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Lawrence of Arabia
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Trivia & Fun Facts About LAWRENCE OF ARABIA

T.E. Lawrence was born in North Wales on August 16, 1888, the illegitimate son of a minor baronet who had disgraced himself by deserting his wife for his housekeeper.

Although it's never adequately explained in the film, Lawrence was assigned to observe the Arab revolt against the Turks because of his extensive touring of the Middle East as a student researching the crusades and his understanding of Middle Eastern languages (though there's some debate about how well he knew those languages).

There is also considerable debate about Lawrence's actual role in the revolt. Some say he led it himself, using Prince Feisal as a front. Others say he was simply a liaison transporting gold from England to Jordan.

Until 1919, Lawrence was little known in England. In fact, a history of World War I published in The London Times that year doesn't even mention him, though it features a section on the Arab campaign.

The legend of Lawrence of Arabia was popularized by American journalist Lowell Thomas, who had toured the theatres of war to drum up American support for the Allied war effort. Thomas returned to the U.S. in 1919 with extensive moving picture footage and photographs of action throughout Europe and Africa, which he featured in a series of presentations in New York. He had intended to present a series of rotating talks on different aspects of the war, but the one presentation that proved the biggest success was on the war in the Middle East. In it, he presented the first aerial footage ever taken of that area, along with accounts of General Allenby's campaign in the Holy Land and Lawrence's role in the Arab Revolt. British producer Percy Burton caught the show during a New York visit and was amazed to learn about Lawrence, a war hero he'd never heard of before. He booked the Lawrence show into Covent Garden, where it opened as The Last Crusade -- With Allenby in Palestine and Lawrence in Arabia on August 14, 1919. The response was overwhelming. The show was given a 10-minute standing ovation, and rave reviews ran not on the theatre pages, but on the front pages of all the major papers. When Thomas had to vacate Covent Garden at the start of the opera season in October, he moved to the 6,000-seat Royal Albert Hall. His was the first extended engagement ever to succeed there. In all, over a million people attended the presentations.

The immediate effect on Lawrence's life was to make him a celebrity throughout the country. He couldn't go out in public without being mobbed. Women deluged him with marriage proposals, some quite indecent. He finally retired to Oxford to work on his own account of the Arab campaign.

Thomas would eventually adapt his presentation to book form as With Lawrence in Arabia, the first biography of Lawrence. It would sell more than 100,000 copies in England.

Meanwhile, Lawrence was working on his own book. To drum up critical approval, he circulated early drafts to critics, including George Bernard Shaw, who wrote to him, "Confound you and your book: you are no more to be trusted with a pen than a child with a torpedo." But he also made several suggestions for revisions that Lawrence would accept graciously.

Seven Pillars of Wisdom was finally published, in a limited edition of 200 copies, in 1926. The book was so expensive to produce that it put Lawrence 13,000 pounds in debt, which led to his first, unsuccessful attempts to sell the rights to filmmakers.

At various points in his life, T.E. Lawrence called himself Ross, Shaw and Chapman to escape the fame he had helped create for himself.

Although generally ruled an accident, Lawrence's death in a 1935 motorcycle accident has inspired speculation that he committed suicide or was deliberately driven off the road.

Before producer Sam Spiegel announced his plans for Lawrence of Arabia, other producers had considered films about T.E. Lawrence to star such actors as Robert Donat, Leslie Howard, Laurence Olivier, Alec Guinness and Dirk Bogarde. Bogarde even suggested there was a club for actors once considered for the role. "We have even designed a tie. Dark background with motif of a burnoose and camel."

One assignment David Lean gave cinematographer Freddie Young was to figure out a way to photograph a mirage. While assembling equipment with which to film Lawrence of Arabia, Young came across a rarely used 482 mm lens. The piece, almost as long as a fire-hose nozzle, allowed him to get extreme telephoto shots. He immediately called Lean and told him he'd solved the mirage problem.

Omar Sharif almost made his Western film debut years before Lawrence of Arabia. In the mid-'50s, Columbia Pictures, which would later release Lawrence, was scouting Egyptian locations for Joseph and his Brethren, a Rita Hayworth vehicle. Sharif tried out for the stand-in for the as yet unnamed leading man, and so impressed director William Dieterle that he was offered the starring role. Unfortunately, the production was cancelled when Hayworth walked out on her contract to marry singer Dick Haymes.

When Omar Sharif tested to play Sherif Ali, Lean wanted to give the character facial hair to contrast with the fair, clean-shaven star, Peter O'Toole. He tried him with a beard but didn't like it. Then he fitted the actor with a mustache, which is how he played the role. Sharif had become a star in his native Egypt without facial hair. The impact he made in Lawrence of Arabia was so strong that he has kept the mustache for the rest of his career.

