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David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia"
September 4, 2011 6:42 PM   Subscribe

Lawrence of Arabia is a 1962 British film based on the life of T. E. Lawrence. It was directed by David Lean... with the screenplay by Robert Bolt and Michael Wilson. The film stars Peter O'Toole in the title role. It is widely considered one of the greatest and most influential films in the history of cinema. The dramatic score by Maurice Jarre and the Super Panavision 70 cinematography by Freddie Young are also highly acclaimed.
posted by Trurl (105 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite

 
While filming, Peter O'Toole referred to co-star Omar Sharif as "Fred," stating that "no one in the world is called Omar Sharif. Your name must be Fred."
posted by Auden at 6:48 PM on September 4, 2011 [8 favorites]


And it's freakin' goregous in HD. See if you can catch it on HDNet, you'll never be quite the same when having the digital vs. analog conversation at the bars.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 6:50 PM on September 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bet it's not as good as Logan's Run.
posted by HuronBob at 6:51 PM on September 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


The film was brilliantly done. Getting a little background first is not a bad idea.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 6:52 PM on September 4, 2011


This is my favorite film. It is both candy for the eye and the mind.
posted by mungaman at 6:58 PM on September 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


HD or no, seeing it on a big screen is a must.
posted by rtha at 6:58 PM on September 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


Sweet! Friday night I brought home the video projector from work and draped a 9'x16' blackout curtain on the swingset to treat a dozen teenagers at my son's Bday party to a backyard drive-in. One of the kids brought his collection of slasher movies. I dusted off an old DVD player I had in the garage and when I turned it on I found my long lost copy of Lawrence of Arabia still in the tray from several years back. I hit Play to test the setup, focus and sound and... just let it roll. One by one the kids drifted out to the yard and watched the whole thing.
posted by hal9k at 6:59 PM on September 4, 2011 [20 favorites]


I had the good fortune to see it at the Ziegfeld in NYC about a decade ago when the digital restoration was released into theaters. On the giant screen, the match/desert cut.....wow.....I think it was the closest I've come to an ecstatic experience.
posted by Bromius at 7:01 PM on September 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


My Ziegfeld viewing, back in the analog era, remains the greatest experience of my movie-going life.
posted by Trurl at 7:03 PM on September 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


I myself think it must be seen in trailer format, on a laptop screen, while fighting pop-ups of Lady Gaga. But that's just me.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:07 PM on September 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


And it's got Obi Wan Kenobi before he was famous.
posted by hal9k at 7:09 PM on September 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


David Lean could make an entire audience closely stare at a dot on the horizon for an eternity.

Not many people can do this.
posted by ovvl at 7:13 PM on September 4, 2011 [13 favorites]


Is that the same Peter O'Toole from Thomas Kinkade's Christmas Cottage?
posted by The White Hat at 7:14 PM on September 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


> I myself think it must be seen in trailer format, on a laptop screen, while fighting pop-ups of Lady Gaga.

The trick is not to mind that it hurts.
posted by jfuller at 7:15 PM on September 4, 2011 [13 favorites]


This is one of those instances where the film is better than the book.
posted by euphorb at 7:24 PM on September 4, 2011


I myself think it must be seen in trailer format, on a laptop screen, while fighting pop-ups of Lady Gaga.

Thy mother mated with a scorpion.
posted by hal9k at 7:26 PM on September 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


This is one of those instances where the film is better than the book.

We will never know. T. E. Lawrence lost the only copy of his original manuscript in a train station. He made an effort to recreate it, but apparently much of it could not be summoned a second time.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:32 PM on September 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Several years ago, I actually got to shake his hand at a meet & greet: just a couple seconds in a reception line of sorts. Tired and getting old and probably at least a little sloshed, he still had an absolutely amazing presence. The word 'charisma' was invented for people like him.
posted by easily confused at 7:43 PM on September 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Peter O'Toole, that is..... lordy, where IS my head?!?
posted by easily confused at 7:44 PM on September 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


When referring to Peter O'Toole, I don't think you have to specify "at least a little sloshed."

It's pretty much accepted as a given.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 7:47 PM on September 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


He made an effort to recreate it

Wow, I didn't recall that, StickyCarpet, but there it is in the preface to my copy. The "effort to recreate it" is one of my favorite books. It's a shame that some of the characters in the book couldn't have been brought to the screen but there were only three and a half hours' worth of it and there was too much brilliant cinematography - cutting any of that would have been a real crime.

