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|Lawrence of Arabia|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||David Lean|
|Produced by||Sam Spiegel|
|Screenplay by||Robert Bolt|
|Music by||Maurice Jarre|
|Editing by||Anne V. Coates|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Running time||216 minutes|
United KingdomUnited States
|Box office||$70 million|
|Lawrence of Arabia|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||David Lean|
|Produced by||Sam Spiegel|
|Screenplay by||Robert Bolt|
|Music by||Maurice Jarre|
|Editing by||Anne V. Coates|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Running time||216 minutes|
United KingdomUnited States
|Box office||$70 million|
Lawrence of Arabia is a 1962 British epic film based on the life of T. E. Lawrence. It was directed by David Lean and produced by Sam Spiegel through his British company, Horizon Pictures, with the screenplay by Robert Bolt and Michael Wilson. The film stars Peter O'Toole in the title role. It is widely considered one of the greatest and most influential films in the history of cinema. The dramatic score by Maurice Jarre and the Super Panavision 70 cinematography by Freddie Young are also highly acclaimed.
The film depicts Lawrence's experiences in Arabia during World War I, in particular his attacks on Aqaba and Damascus and his involvement in the Arab National Council. Its themes include Lawrence's emotional struggles with the personal violence inherent in war, his personal identity, and his divided allegiance between his native Britain and its army and his newfound comrades within the Arabian desert tribes.
The film is presented in two parts, separated by an intermission.
In 1935, T. E. Lawrence (Peter O'Toole) is killed in a motorcycle accident. At his memorial service at St Paul's Cathedral, reporters try to gain insights into this remarkable, enigmatic man from those who knew him, with little success.
During the First World War, Lawrence is a misfit British Army lieutenant stationed in Cairo, notable for his insolence and knowledge of the Bedouin. Over the objections of General Murray (Donald Wolfit), he is sent by Mr. Dryden (Claude Rains) of the Arab Bureau to assess the prospects of Prince Faisal (Alec Guinness) in his revolt against the Turks.
On the journey, his Bedouin guide is killed by Sherif Ali (Omar Sharif) for drinking from a well without permission. Lawrence later meets Colonel Brighton (Anthony Quayle), who orders him to keep quiet, make his assessment of Faisal's camp, and leave. Lawrence promptly ignores Brighton's commands when he meets Faisal. His knowledge and outspokenness pique the Prince's interest.
Brighton advises Faisal to retreat after a major defeat, but Lawrence proposes a daring surprise attack on Aqaba which, if successful, would provide a port from which the British could offload much-needed supplies. While strongly fortified against a naval assault, the town is lightly defended on the landward side. He convinces Faisal to provide fifty men, led by a sceptical Sherif Ali. Two teenage orphans, Daud (John Dimech) and Farraj (Michel Ray), attach themselves to Lawrence as his servants.
They cross the Nefud Desert, considered impassable even by the Bedouins, travelling day and night on the last stage to reach water. Gasim (I. S. Johar) succumbs to fatigue and falls off his camel unnoticed during the night. The rest make it to an oasis, but Lawrence turns back for the lost man, risking his own life and winning over Sherif Ali after saving Gasim.
Lawrence persuades Auda abu Tayi (Anthony Quinn), the leader of the powerful local Howeitat tribe, to turn against the Turks. Lawrence's plan is almost derailed when one of Ali's men kills one of Auda's because of a blood feud. Since Howeitat retaliation would shatter the fragile alliance, Lawrence declares that he will execute the murderer himself. Stunned to discover that the culprit is Gasim, he shoots him anyway. The next morning, the intact alliance overruns the Turkish garrison.
Lawrence heads to Cairo to inform Dryden and the new commander, General Allenby (Jack Hawkins), of his victory. During the crossing of the Sinai Desert, Daud dies when he stumbles into quicksand. Lawrence is promoted to major and given arms and money to support the Arabs. He is deeply disturbed, confessing that he enjoyed executing Gasim, but Allenby brushes aside his qualms. He asks Allenby whether there is any basis for the Arabs' suspicions that the British have designs on Arabia. Pressed, the general states they have no such designs.
