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Lawrence of Arabia

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charliechaplinfan
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Lawrence of Arabia

Postby charliechaplinfan » September 29th, 2010, 4:40 pm

Over the last couple of nights I've rewatched Lawrence of Arabia with my husband. I've only watched it once before and that was years ago, yet I remember being very impressed. I've been reading the biography of David Lean but have got distracted from the text in favour of watching his movies.

Wow, it's one of the most visually satisfying films I've ever seen. David Lean was a brave man, he had the courage to wait for the right clouds or the right weather. He's not afraid to let the camera linger on the desert, so that the desert becomes the second star of the picture. He takes everyone out to the desert, for months on end until ordered to come home by Sam Spiegel, home then was Spain and then Morocco to finish the picture. When I saw the scene were Lawrence blows out the match and it cuts to the sun and the desert, then you know it's going to be a real treat, a treat for the eyes and ears.

The script was bounced around for years, Lean had toyed with the idea at various times in his career and worked first with Michael Wilson and then with Robert Bolt. Wilson did the first script and Bolt polished and added. Bolt based a lot of his work on the The Pillars of Wisdom and trying to get into the man that was Lawrence, the Lawrence that comes across on screen is a partly an honourable man bent on giving the Arabs Damascus, he's partly a sadist too. Lawrence's brother who had sanctioned the film was horrified when he saw it and refused the name The Pillars of Wisdom.
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charliechaplinfan
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Re: Lawrence of Arabia

Postby charliechaplinfan » September 29th, 2010, 4:50 pm

Peter O'Toole was plucked to stardom along with Omar Sharif. Peter O'Toole presented a few problems, shooting in Jordan an being a man who liked a bit of the hard stuff, Lean was afraid that he'd succumb to the hard stuff and get locked up. He inhabits the role of Lawrence so well one wonders if he ever totally shook it off, his son born years later is called Lorcan which is the Gallic for Lawrence. One of the great perfromances never to win an Oscar.

Omar Sharif, a man I don't really have an opinion on is really arresting as Ali, dressed in black, riding out of the desert, in one of the most famous entrances in cinema. He's such a contrast to the very blonde O'Toole, to me Ali grew to be the most honourable in the film and the most enigmatic.

Anthony Quinn with his false nose, Alec Guiness as Prince Faisal, Anthony Quayle, Claude Rains, Robert Newton, so many great actors in support.

The score by Maurice Jarre, wonderfully stirring, how big an undertaking must it have been to score a Lean epic, especially one so long waited for.

I'll keep posting information as I read through David Lean's biography. Also I'll type more tomorrow about the performances, it's late here and I wanted to get msome of my thoughts down before I went to bed.
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin

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charliechaplinfan
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Re: Lawrence of Arabia

Postby charliechaplinfan » September 29th, 2010, 5:00 pm

My last post on this tonight :D

For a film without a female character in to hold me enthralled is testament to how great Lawrence of Arabia is.

Back to the script and Lawrence himself. Lawrence is portrayed as not being in on the plans to carve Arabia up between the Biritsh and the French, that he fought with them honorably. This is not the case according to Kevin Brownlow's research. Lawrence would have known the plans for Arabia, so he fought with them knowing the plans of the British, which is partly suggested. The script also tries to suggest at Lawrence's homosexuality although that mostly went over my head and his liking for flogging, hence the Turkish Bey scene.

I don't know that much about TE Lawrence but it's interesting to read how a character is carefully bent into shape to fit into a screenplay. Lean's Lawrence 'enjoys killing' and is shown to be a sadist, there's no suggestion of Lawrence ever being a sadist although there is evidence for him being a masochist.

Hmm,I can see a trip to wikipedia on the horizon. As it is folks, it's night night for now.
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin

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JackFavell
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Re: Lawrence of Arabia

Postby JackFavell » September 29th, 2010, 7:05 pm

I have only read one book on Lawrence, but like the movie, it left me with more questions at the end than it answered. According to the author, Lawrence was a terribly enigmatic man. He was also a bit of a lightning rod - many had strong opinions of him, but he himself was a bit of a cipher. But of course, there are probably more in depth books now than there were when I first read about him. I would like to read his own words about himself and the events of his life sometime.

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pvitari
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Re: Lawrence of Arabia

Postby pvitari » September 30th, 2010, 10:25 am

Lawrence of Arabia (the real man and the movie) is one of my passions.

I've seen the film four times on the big screen and I wish I could see it again. :) (I confess this may have something to do with my love for Peter O'Toole, too.) :)

Also watched Lawrence After Arabia, that TV movie with Ralph Fiennes as Lawrence and the lovely Alexander Siddig as Prince Feisal.