Nice one, trurl, I know what is on tonight's reading list.
posted by jet_silver at 7:47 PM on September 4, 2011


Fun fact: There's not a single woman with a speaking role in the entire film.
posted by pts at 7:54 PM on September 4, 2011 [9 favorites]


Less fun fact: for a movie about World War I set in the Arabian peninsula that's not exactly surprising.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 7:56 PM on September 4, 2011 [9 favorites]


First saw it on a super-big screen, at the Cinema Imperial in Montreal, sunk deep in a plush, red velvet seat.

If there is a greater cinematic experience, I do not know of it. And that comes with full apologies to Mr. Alfred Hitchcock, watching for the first time Dial M for Murder in original 3D, sunk deep in a plush, red velvet seat at the Cinema Rialto.
posted by Capt. Renault at 7:58 PM on September 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


I hope to someday see this film on a gigantic screen. It's gorgeous on any screen, but I can only imagine.
posted by j03 at 7:59 PM on September 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


The White Hat: "Is that the same Peter O'Toole from Thomas Kinkade's Christmas Cottage?"

.
posted by deborah at 8:02 PM on September 4, 2011


... And?
posted by dobbs at 8:02 PM on September 4, 2011


T. E. Lawrence lost the only copy of his original manuscript in a train station. He made an effort to recreate it, but apparently much of it could not be summoned a second time.

Nevertheless you can still read Seven Pillars of Wisdom, and after all, the movie wasn't based on the lost manuscript.
posted by kenko at 8:07 PM on September 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Since we have some O'Toole fans here, I'm going to put in a word for one of my favorite obscure, eccentric film of his, "Rogue Male." It's not Lawrence of Arabia, its a cheap made for TV movie, but it's one hell of a performance.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:15 PM on September 4, 2011


Looking back on it, what Lawrence did was the seed of our sorrows. He destroyed the multi-ethnic Ottoman empire. His actions enabled the British and French to temporarily colonize the area leaving poorly defined borders, and race wars. He trained the first wave of insurgents that would continue to terrorize the region through to today.

Amazing film though.
posted by humanfont at 8:31 PM on September 4, 2011 [8 favorites]


And it's got Obi Wan Kenobi before he was famous.

What, I say, what are you smoking, son?

On another note, does anyone else find it insanely frustrating that clips from a remastered HD version of Lawrence of Arabia were used endlessly by Sony in its early marketing of the Blu-ray format, and five years later, WE STILL DON"T HAVE THE BLOODY MOVIE ON BLU-RAY?
posted by McCoy Pauley at 8:31 PM on September 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


I've seen it in 70mm a few times. HUGE AND BEAUTIFUL. The scene when Omar Sharif rides in from the horizon. Good lord.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:31 PM on September 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


What, I say, what are you smoking, son?

Oh, Christ yes. Sir Alec is the acme, the zenith, the paragon of all actors -- someone whom you can see in different productions again and again and again, and despite looking exactly the fucking same in every movie, you cannot fucking tell for the life of you that this is the same fucking guy.

They can waterboard you, they can put you on the rack, they can show you every piece of objective evidence, but nevertheless, it will be impossible for you to admit that this is the same fucking guy.
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:38 PM on September 4, 2011 [8 favorites]


Only 'cause I didn't see it mentioned: Filmed largely at Whilte Sands National Monument in New Mexico. I had no idea who Lawrence of Arabia was when I was 12, but miles and miles of white gypsum sand are pretty impressive nonetheless.
posted by phrits at 8:40 PM on September 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


T. E. Lawrence lost the only copy of his original manuscript in a train station. He made an effort to recreate it, but apparently much of it could not be summoned a second time.

So you're saying...nothing is written?
posted by Bromius at 8:43 PM on September 4, 2011 [10 favorites]


"What, I say, what are you smoking, son?"

I recall reading an interview where he was good-naturedly indignant that not only did people think Star Wars made him famous, but also that many people thought he was dead because <spoiler>Vader killed Obi-wan</spoiler>
posted by Pinback at 8:47 PM on September 4, 2011


Watched this film for the first time last year. My favorite dialog was:

Sherif Ali: Have you no fear, English?
T.E. Lawrence: My fear is my concern.

On reflection, this was really liberating for me with regards to my own thoughts. It's like, yeah, I may be frightened, or nervous, or confident, or whatever – what the fuck is it you? That's basically what he's saying. Ah, I enjoy that kind of subtlety.
posted by quadog at 8:47 PM on September 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


David Lean could make an entire audience closely stare at a dot on the horizon for an eternity.

