Description: Epic rumination on a flamboyant and controversial British military figure and his conflicted loyalties during wartime service.
Director: David Lean
Writers: T.E. Lawrence (writings), Robert Bolt (screenplay)
Stars: Peter O'Toole, Alec Guinness and Anthony Quinn
Tags: Lawrence Of Arabia, adventure, top movie
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Lawrence Of Arabia Movie Background:
Lawrence of Arabia (1962) is the filmic retelling of Britishman T. E. Lawrence's heroic, autobiographical account of his own Arabian adventure, published in "The Seven Pillars of Wisdom" (originally published with the title Revolt in the Desert). The cinematic "men's film" (with first-time screenwriter Robert Bolt's screenplay) is a superb character study of a compelling cult hero, who exhibits homo-erotic tendences in his relationship with Arab blood brother Sherif Ali (Omar Sharif), a dark personal nature, and an obsession with Arabia itself.
The beautiful masterpiece (accompanied by a superb score from Maurice Jarre) is thought by many to be director David Lean's best (even topping The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)), with its Super Panavision 70 mm scope, magnificent color cinematography and poetic imagery of the desert captured within a spectacular epic story of a larger-than-life, idealistic adventurer.
The Arabian desert functions as a majestic backdrop and metaphysical land for Lawrence's exploits. Its two most famous shots and cinematographic images are the mirage shot - to announce the arrival of Sherif Ali, and the jump-cut from the burning match in Lawrence's fingers to the rising desert sun. Lean admitted that almost all of the film's movement was from left to right, to emphasize the journey theme of the film.
The film conveys the enigmatic, complex life and exploits of an eccentric, rebellious, desert-loving, messianic, Oxford-bred British Army officer cartographer (repeatedly referred to as an "Englishman"), who unites the desert-dwelling Arabian Bedouins against the oppressive Turks (allies of Germany) during World War I. His extraordinary knowledge of the politics and culture of the Mideast allows him to organize the various, willful Arab tribes to repel enemies of the British.
The film focuses on four major events in Lawrence's life - told in flashback:
the glorious conquest of the key port of Aqaba
Lawrence's capture, torture, and rape in Deraa
the vicious "no prisoners" massacre at Tafas
the anti-climactic fall of Damascus, with an end to dreams of unity
In 1962 when the film first opened, it was 222 minutes long, but it was subsequently cut down by 35 minutes to 187 minutes, and not restored to 217 minutes until 1989. [This was to satisfy profit-seeking theater-owners who wanted additional showings of the over-long film.] The overly-indulgent film was budgeted at $12 million, and had a box-office of over $20 million. The nearly four-hour long film (without any female speaking roles) featured a star-studded cast, with a virtually unknown, blue-eyed Irish Shakespearean stage actor Peter O'Toole in his first starring role. [Both Marlon Brando and Albert Finney were also considered for the role.] The lead character is the heroic, contradictory, uncrowned King of Arabia - T.E. Lawrence - a solitary, masochistic adventurer (with confused sexuality, and hidden, repressed, and unrequited homosexual feelings for Sherif Ali) who paradoxically wanted to be both extraordinary and ordinary. In the end, his excessive arrogance, violent masochism and pushing of limits led to his own downfall, and to his belief that he had failed in his mission and duty.
This was a major award-winning film that received ten Academy Award nominations and seven Academy Awards, including Best Director, Best Picture, Best Color Cinematography (Freddie Young), Best Color Art Direction/Set Decoration, Best Sound (John Cox), Best Music Score (Maurice Jarre), and Best Film Editing (Anne V. Coates). Its nominations for Best Actor (Peter O'Toole, with his first of seven unsuccessful Oscar nominations), Best Supporting Actor (Omar Sharif), and Best Adapted Screenplay (Robert Bolt) were unrewarded - O'Toole lost to Gregory Peck for his performance in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962). The only reason that the film wasn't nominated eleven times was because Phyllis Dalton's name was inadvertently not submitted for contention in the Best Costume Design category (won by The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm!). She would win a few years later for Lean's Doctor Zhivago (1965).