Lawrence launches a guerrilla war, blowing up trains and harassing the Turks at every turn. American war correspondent Jackson Bentley (Arthur Kennedy) publicizes his exploits, making him world famous. On one raid, Farraj is badly injured. Unwilling to leave him to be tortured, Lawrence is forced to shoot him before fleeing.
When Lawrence scouts the enemy-held city of Daraa with Ali, he is taken, along with several Arab residents, to the Turkish Bey (José Ferrer). Lawrence is stripped, ogled and prodded. For striking out at the Bey, he is severely flogged, then thrown out into the street. Lawrence is so traumatized by the experience that he abandons all of his exploits, going from having proclaimed himself a god, to insisting he is merely a man. He attempts to return to the British forces and swear off the desert, but he never fits in there. In Jerusalem, Allenby urges him to support his "big push" on Damascus, but Lawrence is a changed, tormented man, unwilling to return. After Allenby insists that Lawrence has a destiny, he finally relents. Lawrence naively believes that the warriors will come for him rather than for money.
He recruits an army, mainly killers, mercenaries, and cutthroats motivated by money, rather than the Arab cause. They sight a column of retreating Turkish soldiers who have just slaughtered the people of Tafas. One of Lawrence's men from the village demands, "No prisoners!" When Lawrence hesitates, the man charges the Turks alone and is killed. Lawrence takes up the dead man's cry, resulting in a massacre in which Lawrence himself participates with relish. Afterward, he realizes the horrible consequences of what he has done.
His men then take Damascus ahead of Allenby's forces. The Arabs set up a council to administer the city, but they are desert tribesmen, ill-suited for such a task. The various tribes argue among themselves and in spite of Lawrence's insistence, are unable to unite against the English, who in the end take the city back under their bureaucracy. Unable to maintain the utilities and bickering constantly with each other, they soon abandon most of the city to the British. Promoted to colonel and immediately ordered home, his usefulness at an end to both Faisal and the British diplomats, a dejected Lawrence is driven away in a staff car.
Various members of the film's crew portrayed minor characters. First assistant director Roy Stevens played the truck driver who transports Lawrence and Farraj to the Cairo HQ at the end of Act I; the Sergeant who stops Lawrence and Farraj ("Where do you think you're going to, Mustapha?") is construction assistant, Fred Bennett; and screenwriter Robert Bolt has a wordless cameo as one of the officers watching Allenby and Lawrence confer in the courtyard (he is smoking a pipe). David Lean can be heard as the voice of the motorcycle driver asking Lawrence "Who are you?" at the Suez Canal.
The film is unusual in that it has no women in credited speaking roles.
The historical accuracy of the film, and particularly its portrayal of Lawrence himself, has been called into question by numerous scholars.[who?] Most of the film's characters are either real or based on real characters to varying degrees. The events depicted in the film are largely based on accepted historical fact and Lawrence's own writing about events, though they have various degrees of romanticisation.
Some scenes—such as the attack on Aqaba—were heavily fictionalised, while those dealing with the Arab Council were inaccurate, inasmuch as the council remained more or less in power in Syria until France deposed Faisal in 1920. Little background on the history of the region, the First World War, and the Arab Revolt is provided, probably due to Bolt's increased focus on Lawrence (while Wilson's draft script had a broader, more politicized version of events). The theme (in the second half of the film) that Lawrence's Arab army deserted almost to a man as he moved farther north was completely fictional. The film's timeline of the Arab Revolt and World War I, and the geography of the Hejaz region, are frequently questionable. For instance, Bentley interviews Faisal in late 1917, after the fall of Aqaba, saying the United States has not yet entered the war, yet America had been in the war for several months by that point in time. Further, Lawrence's involvement in the Arab Revolt prior to the attack on Aqaba—such as his involvement in the seizures of Yenbo and Wejh—is completely excised. The rescue and execution of Gasim is based on two separate incidents, which were conflated together for dramatic reasons. The film shows Lawrence representing the Allied cause in the Hejaz almost alone with only one incompetent British officer, Colonel Brighton (Anthony Quayle) there to assist him. In fact, there were numerous British officers such as Colonel Cyril Wilson, Stewart Francis Newcombe and Colonel Pierce C. Joyce, all of whom arrived before Lawrence serving in Arabia. In addition, there was a French military mission led by Colonel Edouard Brémond serving in the Hejaz, of which no mention is made in the film. The film shows Lawrence as the sole originator of the attacks on the Hejaz railroad. The first attacks on the Hejaz railroad began in early January 1917 led by officers such as Newcombe. The first successful attack on the Hejaz railroad with a locomotive-destroying "Garland mine" was led by Major H. Garland in February 1917, a month before Lawrence's first attack on the railroad in March 1917. The film shows the Hashemite forces as comprising Bedouin guerrillas, whereas in fact the core of the Hashemite forces was the Regular Arab Army recruited from Ottoman Arab POWs, who wore British-style uniforms with keffiyahs and fought in conventional battles. The film makes no mention of the Sharifian Army, and leaves the viewer with the impression that the Hashemite forces were composed exclusively of Bedouin irregulars.
