Lawrence of Arabia

Lawrence of Arabia

4.3 26
Director: David Lean

Cast: David Lean, Peter O'Toole, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn


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This sweeping, highly literate historical epic covers the Allies' mideastern campaign during World War I as seen through the eyes of the enigmatic T. E. Lawrence (Peter O'Toole, in the role that made him a star). After a prologue showing us Lawrence's ultimate fate, we flash back to Cairo in 1917. A bored general staffer, Lawrence talks his way into a transfer to… See more details below

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This sweeping, highly literate historical epic covers the Allies' mideastern campaign during World War I as seen through the eyes of the enigmatic T. E. Lawrence (Peter O'Toole, in the role that made him a star). After a prologue showing us Lawrence's ultimate fate, we flash back to Cairo in 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, making one of the most spectacular entrances in movie history) 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: Prince Feisal (Alec Guinness) dismisses him as yet another "desert-loving Englishman," and his British superiors assume that he's either arrogant or mad. Using a combination of diplomacy and bribery, Lawrence unites the rival Arab factions of Feisal and Auda Abu Tayi (Anthony Quinn). After successfully completing his mission, Lawrence becomes an unwitting pawn of the Allies, as represented by Gen. Allenby (Jack Hawkins) and Dryden (Claude Rains), who decide to keep using Lawrence to secure Arab cooperation against the Imperial Powers. While on a spying mission to Deraa, Lawrence is captured and tortured by a sadistic Turkish Bey (Jose Ferrer). In the heat of the next battle, a wild-eyed Lawrence screams "No prisoners!" and fights more ruthlessly than ever. Screenwriters Robert Bolt and Michael Wilson used T. E. Lawrence's own self-published memoir The Seven Pillars of Wisdom as their principal source, although some of the characters are composites, and many of the "historical" incidents are of unconfirmed origin. Two years in the making (you can see O'Toole's weight fluctuate from scene to scene), the movie, lensed in Spain and Jordan, ended up costing a then-staggering $13 million and won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. The 1962 Royal Premiere in London was virtually the last time that David Lean's director's cut was seen: 20 minutes were edited from the film's general release, and 15 more from the 1971 reissue. This abbreviated version was all that was available for public exhibition until a massive 1989 restoration, at 216 minutes that returned several of Lean's favorite scenes while removing others with which he had never been satisfied.

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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Ed Hulse
Decades after its initial theatrical release, Lawrence of Arabia remains the quintessential movie epic: lavish, sweeping, and literate, played against a grand historical backdrop and peopled with sharply drawn characters. The Academy Award winner for Best Picture in 1962, it also earned an Oscar for director David Lean (The Bridge on the River Kwai), whose command of filmmaking technique was never more aptly demonstrated. Peter O’Toole achieved international stardom following his portrayal of T. E. Lawrence, the enigmatic British intelligence officer who participated in a 1916 Arab revolt against Turkish oppressors and became a legendary figure throughout the Middle East. The arduous desert campaign is detailed with scope and style, and though Lean and screenwriter Robert Bolt never quite get a handle on their charismatic but cryptic protagonist, they limn memorable secondary characters like Omar Sharif’s fiery rebel chieftain, Alec Guinness’s crafty Arab prince, and Jack Hawkins’s stolid British general. A meticulously crafted film, truly a feast for the eyes and ears, Lawrence of Arabia is also a rousing adventure guaranteed to stir the emotions. The long-awaited DVD version is newly remastered from fully restored film elements and includes four Lawrence featurettes in addition to original newsreel footage of Lawrence himself, as well as a conversation with director and Lawrence fan Steven Spielberg.
All Movie Guide
More of a sensory explosion than a simple movie, Lawrence of Arabia is epic in every sense of the word. Its images--of the desert, of the blinding sun, of Peter O'Toole's golden hair and staggeringly blue eyes--are some of the most memorable ever committed to celluloid, and its musical score remains almost unparalleled in its ability to evoke so many associations with a few simple notes. A richly detailed character portrait rather than a biography or an adventure film, Lawrence is the tale of a man at the mercy of both the desert and his own grand ambitions. As played by O'Toole in a star-making performance, Lawrence was a man whose character was defined as much by sexual ambivalence and thorny enigma as by his considerable vision and will -- in other words, a conflicted, fascinating figure whose personality tended both to inspire and to eclipse his cause. It is fitting that a man larger than life should have his story presented as an epic, and equally fitting that this epic is set in the desert, the only stage magnificent and unforgiving enough to showcase Lawrence's persona. Lawrence of Arabia is almost as remarkable for the story behind it as for the story visible on the screen. Director David Lean's handling of his material is legendary, from days spent on location waiting for the "right" sunrise to his staging of several key scenes, most notably that of the desert mirage that slowly evolves from speck to man. That shot alone could have made the film a legend, conveying the mystery, brutality, and scope of the desert just by remaining still and silent. Lean's respect for the desert is evident in every scene: rather than attempting to manipulate it, he lets it speak for itself. The result is one of the cinema's most iconic visual feasts, perhaps even more so because it was one of the last films to be shot in 70mm (as opposed to being blown up to 70mm from 35mm). Restored and re-released in 1989, 27 years after its initial release, Lawrence was still as beautiful and turbulent as its title character, stunning new and old viewers alike.

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Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Sony Pictures Home
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Special Features

Blu-ray exclusives:; Secrets of Arabia: picture-in-graphics track; Peter O'Toole revisits Lawrence of Arabia; ; Special features:; The making of Lawrence of Arabia documentary; A conversation with Steven Spielberg; Maan, Jordan: the camels are cast; In search of Lawrence; Romance of Arabia; Wind, sand and star: the making of a classic (1970 version); Original newsreel footage of the New York premiere; Theatrical advertising campaigns

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Peter O'Toole T.E. Lawrence
Alec Guinness Prince Feisal
Anthony Quinn Auda abu Tayi
Jack Hawkins Gen. Allenby
Omar Sharif Sherif Ali ibn el Kharish
Claude Rains Mr. Dryden
José Ferrer Turkish Bey
Anthony Quayle Col. Harry Brighton
Arthur Kennedy Jackson Bentley
Donald Wolfit Gen. Murray
I.S. Johar Gasim
Michael Ray Farraj
Gamil Ratib Majid
John Dimech Daud
Hugh Miller RAMC Colonel
Harry Fowler Cpl. Potter
Jack Hedley Reporter
Kenneth Fortescue Allenby's Aide
Howard Marion-Crawford Medical Officer
Zia Mohyeddin Tafas
Henry Oscar Reciter
Norman Rossington Corporal Jenkins
John Ruddock Elder Harith
Fernando Sancho Turkish Sergeant
Stuart Saunders Regimental Sergeant Major
Jack Gwyllim Club Secretary

Technical Credits
David Lean Director,Producer
Robert Bolt Screenwriter
John Box Production Designer
Anne V. Coates Editor
John Cox Sound/Sound Designer
Phyllis Dalton Costumes/Costume Designer
Ernest Day Camera Operator
Maurice Jarre Score Composer
Tony Masters Production Designer
John Palmer Production Manager
Charles Parker Makeup
Cliff John Richardson Special Effects
Tony Rimmington Asst. Director
Dario Simoni Set Decoration/Design
Maude Spector Casting
Sam Spiegel Producer
Roy Stevens Asst. Director
John Stoll Art Director
Morris W. Stoloff Musical Direction/Supervision
Michael Wilson Screenwriter
Freddie Young Cinematographer

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