Lawrence of Arabia

by Erika Cox
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In 1962, director David Lean and producer Sam Spiegel presented a new and exciting film to the public. Lawrence of Arabia, featuring actor Peter O'Toole, became an Academy-award winning movie. Written by Robert Bolt and Michael Wilson, this film is based on the life of T.E. Lawrence, who was called Lawrence of Arabia. Today, it is still a film greatly cherished in the movie industry.

The movie is set as a flashback and begins with Lawrence, played by O'Toole, dying in a motorcycle accident. The flashback begins with Lawrence as a British lieutenant in Cairo, Egypt during the first World War. He is sent by Mr. Dryden to assess Prince Faisal regarding the revolt against Turkey. On the way, his guide is killed. As he nears Prince Faisal's camp, he meets another officer, who warns him to leave quietly. Of course, Lawrence ignores this warning and the prince is interested in Lawrence.

Lawrence convinces the prince to change his course of action and launch an attack on the town of Aqaba, by land. He is given fifty men to cross the Nefud Desert, which is considered impassible. One man, Gasim, falls behind during the night, and Lawrence turns back to save him, risking his own life. The army then meets with the powerful Howeitat tribe, and Lawrence convinces them to join his troops. There is a brief incident when a man from Lawrence's tribe kills a man from the Howeitat tribe over a blood feud. Lawrence vows to take care of the killer himself and is surprised to find that it is Gasim. He executes the man nonetheless and the two groups are banded together. They attack Aqaba and capture it.

Lawrence returns to Cairo victorious and is promoted. They then start guerrilla warfare with the Turks and American reporter Jackson Bentley makes Lawrence famous. He is captured during one battle, brutalized, and thrown into the streets. A changed man, Lawrence gives up fighting. Later, he is convinced to rejoin the battle and kills all with no mercy. He wins the battle and the Arabs set up an unsuccessful council to run the city. They leave before long, as does Lawrence who has been promoted to Colonel and find himself useless in Arabia.

Lawrence of Arabia was shot over more than a year's time in Jordan, Morocco, and Spain. Originally, the entire film was to be set in Jordan, put this plan was unsuccessful due to budget cuts and illness. The film first premiers in London, and later that same month, premiered in the United States.

A success from the beginning, Lawrence of Arabia had a unique visual style for that period and has influenced directors like Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and Martin Scorsese. The score, which was also critically acclaimed, was composed by Maurice Jarre. Other members of the cast include Alec Guinness as Prince Faisl, Claude Rains as Mr. Dryden, I.S. Johar as Gasim, Jack Hawkins as General Allenby, and a number of other talented men, like Omar Sharif, Jose Ferrer, Anthony Quayle, Arthur Kennedy, Donald Wolfit, Michael Ray, and Anthony Quinn. No woman plays a speaking role in this movie.

Lawrence of Arabia was nominated for ten Academy Awards in 1963, and won seven of them, including Best Director, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Sound, Best Film Editing, Best Music, and Best Picture. It also won a number of BAFTA Awards, as well as five Golden Globes.

The historical accuracy of the film is a bit questionable, as it is generally thought that maybe differences appear between the real Lawrence and the screen version of Lawrence. Most of the film's characters are based off of real people, and many of the events are historically correct, but the events as they actually happened are highly romanticized. O'Toole, who played Lawrence, was actually a much larger man than the real Lawrence, and he played the character with a sense of masochism and egotism that it is believed the real Lawrence did not show until after his capture.

Regardless of its flaws, Lawrence of Arabia continues to be a film that is highly acclaimed by critics. It regularly is named within the top ten of "best film" countdowns and continues to inspire actors, directors, and musicians today.

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