I've read Seven Pillars of Wisdom -- an amazing book -- and The Mint and several biographies. There's also a wonderful mailing list for TEL (T.E. Lawrence) fans, where we talk about all sorts of topics... on occasion the movie comes up but it's really just a sideline to all the fascinating things that the real Lawrence did in his lifetime.

David Lean's movie is a masterpiece but its portrait of Lawrence IS distorted and in several vital places, absolutely inaccurate. In fact, the truth is far more distressing than what you see on the screen, as Lawrence in real life did know in advance about the Sykes-Picot agreement and withheld the information from the Arabs for several months, and he was eaten up by guilt over it. (He describes this quite clearly in Seven Pillars.) That, compounded with great distress from many terrible things he witnessed or happened to him in the war, and his inability to persuade the European powers to treat the Arab peoples fairly after the war, nearly caused a complete mental collapse in the mid-20s. He survived by enlisting in the RAF and working as an airman for the rest of his life, devoting years to the testing of speedboats that were used in the rescue of downed fliers. Aviators survived water crashes in World War II thanks to the work Lawrence did on improving speedboat and rescue technology.

The fact that the movie is inaccurate doesn't bother me. (And some things it gets right.) It is one of the best movies ever IMHO about the devastation, mental and physical, wreaked by war. Has there ever been a more ironic use of a march than the music as it swells up as the final credits begin, right after that final shot of Lawrence's blank, numbed face blurred into even more inscrutability by the dusty windshield?

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Re: Lawrence of Arabia

Postby kingrat » September 30th, 2010, 12:14 pm

Thanks for starting this thread, charliechaplinfan. Lawrence of Arabia is one of the most beautifully filmed movies ever, and it has an intelligent script, a great performance in the leading role, and an amazing supporting cast. If you like Maurice Jarre's score, and it's certainly memorable, check out Bruckner's Sixth Symphony. You'll hear definite similarities.

If you'd like to know more about the history, read David Fromkin's A Peace To End All Peace, which is very well-written. He recounts the history of WWI on the Ottoman (Turkish) front, including the Sykes-Picot agreement, Lawrence, the attack on Gallipoli, and the victors' attempts to parcel out the Middle East. This includes Churchill's creation of Iraq as well as the rise of King Saud in Arabia, which involves the increased power of the fundamentalist Wahhabi sect, which has led to al-Qaeda. Current history is more intertwined with Lawrence's history than one would expect.

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Re: Lawrence of Arabia

Postby charliechaplinfan » September 30th, 2010, 1:55 pm

Thank you all of you for joining in his thread.

We did about the First World War at school, or I thought we did, I realise that we only did about the war in Europe and what was happening in the Middle East was never touched on. I know no one here knows to trust as gospel what one sees on the movie screen.

Thanks for the book recommendation kingrat, I might very well look into that. It would help understanding with what happens today.

Pvitari you put into words much better than I could the difference between the portrayal of Lawrence on screen and the man. One thing that didn't quite add up was the fact he was allowed to be such a renegade, our Army was known for it's order and hierachy, to have Lawrence out on a limb without him delivering to them didn't ring true.

David Lean is a film maker par excellence, my favorites are Brief Encounter, Hobson's Choice, Summertime and Ryan's Daughter. Lawrence of Arabia sits on another plain. The first half of the film was filmed in Jordan, the scenery is stunning, the way Lean uses the scenery is like John Ford and Monument Valley only to me the desert looks more frightening. To see the women and then have the camera pan back until we see the sheer size of the surrounding scenery, CGI could never look this good. Lean himself was a huge fan of the silent director Rex Ingram who made Four Horseman of the Apocalypse, Mare Nostrom and The Magician, I think if any director had inherited Ingram's mantle it was Lean. I'm not sure anyone else used landscape and places like he did. Think of Summertime and how Venice is presented.

Back to Lawrence, does anyone know if Hassim the man Lawrence went back for in the desert and then had shot to solve an tribal dispute, did this actually happen. It's terrific film making.
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin

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JackFavell
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Re: Lawrence of Arabia

Postby JackFavell » September 30th, 2010, 3:13 pm

Thanks, CCFan, for that connection - I never thought about Ingram and Lean before, but you are right, I think there is a direct line from one to the other.

Back to the discussion.

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pvitari
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Re: Lawrence of Arabia

Postby pvitari » September 30th, 2010, 6:00 pm

Back to Lawrence, does anyone know if Hassim the man Lawrence went back for in the desert and then had shot to solve an tribal dispute, did this actually happen. It's terrific film making.


