lean since they launched the Oscar-winning "Bridge On the River Kwai" five years ago. Shapes as an equally vivid, smash b.o. success. Made in Technicolor and Super Panavision 70, it is a sweepingly produced, directed and lensed job. Authentic desert locations, a stellar cast and an intriguing subject combine to put this into the blockbuster league." (Variety)
"Set a new standard for the spectacular, for beyond being an absorbing and exotic adventure story it provides a subtle exploration of the eternal enigma of one of the most intriguing of our century's heroes." (Judith Crist)
"The first half gave the sense of expanse; adventure was there, the desert was there. But when it came to the second half with the disintegration into failure one felt the need of a sharper analysis of character. The depths were lacking." (Dilys Powell)
"Fails to give an acceptable interpretation of Lawrence, or to keep its action intelligible, but it is one of the most literate and tasteful and exciting of expensive spectacles." (Pauline Kael)
"Here is an epic with intellect behind it, an unforgettable display of action staged with artistry. A momentous story told with moral force." (Alexander Walker, Evening Standard)
"Cinema's best epic. If Ingmar Bergman is the cinema's finest exponent of the close-up, David Lean is the master of the long-shot. There's a scene with O'Toole riding a camel which any ordinary director would have shot from an angle without any extras in the background, but Lean has an entire army in the shot! The pains he takes are extraordinary. And Robert Bolt's script is just wonderful." (William Goldman, NFT Bulletin , 1984)
"Just a huge thundering camel-opera." (Bosley Crowther, New York Times)