So could Kubric

"Is that fucking spaceship moving?"
posted by the noob at 8:47 PM on September 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


Anthony Lane's lengthy introduction to the life and work of David Lean, from the New Yorker.
posted by Ian A.T. at 8:49 PM on September 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


Ah, perhaps my favorite film of all time.

Peter O'Toole on Letterman - making a grand entrance on a camel and telling tales of Lawrence of Arabia
Part 2 - O'Toole has always been quite the charming raconteur.
posted by madamjujujive at 9:01 PM on September 4, 2011 [11 favorites]


Is that the same Peter O'Toole from Thomas Kinkade's Christmas Cottage?

Money, dear boy.
posted by McCoy Pauley at 9:02 PM on September 4, 2011


I first saw Lawrence of Arabia in the original release at (I think) the Coliseum Theatre in Seattle. It is really spectacular on the big screen.

Of the regimes installed by the British and French, I think only Jordan is still controlled by the Hashemites. The Saudis deposed them in Arabia. As a result, Lawrence is not remembered with much fondness there. The third Hashemite kingdom was Iraq, but overthrown in 1958.

Chapter XXXIII of Seven Pillars of Wisdom contains an early and very astute analysis of irregular warfare.

And The Road is one the best things ever written about riding motorcycles.
posted by warbaby at 9:11 PM on September 4, 2011 [7 favorites]


at 8:17 here , are the lyrics to the theme song of Lawrence of Arabia. Oh, and the encore is at 9:50 here. Enjoy.
posted by brando_calrissian at 9:19 PM on September 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Seattle peeps (and open-wallet types, such as film pros): Lawrence, among others, is upcoming shortly in 70mm at the Cinerama, part of their every so often large-format film festival. Expecting I shall go, this will make I think four full-scale screenings I have attended. The ongoing lack of a Blu-Ray edition is absurd.


"who are you?"
posted by mwhybark at 9:24 PM on September 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Only 'cause I didn't see it mentioned: Filmed largely at Whilte Sands National Monument in New Mexico.

Are you sure? Both IMDB and wikipedia seem to disagree, and a google search brings up this thread on the first page. Maybe some stock shots (there were some stock shots of desert taken in California), but I believe all the action happened in North Africa, Jordan or Spain.

One of my all time favorites. Dr Zhivago is a bit syrupy, but an incredible David Lean special as well. And you can see Lean in Lawrence, he's on the motorcycle yelling to Lawrence at the Suez.
posted by roquetuen at 9:26 PM on September 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I believe that's called a Stupid Pet Trick.
posted by Chuckles at 9:29 PM on September 4, 2011


Is that the same Peter O'Toole from Thomas Kinkade's Christmas Cottage?

Wow, that movie is a nadir in Chris Elliot's career. O'Toole can't be that hard up, right??? And I liked Cabin Boy.
posted by roquetuen at 9:31 PM on September 4, 2011


Is that the same Peter O'Toole from Thomas Kinkade's Christmas Cottage?
posted by The White Hat

What you did just there? You wrecked my mellow mood, is what you did.
posted by nola at 9:45 PM on September 4, 2011


Omar Sharif's later work has also been a bit unremarkable.
posted by humanfont at 9:51 PM on September 4, 2011


Is that the same Peter O'Toole from Thomas Kinkade's Christmas Cottage?

Bear in mind Raul Julia's last role was M. Bison in Steet Fighter, and Orson Wells went out with Transformers: The Movie.

Peter O'Toole at least has Ratatouille and the remarkable character of Anton Ego in his recent repertoire, should he kick off.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:00 PM on September 4, 2011


From the third link. Funniest thing I'll read all day:

The extent to which actors involved in those events looked at themselves through the lens of the film may be most spectacularly illustrated by General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, the commander of Operation Desert Storm, who confessed in his memoir It Doesn’t Take a Hero (1993), “that, when he received as a gift from the Emir of Kuwait the garb of a desert sheikh, he looked at himself admiringly in the mirror and could not help but think of the scene in the movie when Peter O’Toole donned his sheikh’s white robes for the first time.”
posted by uncanny hengeman at 10:02 PM on September 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I watched this very recently, like the past 6 months.

A lot of classics don't hold up. They either were a product of the times, or simply were filmed for a different audience.

A few really hold up. Casablanca, Citizen Kane, Manchurian Candidate.