Gasim was the man's name.

Gasim did indeed fall off his camel, and Lawrence did have to go back to rescue him. He didn't want to, but he knew he had to in order to maintain his leadership role. It was a lot less dramatic than in the film, but this did happen.

Lawrence also did have to execute a man in order to resolve a tribal dispute, but it was someone entirely different, not Gasim. This other man had killed a man from another tribe, and Lawrence, as a European, was the only one who could carry out the execution without causing further tribal conflicts. He was very sick at the time and his hand shook so much it took three shots. This incident haunted him the rest of his life.

He also did have to kill his servant Farraj, who in the movie is wounded by a detonator, but historically was shot by tribesmen working for the Turks. The dialogue in the movie is right out of "Seven Pillars" -- "Daoud will be angry with you." "Salute him for me."

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Re: Lawrence of Arabia

Postby charliechaplinfan » October 1st, 2010, 1:47 pm

I remembered Gasim was his name later and couldn't remember whether I'd typed H or G.

Wow, you do know your facts about Lawrence. This helps to explain some of the information in Lean's biography, it brings it together for me.

There's contention as to why the film was moved from Jordan to Spain and Morocco although Lean thought it was to keep costs down, it's just as likely that Sam Spiegel felt threatened producing a film in an Arab country being a successful Jewish business man. I don't suppose we'll ever know but the scenes at the beginning of the film that are Jordan are more visually stunning than the later ones. I don't think the film suffers from this as by the second half the action has built up and it's more revolved around the action. All the scenes in the city and the officers mess are shot in Seville.

I've just read about Oscar night, David Lean had given up on Peter O'Toole who had apparently disgraced himself on a few talk shows, being drunk I guess but was gutted that Omar Sharif didn't win for Ali and Robert Bolt didn't win for the script.
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin

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Re: Lawrence of Arabia

Postby JackFavell » October 1st, 2010, 2:24 pm

To me, the highlight of the film is the scene where Lawrence comes walking out of the desert after Aqaba to the officer's club - which looks like...I don't know...a foreign country at this point in the film. We have completely assimilated to the Arab life at this point just like Lawrence. His outrage at the secretive, prejudiced British soldiers in the office and the bar mimics our own feelings. The western hypocrisy is such a counterpoint to the open lives and natures of the Arab people he has come to know and tries to represent. The Arabs may be violent, but at least they are honest about it.

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pvitari
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Re: Lawrence of Arabia

Postby pvitari » October 1st, 2010, 3:04 pm

Some critics think the movie heads steeply downhill after that big return to Cairo scene, in part because of the change from the authentic Middle Eastern scenery to Spain.

Lawrence's return to Cairo in reality was not as highly dramatic as in the film (surprise!). Lawrence did wear his Arab clothes into Cairo which raised some eyebrows, but he then cleaned up and presented himself to his superiors, who were very surprised to see him. The big entry into the bar with a native boy to ask for a lemonade did not happen. :) But it sure makes for fantastic cinema. There was a time when I watched that sequence over and over rather obsessively till I got it out of my system. The British HQ in the movie is actually the enormous Plaza de España built in Seville for a 1929 expo. I've been to Seville a couple of times and the Plaza is huge. My understanding is that it looks nothing like the real British HQ in Cairo during WWI, but it's a great place for a movie camera. ;)

http://www.movie-locations.com/movies/l/lawrence.html

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pvitari
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Re: Lawrence of Arabia

Postby pvitari » February 4th, 2011, 11:17 am

Now THIS is how to put on a movie screening! ;)

Secret Cinema Presents Lawrence of Arabia

http://little.terma.warszawa.pl/2011/01/23/secret-cinema-presents-lawrence-of-arabia/

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JackFavell
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Re: Lawrence of Arabia

Postby JackFavell » February 4th, 2011, 1:16 pm

Oh my god! GOATS.

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charliechaplinfan
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Re: Lawrence of Arabia

Postby charliechaplinfan » May 23rd, 2011, 1:52 pm

I've just finished reading Hellraisers which features the lives of 4 of Britain's most inebriated actors. I've always found it incredulous that Peter o'Toole didn't win an Oscar for Lawrence, not only did he give one of the best acting performances in a lifetime but he made the film in an inhospitable place. Reading this book gives me the answer, he showed up worse for wear on chat shows and wasn't prepared to say the right things, then he got busted at Lenny Bruce's home.

It also answers the question as to why Richard Burton wasn't honoured either.
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin


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