Many complaints about the film's accuracy, however, centre on the characterisation of Lawrence himself. The perceived problems with the portrayal of Lawrence begin with the differences in his physical appearance: the 6-foot 2-inch (1.87 m) Peter O'Toole was almost nine inches (23 cm) taller than the real Lawrence. His behaviour, however, has caused much more debate.
The screenwriters depict Lawrence as an egotist. The degree to which Lawrence sought or shunned attention, such as his use after the war of various assumed names, is a matter of debate. Even during the war, Lowell Thomas wrote in With Lawrence in Arabia that he could take pictures of him only by tricking him, although Lawrence did later agree to pose for several pictures for Thomas's stage show. Thomas's famous comment that Lawrence "had a genius for backing into the limelight" referred to the fact that his extraordinary actions prevented him from being as private as he would have liked. Others disagree, pointing to Lawrence's own writings in Seven Pillars of Wisdom to support the argument that he was egotistical.
Lawrence's sexual orientation remains a controversial topic amongst historians; though Bolt's primary source was ostensibly Seven Pillars, the film's portrayal seems informed by Richard Aldington's then-recent Biographical Inquiry (1955), which posited among other things that Lawrence was homosexual. The film features Lawrence's alleged sadomasochism as a major part of his character (for instance, his "match trick" in Cairo, his "enjoyment" of killing Gasim); while Lawrence almost certainly engaged in flagellation and like activities after the Deraa incident, there is no biographical evidence he was a masochist prior to that incident. The film's depiction of Lawrence as an active participant in the Tafas Massacre was disputed at the time by historians, including Lawrence's biographer Basil Liddell Hart, but most current biographers accept the film's portrayal of the massacre as reasonably accurate.
Although the film does show that Lawrence could speak and read Arabic, could quote the Quran, and was reasonably knowledgeable about the region, it barely mentions his archaeological travels from 1911 to 1914 in Syria and Arabia, and ignores his espionage work, including a pre-war topographical survey of the Sinai Peninsula and his attempts to negotiate the release of British prisoners at Kut in Mesopotamia in 1916.
Furthermore, in the film, Lawrence is only made aware of the Sykes–Picot Agreement very late in the story and is shown to be appalled by it whereas the "real" Lawrence, while fighting alongside the Arabs, knew about it much earlier.
Lawrence's biographers have had a mixed reaction towards the film. Authorized biographer Jeremy Wilson noted that the film has "undoubtedly influenced the perceptions of some subsequent biographers" such as the depiction of the film's Ali as the real Sherif Ali, rather than a composite character, and also the highlighting of the Deraa incident. (In fairness to Lean and his writers, the Deraa connection was made by several Lawrence biographers, including Edward Robinson (Lawrence the Rebel) and Anthony Nutting (The Man and the Motive) before the film's release.) The film's historical inaccuracies are, in Wilson's view, more troublesome than what can be allowed under normal dramatic license. Contemporary biographer Basil Liddell Hart publicly criticized the film, engaging screenwriter Robert Bolt in a lengthy correspondence over the film's portrayal of Lawrence.
