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Lawrence of Arabia (1962) - Illustrated Reference

Updated on July 11, 2015
T.E. Lawrence
T.E. Lawrence
David Lean
David Lean

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.

Peter O'Toole
Peter O'Toole
Alec Guinness
Alec Guinness
Anthony Quinn
Anthony Quinn
Jack Hawkins
Jack Hawkins
Omar Sharif
Omar Sharif
Peter O'Toole with Omar Sharif
Peter O'Toole with Omar Sharif
Anthony Quayle
Anthony Quayle
Claude Rains
Claude Rains
Arthur Kennedy
Arthur Kennedy
Jose Ferrer
Jose Ferrer
Donald Wolfit
Donald Wolfit

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)


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    • Steve Lensman profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Lensman 

      7 years ago from Manchester, England

      I'll definitely be doing an illustrated hub on Casablanca, Flora. It's one of my favourites. Maybe next month. I've already got my next 12 hubs mapped out. 70 years old? Wow!

    • profile image

      Flora Breen Robison 

      7 years ago

      Regarding upcoming hubs-you have to do Casablanca sometime during 2012-it is its 70th anniversary this year.

    • Steve Lensman profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Lensman 

      7 years ago from Manchester, England

      Hi Rob, thanks for commenting. I loved My Favorite Year, O'Toole was excellent. It's been ages since I last saw it. I think I've got it on DVD, I'll have to check. I wouldn't mind seeing it again.

    • Robwrite profile image


      7 years ago from Oviedo, FL

      Hi Steve; One of the great action epics of all time. Peter O'Toole was an excellent discovery. He really came out of the gate with impact. He's a talented actor, and I'm amazed he never won an Oscar. I think my favorite O'Toole performances were this film and "My Favorite Year". (Where he did a fantastic Errol Flynn impression.)

      Great supporting cast in this, too, even without any speaking female roles.

      Fun hub. More great pictures,


    • Steve Lensman profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Lensman 

      7 years ago from Manchester, England

      Thanks Jools, appreciate the comment, vote and kind words. When I started hubbing I never thought I'd finish off 150 hubs in just over a year. And not a poem or haiku among them. [wink]

      I always try to include some negative reviews in the critics section just to show that even the best films failed to impress some people.

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools Hogg 

      7 years ago from North-East UK

      Steve, tremendous hub and the photos are as impressive as ever. Well done on number 150! I think O'Toole is pretty underrated as an actor and I like to see him in something with a bit of humour if I'm honest, he still has a twinkle in his eye. The critics comments were interesting - David Lean seems to have spilt the pack with the movie or some of them saw it as a movie of 2 halves one somewhat more interesting and superior than the other. Great hub, voted up.

    • Steve Lensman profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Lensman 

      7 years ago from Manchester, England

      Thanks Bruce, appreciate the comment, kind words and vote.

      Lawrence is packed with great actors, great scenes, great shots and great lines of dialogue.

      But it lost out on the Best Screenplay Oscar, To Kill a Mockingbird was the winner in that category. If Mockingbird had been released a year later it would have easily won Best Picture, Tom Jones was the big winner in 1963.

      The period comedy Tom Jones beating Cleopatra, the most expensive movie ever made, for Best Picture must have hurt. I enjoyed Tom Jones but it's a joke it was even nominated.

      Hi Flora, I think Gone With the Wind would be perfect for my 200th hub if I ever get there. Lets see 3 hubs a week... sometime in august or early september. But you'll have to remind me. I have the memory of a goldfish. :)

      Thanks both for posting, always appreciated.

    • profile image

      Flora Breen Robison 

      7 years ago

      Re: hub #200 topics-yes, I agree with you that Gone With the Wind would be a great choice. Certainly GWTW should be an important number in your hub career. It can't be just any number. It needs to be something divided by 50 or, preferably, 100. Will yo be around for 300 hubs? If GWTW isn't 200 or 250, it has to be 300. Tops!