And Lawrence of Arabia. It's fucking gorgeous and hugely entertaining. If you haven't seen it, watch it. Peter O'Toole owns the screen.
posted by Lord_Pall at 10:08 PM on September 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


My Celtic punk band was called The Peter O'Tooles. I kept having dreams in which I was a party, and people run up to me, and they say "Peter O'Toole is here! And then the crowd falls silent, and parts, and Peter O'Toole strides through to face me. He looks at me for a moment, and then says two words:

"Stop it."

My band is called The Ultramods now. Not because of the dreams, but becauae we expanded beyone Celtic Punk. That being said, the dreams were very disturbing to me, as I am a fan of Peter O'Toole, and would be mortified to upset him.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:08 PM on September 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Saw this on the big screen as a teen and obsessed over the 'not minding that it hurts' scene and the one where O'Toole unwinds his headgear after a long ride through the desert to reveal that pair of startling blue eyes. (Noel Coward to Peter O'Toole: "If you'd been any prettier, it would have been Florence of Arabia.") It lead to my putting Seven Pillars of Wisdom on my book list in my final year at school. I don't think my (Dutch) English teacher had ever heard of it.
posted by prolific at 10:09 PM on September 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Omar Sharif's later work has also been a bit unremarkable.

You are not dissing his bridge strategy. Not.

A lot of classics don't hold up. They either were a product of the times, or simply were filmed for a different audience.

Speaking of David Lean and Omar Sharif, I found this to be true of Dr. Zhivago. To be sure, some critics hated it when it came out, but when I saw it there was this nostalgic aura of it being such a gorgeous, epic film. The cinematography is there in a few places, but the story is missing a necessary middle act and the entirety simply comes across as inauthentic. I know they couldn't actually film in Russia, but sheesh. I've rarely been so disappointed by a film I saw as a child.
posted by dhartung at 10:26 PM on September 4, 2011


A Report on Mesopotamia by T.E. Lawrence, August 2nd, 1920
posted by homunculus at 10:26 PM on September 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've been hoping for a reason to link this on metafilter! I don't think I have yet. Lawrence of Arabia: The Authorized Biography of T.E. Lawrence. This is a really fantastic read. Make sure you track down the hardcover version as I believe the paperback has had some major material sections removed. A large bulk of the book covers his World War I operations; at the time the book was written, great swathes of reports had just been unclassified but until that point no one had dug around in the boxes to actually see what was there. The behind-the-scenes politicking over the carving up of the Middle East (before the war even started) is eye-opening.
posted by curious nu at 10:58 PM on September 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


I was looking through the cinematography links. This is one of those rare films that you could take almost any random frame and it would look like a carefully composed still photo. And that site has 572 stills at 1280p.

Now this is how you frame a scene. I can't think of any contemporary film that would attempt this type of shot. And it's a Day for Night shot that actually doesn't suck. They always suck. Make it not suck and you get an Academy Award for Best Cinematography
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:15 PM on September 4, 2011


Watched this in college. Only worth watching on the big screen, with the intermission.
posted by ZeusHumms at 11:17 PM on September 4, 2011


So, hey, does it pass the Bechdel Movie test?
posted by b33j at 11:39 PM on September 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've seen it in 70mm a few times. HUGE AND BEAUTIFUL. The scene when Omar Sharif rides in from the horizon. Good lord.

I'll say. On the big screen, it's overwhelming. The score by Maurice Jarre is fantastic as well, and includes electronic/synthesized sounds. It was written in six weeks, according to Wikipedia.

I saw the film a few times when I was a kid-- nine, ten years old-- and found something about it disturbing and confusing which I couldn't put a name to until years later: homoeroticism. All that "I will drink only from your water bottle, Prince Ali" and so on. For more on how the war in the Middle East shaped the modern world, and still affects the world today, see Margaret MacMillan's Paris 1919, her history of the post WWI peace talks where the Imperial powers carved up Europe.
posted by jokeefe at 11:55 PM on September 4, 2011


Oh crap, my cinematography hotlink didn't work. Its image is 161/572 on this page, you'll have to hunt for it a bit. It's a night scene with camel riders and the horizon is so close to the top of the frame, and lined up with the rider's heads. Go look for it, that is one hell of a photo. And it's just one frame of a long riding sequence.
posted by charlie don't surf at 12:00 AM on September 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


A few years ago, I caught a revival showing that was making the rounds, intermission and all. One of the best filmgoing experiences of my life--nowadays the setpieces like the taking of Aqaba would be all CGI but instead they really grabbed a couple hundred horses and had them run hell for leather at a town.

