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A fully restored 70 mm print of Lawrence of Arabia with a new DTS soundtrack can again be called a masterpiece – and piece by piece, Patrick Conlan* points out what was cut and when, and how it was all restored. But he finds one missing shot … of 8 seconds. (Sydney: Cremorne Orpheum, June 14 – 22; Melbourne: July 6 –20, 2003.)

"And now Selim, "The Brightness".... Feisal (Alec Guinness)

"The Brightness" for fans of LAWRENCE OF ARABIA is the return of this masterpiece in all its 70mm glory. An almost-mint print (there are just a few speckles and scratches and two joins) that was struck for the 40th anniversary of its initial release, it has the original 6-track stereo soundtrack transferred to DTS resulting in a superior cinema experience to the last re-issue here a few years back (then with a muddy Dolby Spectral track). 

On this occasion, the clarity of the Oscar-winning cinematography of Freddie Young in Super Panavasion 70 is there (on the giant main screen at Cremorne) with sound that has such full-bodied depth and spatial impact that when Lawrence kick-starts his motor cycle in the opening sequence, your theatre seat virtually throbs along with the engine.

The following outline of the additions that were made to this restoration of LAWRENCE assumes that you have seen the film.

LAWRENCE OF ARABIA had a Royal Premiere at the Odeon Leicester Square in London on Monday 10th December 1962. David Lean and his editor Anne Coates had been working on the film until just days before and they (and a select group of cast and crew, family and friends) saw the complete final cut for the first time only on the Sunday morning, ahead of a press screening that evening. The US premiere was on Sunday 16th December at New York's Criterion Theatre.

"seven Oscars"

By the time the film won its seven Oscars on 8th April 1963, LAWRENCE's original cut of 222 minutes had been trimmed by 20 minutes - 12 minutes, in relative haste by David Lean, and another 8 minutes by producer Sam Spiegel (without telling Lean) and it was this reduced version that had its Australasian premiere at Sydney's Barclay Cinema in October 1963. When it had a worldwide reissue in 1971, the 70mm edition was that same reduced cut. However, the 35mm reissue that later went to general release here was butchered down to 187 minutes. There were a few cuts to Act One but several cuts to Act Two. Curiously, there was a sequence we had never seen before (see later).

David Lean is on record saying that all the original cuts were made by Spiegel without his approval - however, some of the cuts and trims are so masterly done that many doubt that Lean was not involved, at least in those first 70mm print cuts.

"the restoration"

In 1986, Robert A. Harris approached Columbia Pictures about restoring the film to its original length, at the same time as producing prints with the original 70mm Technicolor and 6-track stereo. Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg played important roles in supporting the restoration.

Most of the soundtracks for the missing scenes had been lost and had to be re-dubbed - Peter O'Toole, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn and Arthur Kennedy re-recorded some of their lines - Charles Gray filled in for the late Jack Hawkins. The restored film was completed in May 1988 but it took another six months to painstakingly prepare release prints and the new LAWRENCE had a charity premiere on 4th February 1989 at New York's Ziegfeld Theatre. David Lean, the surviving stars mentioned above, cinematographer Freddie Young and editor Anne Coates were present. The restored version reached Australia a few months later. Coincidentally, its first unveiling was on 12th May 1989 at the Hayden Orpheum Cremorne for a handful of Columbia executives, fearful of having the precious print damaged at a multiplex.

It should be pointed out that Michael Wilson is now correctly credited as co-screenwriter alongside Robert Bolt (Robert Bolt had been brought in after Wilson had written three drafts for Lean and Lean is supposed to have said that it was Sam Spiegel who made the decision to omit Wilson's name - Wilson, a blacklisted Hollywood writer, fought to have his name restored but, despite winning a decision by the British screenwriters' Guild, the credit never appeared on the film, not even on the 1989 restored version - the credit was only added in recent years). 

"The restored scenes"

The restored scenes: First is the shot of Lawrence's goggles hanging on a branch after the motor cycle crash, followed by brief dialogue between Brighton and a cleric at the funeral service. 

The first Cairo sequence, of Lawrence in the map room, includes a couple of new shots and lines. We now see Lawrence coming into the Officers' Mess, a sequence that had been cut. In the next sequence, General Murray and Dryden have a few extra lines before Lawrence enters Murray's office.

After Lawrence tells Ali about attacking Aqaba, the whole sequence of the men preparing to leave (after Ali's line, “You are mad”) until the shot of the band leaving is a restoration, with newly-dubbed dialogue, some of it not precisely in synch. This is a key addition as it explains Lawrence's attitude to not telling Brighton about the planned attack and that it was Ali who told Feisal.

There's an additional shot inserted as the band heading for Aqaba reach the end of 'the anvil' at night and Robert A. Harris inadvertently creates a continuity error. Just before the insert, as the camera is tracking backwards ahead of the camel riders, we can see the darker ground of the 'end of the anvil' coming into the right hand of the shot. Harris inserts a medium shot of Lawrence - he looks at his watch and yawns - if you listen carefully, you can hear edits to the music (to add music behind the shot). There are a couple more shots before a tracking shot (a reverse angle to the earlier one), again showing the 'end of the anvil', with the lead camels now moving over it. The dialogue continues about the ‘end of the anvil’ but we have already seen it in the shot preceding the insert.

