LAWRENCE OF ARABIA: The Essentials
An untested, undisciplined scholar making maps for British Intelligence during World War I discovers the hero within when he goes on a fact-finding mission in the Arabian Desert. What starts as a search for intelligence about the Arab Revolt against the Turks, turns into an exercise in courage, leadership and betrayal. T.E. Lawrence takes control of the revolution, leading the Arabs to victory against England's Turkish enemies, only to discover that his superiors have no intention of leaving the men he's come to regard as brothers in charge of their own homeland. The hero is left shattered, doubting his greatest achievements and living in seclusion until his lifelong need for speed and excitement results in a tragic motorcycle accident.
Director: David Lean
Producer: Sam Spiegel and David Lean for Horizon Pictures
Screenplay: Robert Bolt
Based on Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T.E. Lawrence
Cinematography: Freddie A. Young
Editing: Anne V. Coates
Art Direction: John Stoll and John Box
Music: Maurice Jarre
Cast: Peter O'Toole (T.E. Lawrence), Alec Guinness (Prince Feisal), Anthony Quinn (Auda abu Tayi), Jack Hawkins (General Allenby), Jose Ferrer (Turkish Bey), Anthony Quayle (Colonel Harry Brighton), Claude Rains (Mr. Dryden), Arthur Kennedy (Jackson Bentley), Omar Sharif (Sherif Ali ibn el Kharish).
Why LAWRENCE OF ARABIA is Essential
Lawrence of Arabia was hailed by some critics as the first "thinking-man's epic," a title that has also been applied to the 1959 version of Ben-Hur. Most critics agree it is that rare epic in which every grandiose shot and cinematic flourish serves a purpose in either telling the story or exploring the title character. For many critics, this makes it the most intelligent of all epic films.
In introducing the film for Turner Classic Movies' The Big Picture series, director Martin Scorsese, who helped in the film's restoration, praised director David Lean for filling his biggest scenes with small, telling details. This is nothing new. D.W. Griffith had done the same in his Birth of a Nation (1915), while Sergei Eisenstein had used such details to craft the history-making "Odessa Steps" montage in Battleship Potemkin, but it is one factor that distinguishes the screen's greatest epics.
T.E. Lawrence joins a long line of obsessive dreamer-heroes who have become a staple of director David Lean's work. Other characters in that tradition include Ralph Richardson's crusading scientist in Breaking the Sound Barrier (1952), Katharine Hepburn's romantic schoolteacher in Summertime (1955), Alec Guinness' dedicated prisoner of war in The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) and the title characters in Doctor Zhivago (1965) and Ryan's Daughter (1970).
Lawrence of Arabia marked the birth of a production dream team for David Lean. Writer Robert Bolt would go on to script his Doctor Zhivago, for which he would win an Academy Award, and Ryan's Daughter, which would star Bolt's wife, Sarah Miles. Cinematographer Freddie Young would work on the same three films, winning a second Oscar (the first was for Lawrence of Arabia) for Ryan's Daughter. Composer Maurice Jarre would better them both, working on those two films as well as Lean's final effort, A Passage to India (1984). He would win Oscars for Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago and A Passage to India.
by Frank Miller