Film and Food

Movies reviews with matching food – eat, watch, enjoy

Best Picture – Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

Starring Peter O’Toole, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn and Omar Sharif

Rating 9/10

This film has been made to savour. Like a decadent, expensive, rich meal, Lawrence of Arabia may cost you (time) but it is worth it. It is slow without feeling slow. You can almost feel the dust in your nostrils as you explore the desert through Lawrence’s eyes.

It is World War I, Cairo. T.E. Lawrence (O’Toole) is a Lieutenant who is sent on a journey across the desert to find out if Prince Faisal (Guinness) is keen to help out the British against the Turkish invaders. It is on this first trip across the sand, that Lawrence falls in love with its vastness and its people. It is also where he loses his British identity and becomes part Arab, fighting a war not just for his homeland but for his new friends.

This ultimately drives him crazy. A pacifist, Lawrence’s desert experience turns him into a blood thirsty madman. In the end his desire for his new pals to gain independence from the British and freedom from the Turks, whips his brain into a frenzy that eventually sends him home and to his untimely death.

Oh… my… goodness, this is a brilliant film. The performances are perfect. O’Toole’s incredible talent is on display for the entire 3 1/2 hours. He is Lawrence. He looks incredible (except, perhaps for the fake blonde hair). He is vulnerable and ‘real’. This film also shows off the true stars of the 60’s who were also incredible actors: Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn (who played Auda abu Tayi – a tribal leader), the gorgeous Omar Sharif (played Lawrence’s best bud,  Sherif Ali ibn el Kharish) and Jack Hawkins (General Allenby). This cast is amazing. It gives such depth to an already impressive script and production.

This is a quiet film. When there’s music, there’s music, mostly in the big scenes where they are travelling from here to there. The important scenes are only punctuated by ambient noise, otherwise there is silence. Very effective.

The scenery is breathtaking. Black natural pyramids surrounded by red dirt and textured cliffs. The sun, it seems, is in every second shot and it’s magnificent. The desert is the true star. From dust devils (desert tornados) to quick sand, this is an incredible environment for the backdrop of this story.

The scenes of survival and victory are often short-lived, leaving a sombre taste in the mouth of audience members. It is a serious film with little to cheer about but that is what makes it so good. It feels real. It was real. It is loosely based on the life of the real T.E. Lawrence, an illegitimate Welshman who, as he says in the film, is extraordinary. He was able to successfully negotiate with Arab leaders to unite them and take the cities of Aqaba and Damascus.

Not all the characters in the film are based on real people, however but whether it is real or not really doesn’t matter in the end because this is a true Oscar film. It defines epic, even more so than Ben Hur. The tragedy, the struggle, the exotic locations and heroic actions of Lawrence make it a film you cannot afford to miss!

Lawrence of Arabia Trivia:

  • Albert Finney was offered the lead role of Lawrence after going through a lengthy and costly screen test (costing £100,000) but then turned it down as he didn’t want to sign such a long term contract!!!! Bet he lost a lot of sleep over that decision!
  • There were no speaking roles for women included.
  • Nearly all the motion on screen is left to right, enhancing the feeling of going on a journey! Well done Mr Lean.
  • The ‘David Lean’ lens was created for the scene where Omar comes through a mirage. It was a 482mm which was only ever used for this scene and never again!
  • O’Toole used a square of foam underneath his bottom when riding the camels. This was devised by the Bedouin extras! Nice boys.
  • He also didn’t see the movie for 20 years. When he did he was mighty impressed.
  • Most of  the Arabian soldiers are real soldiers lent to the crew by King Hussein of Jordan .
  • The film took 2 years in preproduction and 14 months of shooting in Jordan, Spain and Morocco.
  • Steven Spielberg LOVES this film! So do I!
How can we top this one? We can’t but we will certainly try. Join us next week for a fun one, Tom Jones, starring Albert Finney & Susannah York.

2 comments on “Best Picture – Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

  1. joem18b
    June 10, 2011

    Oliver Stone and I both saw this in the same theater in Phoenix in the same month. I was 18 and he was 16. That’s my movie claim to fame!

  2. you know me
    June 9, 2011

    I have watched it in bits and pieces as I get bored with it,but it is a epic of a movie,amazing cast and location

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