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Lawrence of Arabia Movie Review

lean toole peter david

1962 – David Lean –

Filmed over an 18-month period in London, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Spain, and Morocco, David Lean's epic masterpiece about the famous Englishman who united Arab actions in a war for freedom against the Turks is one of the most visually stunning movies ever made. The story of the enigmatic, eccentric T.E. Lawrence (as played by Peter O'Toole and largely based on Lawrence's memoir The Seven Pillars of Wisdom) and his incredible quest to become a sort of savior for the Arabs is set against the backdrop of the vast, consuming desert. It is a fascinating tale of an out-of-the-ordinary man who realizes his own greatness, takes it upon himself to become a hero for a land of people to whom he becomes attached, and finally succumbs to his own humanity. The story of a self-appointed prophet, Lawrence of Arabia almost reaches the proportions of a biblical epic, a tone that is reinforced by the vast, lonely, ancient setting.

Lean and cinematographer Freddie Young capture beautiful yet hauntingly sprawling vistas of the immense Arabian desert, a place where humans and camels become tiny specks against sandy horizons. The setting, in fact, becomes a sort of character, for it is a mighty and often deadly force that can be challenged only by those with the right fortitude of body and mind. Such a one is Lawrence, whose unique personality and determination raise him to the level of a quasi-religious hero in the eyes of the Arabs. The sequence in which Lawrence goes back to find a lost member of the Arab army, in defiance of the protests of Ali (Omar Sharif), and returns alive—thought impossible by the Arabs—is one of the most effective scenes, dramatizing Lawrence's nature to both the viewer and the Arabs.

While the story is a heroic one, it also has its tragic side as Lawrence gets caught up in the importance of his accomplishments and convinces himself that he is not an ordinary human being. Eventually he faces the fact that he is not invincible, first when he is taken by the Turk Bey of Duraa (Jose Ferrer) and beaten, and especially when he realizes that, though he has led the Arabs to take Damascus, the various factions will not unite and live in harmony as he'd hoped. By the end of these events, as Prince Feisal (Alec Guinness) says, everyone is relieved to see him leave. The hero's ascent has run its course, and even T.E. Lawrence is swallowed up by the desert.

The film was fully restored in 1989, restoring cuts and redubbing portions of damaged audio.

British officer T.E. Lawrence (Peter O'Toole) prepares to help his Arab allies by blowing up an enemy train.

Cast: Peter O'Toole (T.E. Lawrence), Alec Guinness (Prince Feisal), Anthony Quinn (Auda abu Tayi), Jack Hawkins (General Allenby), Omar Sharif (Sherif Ali ibn el Kharish), Jose Ferrer (Bey of Deraa), Anthony Quayle (Colonel Harry Brighton), Claude Rains (Mr. Dryden), Arthur Kennedy (Jackson Bentley), John Dimech (Daud), Kenneth Fortescue (Allenby's Aide), Jack Gwyllim (Club Secretary), I. S. Johar (Gasim), Howard Marion-Crawford (Medical Officer), Hugh Miller (R. A. M. C. Colonel) Screenwriter: Robert Bolt, Michael Wilson Cinematographer: Freddie Young Composer: Maurice Jarre Producer: Sam Spiegel for Horizon; released by Columbia Pictures MPAA Rating: PG Running Time: 216 minutes Format: VHS, LV Awards: Academy Awards, 1962: Art Direction/Set Decoration—Color, Cinematography—Color (Freddie Young), Director (David Lean), Film Editing, Musical Score (Maurice Jarre), Picture, Sound; Nominations: Actor (Peter O'Toole), Supporting Actor (Omar Sharif), Adapted Screenplay (Robert Bolt); Golden Globe Awards, 1963: Motion Picture—Drama, Director (David Lean), Supporting Actor (Omar Sharif), Cinematography—Color (Freddie Young) Budget: $12M Box Office: $16.7M (domestic rentals initial release).

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