A miracle of a film
Lawrence Of Arabia was first released just under 60 years ago on December 10th, 1962. The film depicts T.E. Lawrence’s experiences during World War I in the Ottoman Empire provinces of Hejaz and Greater Syria where he united the warring Arab tribes in their fight to rid the Turks from Arabia.
Its themes include Lawrence’s emotional struggles with the violence implicit in war, his own tortured identity, and his divided allegiance between his native Britain and its army and his new-found comrades within the Arabian desert tribes.
The film is not a wholly accurate portrayal of the events and most of the film’s characters were based on actual people to varying degrees with some scenes heavily fictionalised. Also the characterisation of Lawrence was somewhat controversial as Peter O’Toole at 6 foot 2 inches was considerably taller that the 5 foot 5 inch Lawrence whilst the film portrayed him as somewhat of an egotist.
But despite theses misgivings the film often appears in critics and filmmaker lists as one of greatest films ever made with O’Toole’s performance also cited as one of the best ever captured in celluloid.
This is one film that DEMANDS to be seen in a cinema. The epic scope of this film has never been surpassed and the dazzling cinematography by Freddie Young captures the awesome beauty of the desert that is simply breathtaking. Director David Lean was so transfixed by the desert that it was rumoured he never wanted to complete the film.
It is remarkable that for such a big film that the lead role of T.E. Lawrence went to the relatively unknown (at the time) Peter O’Toole. Producer Sam Spiegel had favoured casting Marlon Brando but Lean insisted on O’Toole after the success of his screen tests.
O’Toole is quite simply marvellous in which he features in nearly every scene in a film that runs for 3 hours and 47 minutes. This is quite an extraordinary portrayal where O’Toole depicts the inner demons of his character in a film performance I regard as my favourite movie performance of all-time.
In addition to the unknown O’Toole, the film introduced Omar Sharif to the cinema world with one of the most spectacular entrances ever filmed.
The rest of the cast featured a cavalcade of outstanding actors including Alec Guinness as Prince Faisal, Jack Hawkins as General Allenby, Anthony Quayle as Colonel Brighton, Arthur Kennedy as Jackson Bentley, José Ferrer as the Turkish Bey, Claude Rains as Mr. Dryden and last, but not least, the charismatic Anthony Quinn as Auda Abu Tayi.
Today, the woke brigade would object to Anthony Quinn (a Mexican-American) playing an Arab, but using the tools of his profession i.e. make-up and the immense talent he possessed, he created an unforgettable performance as the fearsome Arab chieftain.
At its core, the movie is a character study and it depicts the gradual disintegration of its Lawrence over the course of the film culminating in the climatic slaughter of a Turkish column.
Boasting a glorious score by Maurice Jarre that is one of the most famous ever composed for the screen, it is just another superlative in this magnificent movie.
This is another film that couldn’t be made today as we have seemed to have lost the craft and skills of the filmmakers of yesteryear that could put such a movie together. I doubt we will ever see the likes of David Lean, Robert Bolt, Freddie Young, Anne V. Coates, John Box and Maurice Jarre ever again.
But we can be thankful that this film was made and also to Robert A. Harris who painstakingly restored the film back to its former glory in 1989.
For those that are interested I have created the following playlist from this movie which features 14 scenes in total.
I clearly recall first seeing this film nearly 50 years ago at the cinema in one of its many re-releases. I fell in love with it then and to this day I am still utterly in awe of this film; and, to put it simply, Lawrence Of Arabia is my second favourite movie of all time.
WW Movie Clips