The film portrays General Allenby as cynical and manipulative, with a superior attitude to Lawrence, but there is much evidence that Allenby and Lawrence respected and liked each other. Lawrence once said that Allenby was "an admiration of mine" and later that he was "physically large and confident and morally so great that the comprehension of our littleness came slow to him". In contrast to the fictional Allenby's words at Lawrence's funeral in the film, upon Lawrence's death Allenby remarked, "I have lost a good friend and a valued comrade. Lawrence was under my command, but, after acquainting him with my strategical plan, I gave him a free hand. His co-operation was marked by the utmost loyalty, and I never had anything but praise for his work, which, indeed, was invaluable throughout the campaign." Allenby also spoke highly of him on numerous other occasions, and much to Lawrence's delight, publicly endorsed the accuracy of Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Although Allenby did manipulate Lawrence during the war, their relationship lasted for years after its end, indicating that in real-life they were friendly, if not close. The Allenby family was particularly upset by the Damascus scenes, where Allenby coldly allows the town to fall into chaos as the Arab Council collapses.
Similarly, General Murray, though initially sceptical of the Arab Revolt's potential, thought highly of Lawrence's abilities as an intelligence officer; indeed, it was largely through Lawrence's persuasion that Murray came to support the revolt. The intense dislike shown toward Lawrence in the film is in fact the opposite of Murray's real feelings, although for his part Lawrence seemed not to hold Murray in any high regard.
The depiction of Auda abu Tayi as a man interested only in loot and money is also at odds with the historical record. Although Auda did at first join the Arab Revolt for monetary reasons, he quickly became a steadfast supporter of Arab independence. Notably after Aqaba's capture, he refused repeated bribery attempts by the Turks (though he happily pocketed their money) and remained loyal to the Revolt. He was present with Lawrence from the beginning of the Aqaba expedition and in fact helped plan it along with Lawrence and Prince Faisal.
Faisal, far from being the middle-aged man depicted, was in reality in his early thirties at the time of the revolt. Faisal and Lawrence respected each others' capabilities and intelligence. They worked well together.
A particularly telling fact of the film's inaccuracies is the reaction of those who knew Lawrence and the other characters. The most vehement critic of the film's inaccuracy was Professor A.W.(Arnold) Lawrence, T.E.'s younger brother and literary executor, who had sold the rights to Seven Pillars of Wisdom to Sam Spiegel for £25,000. Arnold went on a campaign in the United States and Britain denouncing the film, famously saying, "I should not have recognised my own brother". In one pointed talk show appearance, Arnold remarked that he had found the film “pretentious and false." He went on to say that his brother was "one of the nicest, kindest and most exhilarating people I’ve known. He often appeared cheerful when he was unhappy.” Later, to the New York Times, Arnold said, “[The film is] a psychological recipe. Take an ounce of narcissism, a pound of exhibitionism, a pint of sadism, a gallon of blood-lust and a sprinkle of other aberrations and stir well.” Lowell Thomas was also critical of the portrayal of Lawrence and most of the film's characters, believing that the train attack scenes were the only reasonably accurate aspect of the film.
The criticisms were not restricted to Lawrence. The Allenby family lodged a formal complaint against Columbia about the portrayal of their ancestor. Descendants of Auda abu Tayi and the real Sherif Ali, despite the fact that the film's Ali was fictional, went further, actively suing Columbia due to the portrayal of their ancestors. The Auda case went on for almost ten years before it was finally dropped.
Biographer Michael Korda, author of Hero: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia, offers a different opinion. While the film is neither "the full story of Lawrence's life or a completely accurate account of the two years he spent fighting with the Arabs," Korda argues that criticizing its inaccuracy "misses the point": "The object was to produce, not a faithful docudrama that would educate the audience, but a hit picture." Stephen E. Tabachnick goes further than Korda, arguing that the film's portrayal of Lawrence is "appropriate and true to the text of Seven Pillars of Wisdom." The British historian of the Arab Revolt, David Murphy wrote that though the film was flawed due to various inaccuaries and omissions, "it was a truly epic movie and is rightly seen as a classic".
