Classic Movie Reviews

Lawrence of Arabia

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Peter Seamus Lorcan O' Toole was born either in June 1932 in Connemara, Ireland, or in August 1932 in Leeds, England. He has a birth certificate from each country, but he grew up in Leeds. He attended a Catholic school where efforts were made to convert a natural leftie into a righthander. He does not remember the nuns fondly. After school, he worked as a trainee journalist and photographer at the Yorkshire Evening Post until he was called up for National Service in the Navy. He applied to the drama school of the famed Abbey Theatre in Dublin but was rejected. From 1952 to 1954 he attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art on scholarship. He was in a class that included Albert Finney and Alan Bates. He claims the instructors didn't think any of them would amount to much as actors. His first theater work was playing Shakespeare at the Old Vic and with the English Stage Company. His television debut came in 1954 and his first film work was a bit part in The Day They Robbed the Bank of England . He got the part of T. E. Lawrence in Lawrence of Arabia (1962) when Marlon Brando wasn't available and Albert Finney declined the role.
(Marlon Brando as Lawrence of Arabia? What could they have been thinking?!) Playing the part he is still probably best remembered for made O'Toole an instant star in the U. S. and Europe and brought him the first of his eight Oscar nominations. Other notable films included Becket (1964) and The Lion in Winter (1968). He played English king Henry II in both films and received Oscar nominations for both. He has also had an active stage career, including an appearance at the Abbey Theatre which had rejected him as a student. In 1972 he played both Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes and the writer's iconic literary creation, Don Quixote, in the film version of a 1965 Broadway smash hit, Man of La Mancha. The 1999 television mini-series Joan of Arc brought him an Emmy Award and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2003 awarded him an Honorary Oscar. He announced his retirement from film work in 2012.


                                           "Of course it hurts."
                             "Then what's the trick?" 
                            "Not minding that it hurts."

    A blockbuster spectacular that also manages to be thoughtful and literate. This film is based on T. E. Lawrence's book, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Because of his background as a scholar of Arab language and culture, Lawrence is sent from Egypt during World War I to help the Arabs organize their resistance to the Ottoman Turks, whose Empire includes most of the Middle East. As Germany's ally, Turkey is an enemy of the British and French (who, not insignificantly, have their own ambitions regarding the future of the Middle East). Lawrence, without at first intending to, becomes the de facto leader of the loose-knit Arab alliance. 
    The star-studded cast includes Peter O'Toole in the title role (his first leading part, which makes him an instant star), Alec Guiness, Anthony Quinn, Omar Sharif, Jack Hawkins, Anthony Qualye, Arthur Kennedy (as war correspondent Lowell Thomas, who made Lawrence world famous), Claude Rains and Jose Ferrer. The film received seven Oscars, including Best Picture and Director.


1962, Directed by David Lean


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