Reportedly, it is Steven Spielberg’s favorite film.
At 216 minutes, it has the longest running time of any live-action movie containing no dialogue spoken by a woman, in history. It received 10 Academy Award nominations and won seven Oscars. And on October 4th, almost exactly 50 years after its original release, it returns to the big screen for one night only.
Get your tickets early.
Lawrence of Arabia stars Peter O’Toole, Omar Sharif, Anthony Quinn, Alec Guinness, Claude Rains, Jack Hawkins, Anthony Quayle and Jose Ferrer. It’s the story of the real life T.E. Lawrence, a British military officer whose exploits in the Middle East during World War I are considered by most to be legendary. His autobiography, “Seven Pillars of Wisdom,” describe much of what is seen in the film and is a major work of military history.
Director David Lean and producer Sam Spiegel spent well over a year filming the movie. In fact, if you add in pre-production time to the months spent set, it took longer to make the movie than it actually took Lawrence in real life to accomplish everything he did during World War I to bring about victory for the British in the Middle East. Spiegel insisted on a two month break during the shooting schedule, during which actors Anthony Quinn, Omar Sharif, Anthony Quayle and Alec Guinness all worked on other projects.
Peter O’Toole was ultimately cast as “Lawrence” after Marlin Brando and Albert Finney both passed on the role. He was wonderful, even though on a physical level he was not a good choice. The real Lawrence stood only 5’6” and O’Toole was a shade under 6’3” at the time of filming. Most of the people the real Lawrence dealt with in life stood over and looked down (again, physically) on the man. But that only made his accomplishments all the more amazing.
T. E. Lawrence himself was approached long before his death about making a movie of his life and he refused. He was adamant and while he was alive there was no chance of this film being made. But when he died in 1935, his brother (executor of the estate) was eventually convinced to sell the film rights. Several projects were attempted but none ever got off the ground. Finally, hot off of their success with The Bridge on the River Kwai, Lean and Spiegel decided Lawrence of Arabia would be their next project.
Filming was supposed to take place exclusively in Jordan, but ultimately some scenes were shot in Morocco and Spain. Camels were problematic during filming, most of the cast had no experience riding them, and there were difficulties. In fact, O’Toole nearly died when he fell from a camel. He was actually saved by the camel, who stood over him and protected him from being trampled.
If you’ve never seen the film and you go see it during this special screening, pay close attention to the movement in the film. Almost all of it is from left to right. This was done deliberately by Lean, to make the film into a “journey”.
FOOTNOTE: Despite winning the Best Director Oscar for the film, Lawrence of Arabia wasn’t a great financial success for Lean. He didn’t see a single royalty check until 1978, 16 years after its release.
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