Though now I can't think of the scene with future Emperor of the Known Universe Jose Ferrer without recalling Lawrence's mentions in Tim Powers' novel Declare.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 12:15 AM on September 5, 2011


I watched the 70mm print at the IMAX at Waterloo and it was incredible. Do visit Lawrence's cottage, Clouds Hill, if you get the chance.
posted by Huw at 12:17 AM on September 5, 2011


I thought Alec Guinness was the perfect George Smiley.
posted by Cranberry at 12:30 AM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


What is it about blue-eyed actors? Peter O'Toole, Paul Newman, Henry Fonda (irl Fonda's eyes could be seen across a room), now on TV Chris O'Donnell in NCIS-LA has innumerable close ups with his blue eyes highlighted.
posted by Cranberry at 12:36 AM on September 5, 2011


Wow. Amesia, Sons of Anarchy, and now I see a post on Lawrence of Arabia. I go away for a few hours and you guys post stuff about some of my favorite works of art. For sheer stunning visuals, I don't think there's a movie that could ever top it. I haven't even gotten to see it proper 70mm, yet. You take the desert, the character that stole pretty much every scene, you add Peter O' Toole, Sir Alec Guinness, Omar Sharif, and Anthony Quinn? Jesus fucking Christ.

(Truly, for some men nothing is written unless they write it.)
posted by dirigibleman at 12:55 AM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


at 8:17 here , are the lyrics to the theme song of Lawrence of Arabia

Nah that's not right. The lyrics go:
"This guy is called Lawrence,
Lawrence of Arabia,
He doesn't like labia,
He likes Arab boys."
posted by w0mbat at 12:55 AM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Love L. of A! Great post. Thanks trurl!

My other favorite O'Toole movies: The Lion In Winter, watching O'Toole and Hepburn hamming it up is really fun; and My Favorite Year, a little, sweet, cornball of a movie with O'Toole's character based loosely on Errol Flynn near the rather sad end of his life.
posted by marsha56 at 1:26 AM on September 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


While being completely open to the idea of being attracted to another man in theory, in practice this has happened to me only twice. Once was a guy I waited tables with when I was twenty-one...it took me weeks and weeks to realize that I had a crush on him.

The other was while watching a biographical documentary on Peter O'Toole. It was loaded with an interview with him when he was in his sixties and he was so attractive to me I was stunned. I have no idea what it is that makes Peter O'Toole sexually attractive to me in a universe of men who are not, but he sure as hell is.

All that gentle, smiling intelligence and charisma certainly has something to do with it.

Lawrence of Arabia is, from one point of view, a notoriously extreme example of a film which fails the Bechdel Test. But, in many ways it is very appropriate that it does so; and, furthermore, it's a great work of cinematic art. So, arguably, it's not at all the sort of film the Bechdel Test was designed to criticize. On the other hand, maybe it is. Its homoeroticism in the context of depicted misogynist cultures certainly is suggestive of a larger problem. It's interesting in this respect, as well as many others.

Regardless, it's a damn fine movie that is unsurpassed in the gorgeousness of its photography and filled with acting of the very highest caliber. It's also wonderfully-but-perfectly-appropriately leisurely in its storytelling. A great film.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:14 AM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Friend of mine worked as a runner on an Irish production in the 80s where P O'T was starring. Part of her job was keeping an eye on the briefcase. The one with the whisky and coke.
posted by Devonian at 2:15 AM on September 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


: Oh God, "Lion In Winter" is such a fabulous movie. It is so full of intelligent and bitchy dialogue coupled with some utterly wonderful acting.
posted by rmd1023 at 2:43 AM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is one of those instances where the film is better than the book.

I disagree wholeheartedly. The movie is obviously visually spectacular, but Seven Pilllars of Wisdom is one of the greatest autobiographies ever written. Fantastic density and complexity, too much to capture in even a four hour movie.
posted by zipadee at 6:07 AM on September 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Its homoeroticism in the context of depicted misogynist cultures certainly is suggestive of a larger problem.

The homoeroticism and the absence of women is an accurate representation of the book. It was clearly a major motivational driver for Lawrence and he discusses that.
posted by zipadee at 6:09 AM on September 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Looking back on it, what Lawrence did was the seed of our sorrows. He destroyed the multi-ethnic Ottoman empire. His actions enabled the British and French to temporarily colonize the area leaving poorly defined borders, and race wars. He trained the first wave of insurgents that would continue to terrorize the region through to today.