    • Cogerson profile image


      7 years ago from Virginia

      Congrats on your 150th hub....another classic movie that was one of my father's all-time favorite movies. I am very much looking forward to this movie on blu-ray. My favorite scenes from the movie.....Lawrence playing with the match and saying...the trick is not showing it hurts....Omar coming from a huge distance away on camel(current films would not have the patience to do that scene today)(plus it should look awesome on blu-ray), any scene with Quinn in it but especially the attack on Aqaba.

      I think O'Toole gives one of the best performances ever in the movie....and he should have won best actor for this movie....he has never been better. It looks like Omar and O'Toole are the last remaining members of that was Claude Rains last great movie as well.

      Awesome photos as usual....and a very fine addition to your massive hub collection....awesome job my friend...voted up and interesting and awesome.

    • Steve Lensman profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Lensman 

      7 years ago from Manchester, England

      Wow! That's one of the most impressive comments ever posted on one of my hubs! An epic comment for an epic film, thanks Flora, much appreciated. I almost feel that should have its own section on the article. :)

      Good stuff, glad you liked the hub, the film and the actors. If you noticed I haven't added selected filmographies on the more famous actors because there are too many good films to list and the readers of the hub would be quite familiar with the films they starred in. And it saves on space. So I just mentioned any Oscars they might have been nominated for.

      Peter O'Toole's My Favorite Year is one of my faves of his, fantastic performance. He was great in The Stunt Man too.

      I had a great shot of Claude Rains in a room with Peter O'Toole before he lights the match. I should have used it, here it is -

      Zulu would be a worthy subject for my 200th hub if I don't get to it sooner. Or maybe Gone With the Wind.

      My favourite poster? I like em all, that last one is pretty good.

      Of the screenshots I like the one where Lawrence is reading, with his feet in the water.

      Thanks again for posting Flora!

    • profile image

      Flora Breen Robison 

      7 years ago

      Well, I have seen this film several times since I first saw it less than a year ago. I don't own a copy of it, so I'm a bit at the mercy of TCM. I don't know I'll be able to stay up-or should I say *should* stay up until 1:30am watching an exciting film-I'll be all wired then. Might have to just watch the movie until the intermission on Wednesday.

      Great to see there are two actors, unlike your last film, who are still alive-born the same year, no less!

      I talked about Alec Guinness and Jack Hawkins in your hub on Bridge on the River Kwai.

      I've seen quite a lot of O'Toole's career, although I have to say that it is more of seeing the films I've seen over and over. There are quite a few I'm still missing. I remember at one point Cogerson was considering doing a hub on him but pPeter is currently filming Katherine of Alexandria and has another film in pre-production. Busy, busy, busy! Addin gmovies and television together and including the movie in pre-production he has 92 titles as an actor. I'd have to study his imdb closely to figure out which and how many titles would show up in Cogerson's big screen hub if he did one and what my percentage is. I do know that the most recent *big* screen movie he made that I have seen is 1982's My Favourite Year.

      He is another actor who has played Sherlock Hilmes, but only as a voice over-in a series of animated movies. I haven't seen them-yet.

      Omar Shariff is one of those actors that show you that he is born for certain roles and that it is not necessary to have a large number of credits to be remembered for being one of the biggest stars ever. Yes, he retired from acting long ago. The number of movies he made isn't high. But look at the titles...Funny Girl, Lawrence of Arabia, Dr. Zhivago-award winners and award nominations. Epic films that are always mentioned as th ebest films ever made. Yes, there were a few not so great...but everyone has those. When he dies, there will not be a "once big star" in the headline. It will be "star of Lawrence of Arabia and Dr. Zhivago dies." It is far better to be in a handful of films that are stellar that to be in 100 so-so and bad films. He is fascinating.

      Now the actors who are dead....