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (November 2011)|
Previous films about T. E. Lawrence had been planned but had not been made. In the 1940s, Alexander Korda was interested in filming The Seven Pillars of Wisdom with Laurence Olivier as Lawrence, but had to pull out due to financial difficulties. David Lean himself had been approached to direct a 1952 version for the Rank Organisation, but the project fell through. Also, at the same time as pre-production of the film, Terence Rattigan was developing his play Ross which centred primarily on Lawrence's alleged homosexuality. Ross had begun life as a screenplay, but was re-written for the stage when the film project fell through. Sam Spiegel grew furious and unsuccessfully attempted to have the play suppressed, furore at which helped to gain publicity for the film. Dirk Bogarde had accepted the role in Ross; he described the cancellation of the project as "my bitterest disappointment". Alec Guinness would play the role on stage.
Lean and Sam Spiegel were coming off the huge success of The Bridge on the River Kwai, and were eager to work together again. For a time, Lean was interested in a biopic of Gandhi, with Alec Guinness to play the title role and Emeric Pressburger writing the screenplay, but Lean eventually lost interest in the project. Lean then returned his attention to T.E. Lawrence. Columbia Pictures had an interest in a Lawrence project dating back to the early '50s, and when Spiegel convinced a reluctant A.W. Lawrence to sell the rights to The Seven Pillars of Wisdom for £25,000, the project got underway.
When Lawrence of Arabia was first announced, Lawrence's biographer Lowell Thomas offered producer Spiegel and screenwriters Bolt and Wilson a large amount of research material he had produced on Lawrence during and after his time with him in the Arab Revolt. Spiegel rejected the offer.
Michael Wilson wrote the original draft of the screenplay. However, Lean was dissatisfied with Wilson's work, primarily because his treatment had a clear focus on the historical and political aspects of the Arab Revolt. Lean hired Robert Bolt to re-write the script in order to make it a character study of Lawrence himself. While many of the characters and scenes are Wilson's invention, virtually all of the dialogue in the finished film was written by Bolt.
Lean reportedly watched John Ford's film The Searchers (1956) to help him develop ideas as to how to shoot the film. Several scenes in the film directly recall Ford's film, most notably Ali's entrance at the well and the composition of many of the desert scenes and the dramatic exit from Wadi Rum. Lean biographer Kevin Brownlow even notes the physical similarity between Rumm and Ford's Monument Valley. The film's plot structure also bears similarity to Orson Welles's Citizen Kane (1941), particularly the opening scenes with Lawrence's death and the reporter inquiring notables at Lawrence's funeral.
The desert scenes were shot in Jordan and Morocco, as well as Almería and Doñana in Spain. The film was originally to be filmed entirely in Jordan: the government of King Hussein was extremely helpful in providing logistical assistance, location scouting, transportation, and extras; Hussein himself visited the set several times during production and maintained cordial relationships with cast and crew. During the production of the film, Hussein met and married Toni Gardner, who was working as a switchboard operator in Aqaba. The only tension occurred when Jordanian officials learned that English actor Henry Oscar, who did not speak Arabic, would be filmed reciting the Qur'an; permission was granted only on condition that an imam be present to ensure that there were no misquotations.
In Jordan, Lean planned to film in the real Aqaba and the archaeological site at Petra, which Lawrence had been fond of as a place of study. However, the production had to be moved to Spain, much to Lean's regret, due to cost and outbreaks of illness among the cast and crew before these scenes could be shot. The attack on Aqaba (one of the more stirring and memorable scenes in the film with a spectacular pan shot of dust rising up from behind the charging Arabs while Turkish cannons are aimed harmlessly out to sea) was reconstructed in a dried river bed in southern Spain; it consisted of over 300 buildings and was meticulously based on the town's appearance in 1917. The execution of Gasim, the train attacks and Deraa exteriors were filmed in the Almería region, with the former's filming being delayed because of a flash flood. The Sierra Nevada mountains filled in for Azrak, Lawrence's winter quarters. The city of Seville was used to represent Cairo, Jerusalem and Damascus, with the appearance of Casa de Pilatos, the Alcázar of Seville and the Plaza de España. All of the interiors were shot in Spain, including Lawrence's first meeting with Faisal and the scene in Auda's tent.