Amazing film though.
posted by humanfont at 8:31 PM on 9/4
[4 favorites −] Favorite added! [Flagged]

I have to agree, the takedown of the Ottoman Empire was a Bad Thing all around. Then again, T.E. Lawrence was only doing his job.
Unfortunately he linked up with the Wahabbis instead of other disgruntled Arabs.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 6:36 AM on September 5, 2011


In addition to being one of the great film biographies, in addition to being one of the great war movies, it is also - in Ali's devotion to Lawrence - one of the great love stories.

And yet, incredibly, it is also one of the great philosophical dramas. Like Hamlet, Lawrence is forced to articulate his greatness in a world of politics and treachery that is unworthy of him - leaving him torn between contemplation and action - the conflict expressing itself in displays of foppish eloquence.
posted by Trurl at 6:48 AM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am not sure if you are all aware that O'Toole was actually related to Lawrence. The sisters of that proper marriage that Lawrence talks about around the desert camp fire? Yeah, O'Toole is the descendent of Lawrence's family, on the legitimate side.
posted by jadepearl at 6:55 AM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Right after the Fox Theater in Detroit was restored to its mid 30's glory, they showed a number of classic films: Dr. Zhivago, Ben-Hur, The Ten Commandments, and Lawrence of Arabia. These were shown on a HUGE screen with live organ music preceding the film and at intermission. There is simply no better way to experience a grand and sweeping epic like "Lawrence".
By the way, if you want to see O'Toole at his scenery-chewing finest, check out "The Ruling Class".
posted by TDavis at 7:27 AM on September 5, 2011


Lawrence "linked up" with forces loyal to the Sharif of Mecca, Husayn Bin Ali, a member of the Banu Hashim. The Banu Hashim controlled the Hejaz for several hundred years and were in no way associated with Muhammad ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab.

Katjusa Roquette, you were obviously thinking of the relationship between Captain William Shakespear and Abdul-Aziz bin Sa'ud.
posted by halcyon_daze at 7:34 AM on September 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Other related reading surrounded with Wikipedia
-The Sykes-Picot Agreement
-McMahon-Hussein Correspondence
posted by humanfont at 7:35 AM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Becket [Wikipedia] makes an excellent double feature with The Lion in Winter. O'Toole plays the same king as a younger man, and Richard Burton plays Thomas Becket.

Omar Sharif's later work has also been a bit unremarkable.

It has been a while since Top Secret!
posted by kirkaracha at 8:27 AM on September 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Lawrence "linked up" with forces loyal to the Sharif of Mecca, Husayn Bin Ali, a member of the Banu Hashim. The Banu Hashim controlled the Hejaz for several hundred years and were in no way associated with Muhammad ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab.

Katjusa Roquette, you were obviously thinking of the relationship between Captain William Shakespear and Abdul-Aziz bin Sa'ud.


Just what I was about to point out. Lawrence was working with the Hashemite dynasty, whereas it was ibn Sa'ud who had Wahhabi support when he drove the Hashemites out of the Hejaz.

Also notable is that Shakespear's successor as ibn Sa'ud's advisor was Harry St. John Philby (father of the infamous Kim Philby). It was Philby who steered ibn Sa'ud into signing a deal with an American oil company rather than the British companies who were trying to get the Saudi oil concession. Add him to the list of the architects of our present mess.
posted by McCoy Pauley at 8:40 AM on September 5, 2011


I almost cried real tears when we visited San Francisco a couple of months ago and discovered the Castro Theatre had shown Lawrence the day before we arrived.
posted by the bricabrac man at 8:41 AM on September 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


The Mad Magazine parody was titled "Florence of Arabia," with all the jokes you might expect by the usual gang of idiots.
posted by warbaby at 9:24 AM on September 5, 2011


Growing up there have been a few excellent decisions I made for whatever reason and for which I am most grateful.

Last year, I rented a car and drove from Key West to Miami to take 67-year old sci-fi buff Michael Chodzin up to see the 3D IMAX edition of Avatar. It was the classic breakdown:

Car rental: $75
Fuel: $60
Movie tickets: $50
Popcorn and cokes: $20

Avatar with 67-year old scifi buff Mike Chodzin: Priceless.

That was one of the best of my good decisions.

Another was in hiring a cab and driving 70 miles from outside Atlanta to Phipps Plaza in Buckhead—then one of the largest movie screens in the US (now 14 screens, thank you AMC)—to experience a restored 70mm edition of Lawrence of Arabia.

