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This film covers the Allies' Mid-eastern campaign during World War I, as seen through the eyes of the enigmatic T. E. Lawrence (Peter O'Toole). Cairo, 1917: A bored general staffer, Lawrence talks his way into a transfer to Arabia. Once in the desert, he befriends Sherif Ali Ben El Kharish (Omar Sharif) and draws up plans to aid the Arabs in their rebellion against the Turks. No one is ever able to discern Lawrence's motives in this matter: Sherif dismisses him as yet another "desert-loving Englishman", while his British superiors merely assume that he's either supremely arrogant or stark-raving mad. Using a combination of diplomacy and bribery, Lawrence unites the rival Arab factions of Prince Feisal (Alec Guinness) and Auda Abu Tayi (Anthony Quinn). To implement his strategy of attacking the seacoast fortress of Aqaba from the rear, Lawrence and his compatriots must make an arduous trek across the treacherous Nefud Desert, appropriately nicknamed "The Sun's Anvil". After successfully completing his mission, Lawrence becomes an unwitting pawn of the Allies, as represented by Allenby (Hawkins) and Dryden (Claude Rains). They decide to keep using Lawrence to secure Arab co-operation against the Imperial Powers. Though Lawrence is led to believe that the Arabs will be allowed to chart their own destinies after the war, the Allies have every intention of slicing up this valuable territory for their own use. As he continues his guerrilla activities with his Arab comrades in arms, Lawrence is made an international celebrity by a newspaper correspondent (Arthur Kennedy). While on a spying mission to Deraa, Lawrence is captured and tortured by a sadistic Turkish Bey (Jose Ferrer). It is implied that the Bey's brutal treatment of him has aroused Lawrence's own repressed homosexuality: true or not, it is clear that he has undergone a radical personality change when he makes it back to his own lines. In the heat of the next battle, a wild-eyed Lawrence screams "No prisoners!" and fights more ruthlessly than ever. When peace is declared, Lawrence is declared a victor; but after he witnesses the chaotic, indecisive Arab peace council in Damascus, and watches as the greedy Europeans swoop down to pick up the leavings, he knows he has failed in his original dream to secure Arab independence.

"While Hollywood was stagnating in the early sixties, it was the likes of David Lean that reminded us what power existed in the moving image, and that power has never waned with his extraordinary Lawrence of Arabia. True, Lean and screenwriter Robert Bolt fiddled with history, and some facets of Lawrence's own character are questionable, but the fact remains that this is a film of unparalleled beauty, of rich texture, sweeping spectacle, and even wry humour that punctuate the cultural clashes of Arab and Brit. Few filmmakers are able to marry the elements of cinematic spectacle, narrative structure and deeply delineated character. Lean's sense of detail and vision, coupled with Bolt's beautifully literate script, combine to create a true masterpiece of the cinema. Of course, the film is also the work of the dazzling Peter O'Toole, whose meticulous performance is the stuff of legend. That image of O'Toole's messianic Lawrence, twirling around in a vision of white, is one of the great images of the cinema. As is the now classic entrance of the fascinating Omar Sharif, whose star also shone through this movie. There are many great performances all captured in the one movie, from the tempestuous Anthony Quinn, to the proud Anthony Quayle and the wonderfully military Jack Hawkins. Lean's majestic drama got more than a little help from the unforgettable music of Maurice Jarre, and Freddie Young's magnificent cinematography. If one can continue to see a work such as this 35 years later and still remain entranced by its spectacle and its drama, then surely, that is a classic indeed."
Paul Fischer

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(UK )

CAST: Peter O’Toole, Alec Guiness, Anthony Quinn, Jack Hawkins, Jose Ferrer, Anthony Quayle, Claude Rains, Arthur Kennedy, Omar Sharif

DIRECTOR: David Lean

PRODUCER: Robert A Harris (1989 reconstruction and restoration), Sam Spiegel

SCRIPT: T. E. Lawrence (writings), Robert Bolt, Michael Wilson


EDITOR: Anne V. Coates

MUSIC: Maurice Jarre


COSTUMES: Phyllis Dalton

RUNNING TIME: 221 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 26, 1998 – Sydney; other cities to follow

AWARDS: Best Film, Best Director, Best Editing, best Music, Best Sound, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration – 1963 Oscars; David Lean, Outstanding Directorial Achievement, 1963 – Directors Guild of America; Best Film, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor Omar Sharif, Best Cinematography – 1963 Golden Globes



Movie quotes:
General Murray: I can’t make out whether you’re bloody bad-mannered or just half witted.

Lawrence: I have the same problem, sir.

Lawrence: I killed two people. One was yesterday. He was just a boy and I led him into quicksand. The other was... well... before Damascus. I had to execute him with my pistol and there was something about it that I didn't like.

Allenby: That's to be expected.

Lawrence: No, something else.

Allenby: Well, then let it be a lesson.

Lawrence: No… something else.

Allenby: What then?

Lawrence: I enjoyed it.



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