The Tafas massacre was filmed in Ouarzazate, Morocco, with Moroccan army troops substituting for the Turkish army; however, Lean was unable to film as much as he wanted because the soldiers were uncooperative and impatient. One of the second-unit directors for the Morocco scenes was André de Toth, who suggested a shot wherein bags of blood would be machine-gunned, spraying the screen with blood. Assistant director Nicolas Roeg approached Lean with this idea, but Lean found it disgusting. De Toth subsequently left the project.
The film's production was frequently delayed because, unusually, the film started shooting without a finished script. After Wilson quit early in the production, playwright Beverley Cross worked on the script in the interim before Bolt took over, although none of Cross's material made it to the final film. A further mishap occurred when Bolt was arrested for taking part in an anti-nuclear weapons demonstration, and Spiegel had to persuade Bolt to sign a recognizance of good behaviour for him to be released from jail and continue working on the script.
Camels caused several problems on set. O'Toole was not used to riding camels and found the saddle to be uncomfortable. While in Amman during a break in filming, he bought a piece of foam rubber at a market and added it to his saddle. Many of the extras copied the idea and sheets of the foam can be seen on many of the horse and camel saddles. The Bedouins nicknamed O'Toole "'Ab al-'Isfanjah" (أب الإسفنجة), meaning "Father of the Sponge". The idea spread and to this day, many Bedouins add foam rubber to their saddles.
Later, during the filming of the Aqaba scene, O'Toole was nearly killed when he fell from his camel, but fortunately, it stood over him, preventing the horses of the extras from trampling him. Coincidentally a very similar mishap befell the real Lawrence at the Battle of Abu El Lissal in 1917. In another mishap, O'Toole seriously injured his hand during filming by punching through the window of a caravan while drunk. A brace or bandage can be seen on his left thumb during the first train attack scene, presumably due to this incident.
Along with many other Arab countries, Jordan would ban the film for what they felt to be a disrespectful portrayal of Arab culture. Egypt, Omar Sharif's home country, was the only Arab nation to give the film a wide release, where it became a success through the endorsement of President Gamal Abdel Nasser, who appreciated the film's depiction of Arab nationalism.
The score was composed by Maurice Jarre, little known at the time and selected only after both William Walton and Malcolm Arnold had proved unavailable. Jarre was given just six weeks to compose two hours of orchestral music for Lawrence. The score was performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Although Sir Adrian Boult is credited as the conductor of the score in the film's credits, he was unable to conduct most of the score, due in part to his failure to adapt to the intricate timings of each cue, and Jarre replaced him as the conductor. The score went on to garner Jarre his first Academy Award for Music Score—Substantially Original and is now considered one of the greatest scores of all time, ranking number three on the American Film Institute's top twenty-five American film scores.
The original soundtrack recording was originally released on Colpix Records, the records division of Columbia Pictures, in 1962. A remastered edition appeared on Castle Music, a division of the Sanctuary Records Group, on 28 August 2006.
Kenneth Alford's march The Voice of the Guns (1917) is prominently featured on the soundtrack. One of Alford's other pieces, the Colonel Bogey March, was the musical theme for Lean's previous film, The Bridge on the River Kwai.
The film premiered at the Odeon Leicester Square in London on 10 December 1962 (Royal Premiere) and was released in the United States on 16 December 1962.
The original release ran for about 222 minutes (plus overture, intermission, and exit music). A post-premiere memo (13 Dec. 1962) noted that the film was 24,987.5 ft (70 mm) and 19,990 ft (35 mm). With 90 ft of 35 mm film projected every minute, this corresponds to exactly 222.11 minutes.
In an email to Robert Morris, co-author of a book on Lawrence of Arabia, Richard May, VP Film Preservation at Warner Bros., noted that Gone With the Wind, never edited after its premiere, is 19,884 ft of 35 mm film (without leaders, overture, intermission, entr'acte or walkout music) corresponding to 220.93 min.