I was not even 30 yet. It was youthful decision, one that felt like a gamble at the time. I had just got kicked out of (my first) college and was uncertain of my next step. Money was dear.

But just on aesthetic instinct, I lept.

And I swear to goodness, intermission and all, that lone moment of potentially youthful indiscretion nearly 25 years ago stands out and has continued to serve me well as a guiding light for good decision making on my life path. That decision was the embodiment of the Basil King quotation: "Go at it boldly, and you'll find unexpected forces closing round you and coming to your aid."

What I took and kept from Lawrence of Arabia and my experience to go to it at that time is this:

Somethings are worth more than others. But a few things are worth it all.
posted by Mike Mongo at 9:33 AM on September 5, 2011 [10 favorites]


Add him to the list of the architects of our present mess.

Nah, it's the Brits' fault. It's always their fault. They screwed up everything. Almost all our modern military conflicts started with the Brits. And we stupidly picked up their White Man's Burden.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:42 AM on September 5, 2011


I saw Lawrence of Arabia a few years ago at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood... they still have working three-strip Cinerama projectors there, but it might have been single-strip 70mm at that showing, I'm not sure. Either way, the size and curved screen (and great film, obviously) made it one of the most memorable movie-going experiences of my life.

I really wish the studios would ditch the whole 3d thing and go with large-format film... it's incredibly immersive; whether you like Nolan's Batman or not, the IMAX scenes in the second film just looked so much better (if you saw it in IMAX) than the regular-format scenes, it's like night and day, imo. Seeing LoA was just like that, only it was the whole film.

You can actually get a sense of the Cinerama experience if you watch How the West Was Won on Blu Ray in Cinerama mode on a big tv... they curve the image so it looks like it's being projected on a Cinerama screen. What an odd movie, though.
posted by Huck500 at 9:48 AM on September 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


One of the best presents my father ever gave me was taking me to see this on an IMAX screen. The ride through the desert still epitomizes determination for me. Thanks, Dad.
posted by stinkycheese at 10:24 AM on September 5, 2011


It's not the Brits fault that the autocratic empires were decayed and unstable.

WWI did in the autocratic empires: Russia, Turkey, Germany and Austro-Hungary. They were replaced with constitutional republics, few if any of which have survived as originally established: the Soviet Union, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia are some glaring examples of how badly that fared.

WWI finished off the empires, but the transition to republics was torn apart by the failure to resolve minority rights. The Versailles / Wilsonian notion of ethno-linguistic nationalism failed mostly because of the attempt to guarantee minority security as groups with collective rights, rather than by establishing the concept of universal individual human rights in international law. We're still dealing with the problems of ethno-linguistic nationalism all over the world.

WWII may have reduced some of the tensions by massacre, genocide and the most massive displacement of refugees in human history, followed by the stagnation of the Cold War. It's not a brilliant period in history. But it did establish at least the notion of universal human rights.

The problems of ethnic minorities in the autocratic empires were dealt with by repression and systematic inequality. So don't be pining for the lost "multiculturalism" of the Ottoman or Austro-Hungarian Empires. They were pretty horrid despotisms, as the Greeks, Armenians and Kurds (to name a few) could tell you.

As the Arab Spring has demonstrated, we are a long way from seeing socio-economic peace and justice established.
posted by warbaby at 10:50 AM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


> While filming, Peter O'Toole referred to co-star Omar Sharif as "Fred," stating that "no one in the world is called Omar Sharif. Your name must be Fred."

This from a guy called Peter O'Toole.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:57 AM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


O'Toole is the descendent of Lawrence's family, on the legitimate side.

Cite? Does not seem to jibe with the known facts about either family. That legitimate side was landed gentry; O'Toole was the son of a bookie.
posted by dhartung at 2:20 PM on September 5, 2011


Not sure if this was linked upthread, but mobilereads has a of lovely epub version of Seven Pillars with (at least some of) the original illustrations.
posted by merelyglib at 2:25 PM on September 5, 2011


OK, this thread set me on a Peter O'Toole jag ... for any other O'Tooliphiles out there, here are three really fascinating hour-long interviews with Charlie Rose. They are marked as being 2000 and 2002 - and this more recent one about 4 years ago - a really wonderful series. I will be sorry tomorrow that I did not stay focused on some work deadlines, but this thread triggered a delightful afternoon.
posted by madamjujujive at 4:00 PM on September 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


The Ruling Class: awesome.