One of the longest additions is of Auda leading Lawrence, Ali and their band into his camp, accompanied by some of Maurice Jarre's stirring music. (Incidentally, Jarre did conduct the music for the film - Sir Adrian Boult was to have conducted but bowed out due to his lack of experience in the technicalities of recording film music - Jarre has always been correctly identified as the conductor on the original soundtrack recording). The very next shot, of women peeking through the tent, tracks left until you see the men seated around a lavish tray of food - the tracking part of this shot was also an original cut and we only came into the scene as the camera stops tracking and as Auda motions for the food to be taken away (another example of Lean's mastery at trimming a scene).

'listen carefully"

When Lawrence and 'the children' head across Sinai, the first shot (after Auda's line "He is not perfect") has Lawrence asking Daud and Farraj have they slept in beds - listen carefully and you can tell that this is a newly dubbed-scene.

In Jerusalem, as Allenby has drinks in the Mess with Lawrence, Brighton and Dryden, there are a few extra lines of dialogue and a curious shot looking up to the ceiling of the atrium, panning faster and down to the floor, all new additions. Incidentally, as the Mess sequence ends, just before Lawrence begins to follow the others out, there's a shot of officers staring through the windows at Lawrence - almost centre screen and holding a pipe, is screenwriter Robert Bolt.

The first major sequence in Act Two, the meeting between Bentley and Feisal has some additional lines of dialogue - listen for the difference in voices and watch for a missing frame - another example of Lean's editing mastery in which he could eliminate some lines from a conversation without affecting the general flow. ('Bentley' is a fictitious character based on the real-life journalist Lowell Thomas who was to turn Lawrence into a folk hero - the first draft of the screenplay was to have been based on his book about Lawrence).

And, as mentioned before, there's an interior scene between Allenby and Brighton in which they discuss Lawrence and the Arab Army, that was never seen here before in 70mm but turned up in the reduced 35mm prints in 1972.

"8 seconds of film missing"

There's an inexplicably missing shot - at the camp, following Bentley talking to Ali about politics, the next shot is of Lawrence reclining on the running board of his Rolls Royce armoured car - missing is Farraj (Michel Ray) peeping around the bonnet and saying "Aurens - the man…" and Lawrence replying "It's alright, Farraj" - in the restored version, the shot begins with Bentley approaching the car - in other words, Farraj's warning is not there - probably about 8 seconds of film missing.

While Ali is waiting for Lawrence outside the Turkish headquarters, there's an additional shot of Ali.

When Lawrence returns to Jerusalem, he is seen in British uniform crossing a courtyard and conversing with some other officers. Listen carefully to the martial music in the background (a theme that Lean and Spiegel had hoped would emulate the commercial success of 'Colonel Bogey' in The Bridge On The River Kwai, by the way). As Bentley follows Lawrence into the building, there's an additional insert of Lawrence going up a staircase, followed by Bentley - you can hear jumps in the music added to cover the insert.

The later conversation between Allenby and Lawrence has additional lines - again, listen carefully for the newly-dubbed voices, including that of Charles Gray for Jack Hawkins.

As Lawrence and his bodyguard are approaching, there are a couple of extra shots of Auda, Bentley and Ali awaiting his arrival, with newly-dubbed dialogue.

During the second half, there are several shots to do with the rival armies racing towards Damascus that had been cut from the 1972 35mm prints but they had always been in the 70mm prints and now there are a couple of extra lines in a scene with Allenby talking to his officers.

As Lawrence and his men come across the village ravaged by the retreating Turks, there's a shot of Lawrence looking to his right and then to his left - into this shot, Harris has inserted a shot of a scarf blowing across the ground, past some bodies - a shot that Lean is reputed to have set aside because he couldn't place it where he wanted it.

"the original play-out music"

The only other difference to the original cut is that the film ended just before the Restoration Credits start their roll-up and the curtains would have been closed by then - the music we hear throughout the Restoration Credits is the original play-out music.

"And in THE END shall........thou be satisfied" Lawrence (Peter O'Toole)

Published June 12, 2003

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* Footnote: Patrick Conlan saw LAWRENCE OF ARABIA several times at Sydney’s Barclay Cinema in 1963. He saw the 70mm reissue in 1972 at the Sydney Mayfair Theatre several more times and was horrified to later discover the now cut 35mm print. He wrote down all the missing cuts and approached Columbia Pictures about the flawed release, mostly to find out why there was now an additional sequence. In the early days of video, he taped the film off TV in Betamax, allowing room to audio-dub in the overtures and playout. (Incidentally, the TV print had one reel printed back-to-front.) 

He was lucky to see that first viewing of the restored version at Cremorne in 1989 and was able to immediately list all the new additions. And he has seen every major re-issue since.

He's now praying for a re-issue of a restored IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD and he would then be truly satisfied!

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