      Anthony Quinn-as part of his contract he played plenty of ethnic roles he was required to play-not his choice. He was a much better actor than his earliest films make it seem. He was excellent in this. I was determined to see his Oscar wins and nominated role before he died-I'm like that. I like to see award-worthy performances before the actor dies-and I did. Unfortunately, at the age I was when I saw Zorba the Greek, I was ill prepared for what happens to the widow-the widow- NOT the married to a live man-and what did NOT happen to Alan Bates. I cried for hours and have not been able to see the film since. If both had been punished, that might be different-now that I'm older.

      I've talked about Claude rains before-He is one of my favourite actors of all time. He can play a lead or supporting role. He can play an evil character in such a way that you are sympathetic to him and not the good guy (Notorious). There is not a single film of his I don't love.

      Arthur Kennedy I'v enever mentioned before, but he turns up in a lot of films I've seen. He always seems to get a role he can really seek his teeth into but that I as the audience member doesn't trust. He is not always sympathetic. Case in point-his role in some Came Running. I have much more sympathy for Sinatra's character than his. Sinatra isn't married with kids-so what he does isn't as damning.

      Jose Ferrar-I admire him a lot, but I've never seen one of his films simply because he was in them. He usually plays a hard man-whether he is a good guy (Cyrano De Bergerac), a bad guy (this film) , or somewhere in between, he is always intense. I've seen many of his films.

      Wolfit is the only one of the main actors I've seen little outside of this movie. In fact, I've yet to see any of the films you list here for him. Of these, I'm most lookin gforward to seeing Room at the Top-I've heard good things about. However, a movie about the infamous Dr. Crippen is more of the genre I would prefer.

      I'm not surprised the film wasn't able to be accurate to the real Lawrence's life. Even at 4 hours, so much had to be left out.

      I am so glad that Peter played the role. I know he's taller than the real man-but it was his idea to look in the knife to see his reflection-not Lean's-and that' san iconic scene.

      It would have been a disaster, I think, for Brando to have played the role. Method acting on this long a film with so much story to tell? It took 5 years as it is from the time Lean first thought of the movie until it was released. . No, No, No! I cannot imagine anyone else but Peter. Yes, Peter was pretty, but he showed he was a good actor too!

      Love the it!

      I've never seen the poster of the film looking down from above on him and the motorcycle. My favourite is the one of just Peter in gold opposite the beginning of the critics' section. Beautiful photos!

      Happy 50th anniversary to the movie!

      For your 200th hub-I know you love Zula so much...I h haven't seen it yet, but I know you love it.

    • Steve Lensman profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Lensman 

      7 years ago from Manchester, England

      UnnamedHarald, thanks for the comment, votes and kind words, most appreciated. Yep Alec Guinness as Gandhi, almost! Could have been worse could have been Peter Sellers as Gandhi. :)

      Guinness did get his chance to play an Indian, Professor Godbole, in David Lean's A Passage to India in 1984.

      The screenshots were taken by me using a capture program, you won't find them on the internet... or now you will thanks to the hub being published. :)

      Flora hi! Thanks, 150 hubs, took me 13 months. I picked Ben-Hur for my hundredth hub and it had to be another top fave for my 150th. Can't remember what my 50th hub was, let me check... it was... From Russia With Love, in July last year.

      Look forward to your thoughts on Lawrence.

      Thank you both for posting.

    • profile image

      Flora Breen Robison 

      7 years ago

      I will want toleave a long comment, so I will talk about this movie in detail. For now, I will say congratulations on your 150th hub! I saw this movie, finally, for the first time a few monthsago. It was merely the length and when it was scheduled to air on TCM that was the reason for not seeing it until then. This is a fabulous movie. For those of your readers living in North America, This movie will air on TCM on Wednesday, April 11th as part of an evening of //peter O'Toole movies (and an interview with Robert Osbourne) at 9:30pm Pacific (so a good time only for us on the West Coast).

    • UnnamedHarald profile image

      David Hunt 

      7 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      My God-- was it really 50 years ago? What a fantastic hub. Voted up, beautiful, awesome and interesting. I blanched a bit when I saw how long it was but I read every word with interest. Mercifully (as you said) Alec Guinness was not cast as Gandhi LOL. Where did you get the fantastic images, if I may ask?


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