A couple of us have been reading Seven Pillars, slowly, over many months. What a strange, gorgeous, fascinating book!
posted by doctornemo at 9:14 AM on September 6, 2011


Looking back on it, what Lawrence did was the seed of our sorrows. He destroyed the multi-ethnic Ottoman empire. His actions enabled the British and French to temporarily colonize the area leaving poorly defined borders, and race wars. He trained the first wave of insurgents that would continue to terrorize the region through to today.

Seven Pillars is an amazing book that everyone should read, don't get me wrong, but if you really want to know about Lawrence and the long-term impact of his actions on the middle east, I highly recommend the massive biography by Jeremy Wilson which discussed the long-term repercussions of Lawrence's actions in depth. (Wilson in the biographer authorized by the Lawrence estate, and also maintains the very interesting T E Lawrence Studies Website which is full of primary source material, and which includes an article on the historical accuracy of the film.)

Although his views on the future of the region were certainly influential, he was often at odds with both the British and French governments, mainly on the topic of the Arab's capacity to self-govern (his strongly voiced view) vs. the necessity for the English and the French to split up the area into "protectorates". It is absolutely true that his actions led to the mess we have today, but it is also true to say that he abhorred the colonial ambitions of his Government and worked very hard to bring them around to the idea of Arab Independence. I think it's fair to say that if he'd been able to persuade them of the correctness of his view, the world today would be a very, very different place.
posted by anastasiav at 12:55 PM on September 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


It was [St John] Philby who steered ibn Sa'ud into signing a deal with an American oil company rather than the British companies who were trying to get the Saudi oil concession. Add him to the list of the architects of our present mess.

Someone really needs to write a prequel to Declare.
posted by twirlip at 1:10 PM on September 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I saw Lawrence of Arabia a few years ago at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood...

You remind me of one of my favorite pieces of film criticism. In the book "The Making of 2001: a Space Odyssey" there is a reproduction of a letter that was sent to Stanley Kubrick condemning his new film and demanding a ticket refund. Also reproduced were his two ticket stubs from the Cinerama Dome.
posted by charlie don't surf at 1:25 PM on September 6, 2011


Another great O'Toole performance: The Stunt Man, where he plays (surprise!) a megalomaniac film director shooting an anti-war pic. Great flick.
posted by Bron at 3:16 PM on September 6, 2011


Is there a free podcast/audio book of 7 Pillars of Wisdom? My google Fu fails me and librivox came up empty.
posted by humanfont at 5:21 PM on September 6, 2011


Bromius, I was at one of the Ziegfeld showings, and it was stupendous. I never pass up a chance to see this on the big screen, but this blew my boots off. I love the parting shot of Omar.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 6:54 PM on September 6, 2011


Dhartung - drat, I am trying to find the citation which was from years ago while reading a book on Peter O'Toole. I hope that I have not been taken in by a dubious biography. The Chapman family had 4 daughters and the reference was how that side of the family denied the illegitimate Lawrence branch until TE Lawrence's fame then it was alright to claim the Lawrences. Peter O'Toole commented, in the text, on the change of his aunts on this.
posted by jadepearl at 11:36 AM on September 7, 2011


Someone really needs to write a prequel to Declare.

Dear Lord yes. Tim Powers has been known to write linked works (e.g., Last Call/Expiration Date/Earthquake Weather), so it's not beyond the realm of possibility.

For those who haven't read Declare, it offers a gloriously strange fictional exploration of the hidden histories behind the exploits of T.E. Lawrence, Kim Philby, and St. John Philby, while also touching on the fall of the Soviet Union, the peculiar foundations of the Berlin Wall, the much-discussed object on Mount Ararat, the tale of Solomon and the two mothers, and the particular difficulties faced by GRU radio operators in occupied Paris.
posted by McCoy Pauley at 9:54 PM on September 7, 2011


And "Declare" does this while still fitting all the exploration around all manner of actual historical facts. It just provides a different explanation for them. :)
posted by rmd1023 at 6:06 AM on September 8, 2011


jadepearl, it sounds like a misunderstanding to me. I've looked in Lawrence biographies and O'Toole biographies and there's no mention of what would certainly be a notable connection. It also seems logistically, if not socioeconomically, unlikely. Sorry!
posted by dhartung at 1:20 PM on September 8, 2011


DHartung, no need to apologize. Interesting, I found one dubious online reference that O'Toole's mother was from descended from Anglo-Irish gentry but nothing further.
posted by jadepearl at 7:27 AM on September 9, 2011


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