When O'Toole first met Sharif, he said, "Omar Sharif! No one in the world is called Omar Sharif. Your name must be Fred." From then on, Cairo Fred was Sharif's nickname. In truth, no one in the world really was called Omar Sharif. The actor had made up the name when he decided not to pursue a career as Michel Shalhoub.

One of the film's second unit cameramen was Nicholas Roeg, who would go on to co-direct (with Donald Cammell) the cult favorite Performance (1970), with James Fox and Mick Jagger, and on his own, such films as Don't Look Now (1973) and Insignificance (1985), starring his wife, Theresa Russell, as Marilyn Monroe.

Filming on Lawrence of Arabia took so long that three principal cast members managed to make other films between scenes shot early and late in the schedule. Alec Guinness and Anthony Quayle starred in the British naval drama Damn the Defiant!, while Anthony Quinn went back to New York for the film version of Requiem for a Heavyweight.

As production wound down in Jordan, Omar Sharif and Peter O'Toole wanted to prepare themselves for their return to civilization. They had read about the sudden popularity of the "Twist" in one of the magazines shipped to the company's desert compound and flew in a teacher from Paris to give them lessons in the evening, after the day's filming was completed. The production dragged on for so long, however, that by the time they were back in England, the "Twist" had fallen out of fashion.

When the company moved from Jordan to Spain, the camels traveled on shipboard with their legs drawn up under them so they wouldn't get seasick. After they got to Spain, they needed a day to recuperate from the ordeal before they could travel to the shooting locations.

While shooting Lawrence of Arabia, O'Toole lost 28 pounds, sprained one ankle, cracked the other, ruptured a thigh muscle, tore a groin muscle, dislocated his back and cracked his skull. As a result of the grueling shoot, he said no when director David Lean offered him the title role of Doctor Zhivago, triggering a rift between the two men that would last for decades.

There is not a single speaking role for a woman in all 216 minutes of Lawrence of Arabia. The only woman seen is a pin-up hanging in one of the Turkish Army's trenches.

During the film's initial release, the joke spread that one patron had gone to the ticket window and requested two seats on the shady side.

When Lawrence of Arabia first came out, rumors spread that some theatre managers turned down the air conditioning or turned up the heat during the half hour before intermission in order to sell more ice cream and cold drinks.

The night before Lawrence of Arabia's Los Angeles premiere, Peter O'Toole and Omar Sharif attended a performance by controversial comedian Lenny Bruce. Afterwards, they had a few drinks with him, then accompanied him home, where he proceeded to shoot up. At that moment, the police broke in and arrested all three on drug charges. Sharif called Spiegel in the middle of the night, and the producer used his influence to get the two actors released. But O'Toole refused to go unless Bruce was released too. So Spiegel and his lawyers had to get the comedian's drug charges dropped.

When he re-dubbed his dialogue for the restored version of Lawrence of Arabia, Peter O'Toole made fun of his inexperience 26 years earlier, quipping, "Now I know how to read the lines."

by Frank Miller

Memorable Quotes From LAWRENCE OF ARABIA

"I can't make out whether you're a bloody madman or just half-witted."
"I have the same problem, sir." - Donald Wolfit as General Murray to Peter O'Toole as T.E. Lawrence.

"I think you are another of these desert-loving English." - Alec Guinness as Prince Feisal on meeting Lawrence.

"I carry 23 great wounds all got in battle. Seventy-five men have I killed with my own hands in battle. I scatter, I burn my enemies' tents. I take away their flocks and herds. The Turks pay me a golden treasure, yet I am poor! Because I am a river to my people!" - Anthony Quinn as Auda abu Tayi.

"I cannot fiddle, but I can make a great state of a small city." - Peter O'Toole as T.E. Lawrence.

"Just what is it, Major Lawrence, that attracts you to the desert?" "It's clean." - Arthur Kennedy, as Jackson Bentley, interviewing Peter O'Toole, as T.E. Lawrence.

"With Major Lawrence, mercy is a passion. With me, it is merely good manners. You may judge which motive is the most reliable." - Alec Guinness as Prince Feisal.

"The miracle is accomplished." - Omar Sharif as Ali after Lawrence leads the successful attack on Aqaba, Jordan.

"Young men make wars and the virtues of war are the virtues of young men: courage and hope for the future. Then old men make the peace, and the vices of peace are the vices of old men: mistrust and caution." - Alec Guinness as Prince Feisal.

"A man who tells lies, like me, merely hides the truth. But a man who tells half-lies has forgotten where he put it." - Claude Rains as Mr. Dryden.

"Yes, it was my privilege to know him and to make him known to the world. He was a poet, a scholar and a mighty warrior. He was also the most shameless exhibitionist since Barnum & Bailey." - Arthur Kennedy as Jackson Bentley.