Thus, Lawrence of Arabia, slightly more than 1 minute longer than Gone With the Wind, is the longest movie ever to win a Best Picture Oscar.
In January 1963, Lawrence was released in a version edited by 20 minutes; when it was re-released in 1971, an even shorter cut of 187 minutes was presented. The first round of cuts was made at the direction and even insistence of David Lean, to assuage criticisms of the film's length and increase the number of showings per day; however, during the 1989 restoration, he would later pass blame for the cuts onto by-then-deceased producer Sam Spiegel. In addition, a 1966 print, used for initial television and video releases, accidentally altered a few scenes by reversing the image.
The current "restored version", undertaken by Robert A. Harris and Jim Painten (under the supervision of director David Lean), was released in 1989 with a 216-minute length (plus overture, intermission, and exit music).
Most of the cut scenes were dialogue sequences, particularly those involving General Allenby and his staff. Two whole scenes—Brighton's briefing of Allenby in Jerusalem before the Daraa scene and the British staff meeting in the field tent—were completely excised, and the former has still not been entirely restored. Much of the missing dialogue involves Lawrence's writing of poetry and verse, alluded to by Allenby in particular, saying "the last poetry general we had was Wellington". The opening of Act II, where Faisal is interviewed by Bentley, and the later scene, in Jerusalem where Allenby convinces Lawrence not to resign, existed in only fragmented form; they were restored to the 1989 re-release. Some of the more graphic shots of the Tafas massacre scene—the lengthy panning shot of the corpses in Tafas, and Lawrence shooting a surrendering Turkish soldier—were also restored. Most of the still-missing footage is of minimal import, supplementing existing scenes. One scene is an extended version of the Daraa rape sequence, which makes Lawrence's punishment in that scene more overt. Other scripted scenes exist, including a conversation between Auda and Lawrence immediately after the fall of Aqaba, a brief scene of Turkish officers noting the extent of Lawrence's campaign, and the battle of Petra (later reworked into the first train attack), but these scenes were probably not filmed. The actors still living at the time of the re-release dubbed their own dialogue, though Jack Hawkins's dialogue had to be dubbed by Charles Gray (who had already done Hawkins' voice for several films after the former developed throat cancer in the late 1960s). A full list of cuts can be found at the Internet Movie Database. Reasons for the cuts of various scenes can be found in Lean's notes to Sam Spiegel, Robert Bolt, and Anne V. Coates. The film runs 216 minutes in the most recent director's cut available on DVD.
Lawrence of Arabia has been released in five different DVD editions, including an initial release as a two-disc set (2001), followed by a shorter single disc edition (2002), a high resolution version of the director's cut with restored scenes (2003) issued as part of the Superbit series, as part of the Columbia Best Pictures collection (2008), and in a fully restored special edition of the director's cut (2008).
An 8K scan/4K intermediate digital restoration is currently underway for a Blu-ray and theatrical re-release during 2012 by Sony Pictures to celebrate the film's 50th anniversary. The blu-ray edition of the film will be released in the United Kingdom on September 10th 2012 and in the United States on November 13th 2012. The film will receive a one-day theatrical release on October 4th, 2012.
According to Grover Crisp, executive VP of restoration at Sony Pictures, the new 8K scan has such high resolution that when examined, showed a series of fine concentric lines in a pattern reminiscent of a fingerprint near the top of the frame. This was caused by its melting in the desert heat when handled by the film workers during production. Sony had to hire a third party to minimize or eliminate the fingerprint artifacts in the new restored version.
Upon its release, Lawrence was a huge critical and financial success and it remains popular among viewers and critics alike. The striking visuals, dramatic music, literate screenplay and superb performance by Peter O'Toole have all been common points of acclaim and the film as a whole is widely considered one of the greatest films ever made. Its visual style has influenced many directors, including George Lucas, Sam Peckinpah, Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg, who called the film a "miracle".
The film is regarded as a masterpiece of world cinema and is ranked highly on many lists of the best films ever made. The American Film Institute ranked the film 5th in its original and 7th in its updated list of the greatest films and first in its list of the greatest films of the "epic" genre. In 1991, the film was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry. In 1999 the film placed third in a BFI poll of the best British films and in 2001 the magazine Total Film called it "as shockingly beautiful and hugely intelligent as any film ever made" and "faultless". It has also ranked in the top ten films of all time in a Sight and Sound directors' poll. Additionally, O'Toole's performance has also often been considered one of the greatest of all time, topping lists made by both Entertainment Weekly and Premiere.
|35th Academy Awards|
(Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences)
|Best Picture||Sam Spiegel||Won|
|Best Director||David Lean||Won|
|Best Art Direction||John Box, John Stoll and Dario Simoni||Won|
|Best Cinematography||Frederick A. Young||Won|
|Best Substantially Original Score||Maurice Jarre||Won|
|Best Film Editing||Ann V. Coates||Won|
|Best Sound||John Cox||Won|
|Best Actor||Peter O'Toole||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actor||Omar Sharif||Nominated|
|Best Adapted Screenplay||Robert Bolt and Michael Wilson||Nominated|
|16th British Academy Film Awards|
(British Academy of Film and Television Arts)
|Best Film from any Source||Sam Spiegel and David Lean||Won|
|Best British Film||Sam Spiegel and David Lean||Won|
|Best British Actor||Peter O'Toole||Won|
|Best British Screenplay||Robert Bolt and Michael Wilson||Won|
|Best Foreign Actor||Anthony Quinn||Nominated|
|20th Golden Globe Awards|
(Hollywood Foreign Press Association)
|Best Motion Picture – Drama||David Lean and Sam Spiegel||Won|
|Best Director of a Motion Picture||David Lean||Won|
|Best Supporting Actor||Omar Sharif||Won|
|Most Promising Newcomer – Male||Omar Sharif||Won|
|Best Cinematography, Color||Frederick A. Young||Won|
|Most Promising Newcomer – Male||Peter O'Toole||Nominated|
American Film Institute recognition
The use of the locations in Almería, Spain for the train sequences and others made that region popular with international film makers. Most famously, it became the setting of virtually all of the Spaghetti Westerns of the '60s and '70s, specifically those of Sergio Leone. (The oasis set from Lawrence briefly appears in Leone's 1965 film For a Few Dollars More.) Many of the sets used or built for the film were re-used in later films, including John Milius's The Wind and the Lion (1975), which used several of the same palaces in Seville and the Aqaba set as the setting for its climactic battle, while the Plaza de España appears in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002), as the Theed Palace.
The main musical title of the film was used in the James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) in the scene where Roger Moore and Barbara Bach's characters have to wander through the desert after their van breaks down. This was done as a joke by one of the editors who liked to play music from the film during the daily rushes.
The main musical title of the film was also used in the 1987 science fiction parody film Spaceballs, when the Winnebago crashes on the sand planet and the crew is forced to walk the desert.
Film director Steven Spielberg considers this his favorite film of all time and the one that convinced him to become a filmmaker. Screenwriter William Monahan, who scripted Kingdom of Heaven and The Departed, among others, is a fan of Robert Bolt and has stated on numerous occasions that viewing Lawrence is what inspired him to be a screenwriter.
The scene of Lawrence showing off the 'match trick' is shown, converted into 3D, in Ridley Scott's 2012 film Prometheus. A piece of viral marketing for the film starring Guy Pearce also references the scene, and Michael Fassbender's android character in the film models his looks and voice after O'Toole's in Lawrence of Arabia.
In 1990, the made-for-television film A Dangerous Man: Lawrence After Arabia was produced as a sequel to the Lawrence of Arabia. It featured Ralph Fiennes as Lawrence and Alexander Siddig as Prince Faisal. The movie dealt primarily with the attempts of Lawrence and Faisal to secure independence for Arabia during the 1919 Versailles Conference following the end of World War I. A principal departure from the earlier film shows Faisal closer in age to Lawrence, and in a sometimes fraught role of friendship and collaboration with him - a clear echo of Lawrence's friendship with Sherif Ali in the original. The film was generally well received and deals more with the political ramifications of Lawrence's efforts in the Middle East.
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