Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

180 or 220-222 mins | Adventure, Biography | 16 December 1962

AFI's
100 YEARS... 100 MOVIES
AFI's
100 YEARS... 100 MOVIES

Director:

David Lean

Producers:

Sam Spiegel, David Lean

Cinematographer:

F. A. Young

Editor:

Anne V. Coates

Production Designer:

John Box

Production Company:

Horizon Pictures (G.B.), Ltd.
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HISTORY

The 7 Feb 1960 NYT reported that producer Sam Spiegel acquired motion picture rights to The Seven Pillars of Wisdom (1935) by the late T. E. Lawrence. Professor A. W. Lawrence, the author’s brother, approved the sale, confident that Spiegel “would do justice to the subject matter.” The producer had already selected David Lean as director, and was considering Marlon Brando to portray Lawrence. Eleven days later, the 18 Feb 1960 NYT confirmed Brando for the role. According to the article, other productions depicting Lawrence had been attempted in the past. The first was by Alexander Korda in 1940, which attracted interest from actor Laurence Olivier. The second was by David E. Rose in 1953, and the third by Anatole de Grunwald in 1955, with a script by Terence Rattigan, based on T. E. Lawrence (1934) by Liddell Hart.
       On 1 Apr 1960, LAT noted that Spiegel hired the Right Honorable Anthony Nutting as his “special assistant.” The 10 Jul 1960 NYT described Nutting as a “former British minister of State and delegate to the United Nations,” as well as “a foreign correspondent, author of two books and lecturer on world affairs.” He also had a good relationship with King Hussein of Jordan, where principal photography was scheduled to begin. Nutting planned to visit Jordan to arrange “production requirements,” such as a train, hired from the Hejaz railway, to serve as a mobile hotel for the film company. He hoped the picture would demonstrate the Arab peoples’ “natural desire” for unity and independence.
       The 6 ... More Less

The 7 Feb 1960 NYT reported that producer Sam Spiegel acquired motion picture rights to The Seven Pillars of Wisdom (1935) by the late T. E. Lawrence. Professor A. W. Lawrence, the author’s brother, approved the sale, confident that Spiegel “would do justice to the subject matter.” The producer had already selected David Lean as director, and was considering Marlon Brando to portray Lawrence. Eleven days later, the 18 Feb 1960 NYT confirmed Brando for the role. According to the article, other productions depicting Lawrence had been attempted in the past. The first was by Alexander Korda in 1940, which attracted interest from actor Laurence Olivier. The second was by David E. Rose in 1953, and the third by Anatole de Grunwald in 1955, with a script by Terence Rattigan, based on T. E. Lawrence (1934) by Liddell Hart.
       On 1 Apr 1960, LAT noted that Spiegel hired the Right Honorable Anthony Nutting as his “special assistant.” The 10 Jul 1960 NYT described Nutting as a “former British minister of State and delegate to the United Nations,” as well as “a foreign correspondent, author of two books and lecturer on world affairs.” He also had a good relationship with King Hussein of Jordan, where principal photography was scheduled to begin. Nutting planned to visit Jordan to arrange “production requirements,” such as a train, hired from the Hejaz railway, to serve as a mobile hotel for the film company. He hoped the picture would demonstrate the Arab peoples’ “natural desire” for unity and independence.
       The 6 Apr 1960 Var reported that writer Michael Wilson was hired to develop the screenplay. Wilson was “blacklisted” during the 1950s following his refusal to cooperate with the U.S. House of Representatives in its investigation of communist influence in the film industry. The article noted concerns among some Americans that blacklisted writers were infusing their work with left-wing propaganda. The choice of Marlon Brando was also a topic of controversy, as stated in the 9 Apr 1960 LAT, which claimed the British were furious over Brando portraying Lawrence.
       Meanwhile, an item in the 19 May 1960 LAT announced that England’s J. Arthur Rank Organisation licensed Rattigan’s 1960 stage play, Ross, which also depicted the life of Lawrence, using one of his pseudonyms for the title. Spiegel anticipated no competition from the British production, as it contained no material from The Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Weeks later, the 5 Jun 1960 NYT stated that Spiegel was still in search of a cast, locations, and a writer to adapt the book.
       On 16 Oct 1960, NYT reported that Brando withdrew from the project due to prior commitments. Spiegel was now considering Albert Finney, following the young actor’s impressive screen test. Other cast members included Cary Grant as “General Allenby,” Jack Hawkins as “Colonel Newcombe” (he was eventually cast as Allenby), and Horst Buchholz as “Sherif Ali.” The producer was also negotiating roles for Laurence Olivier and Kirk Douglas, and credited writer Robert Graves, author of several works on Lawrence, as a contributor to the screenplay. Spiegel anticipated a budget of $7 – 8 million, with location filming in Jerusalem, and the Jordanian cities of Aqaba and Petra. He expected principal photography to be completed by mid-summer, with a Christmas 1961 release.
       Screenwriting chores were ultimately taken over by award-winning English playwright Robert Bolt, who recounted his experiences with the production in an article for the 2 Dec 1962 LAT. Spiegel met with Bolt in London, England, and hired him to write a treatment, to be completed in eight weeks. Having no prior experience as a screenwriter, Bolt became engrossed in the project and chose to finish the script after agreeing to an additional fifteen weeks, believing it would be a fairly easy job. After completing the first draft in twelve weeks, Bolt extended his contract, resulting in two more drafts and additional rewrites of particular scenes. The process took fourteen months, highlighted by numerous arguments between Bolt, Spiegel, and David Lean. Regardless, Bolt concluded that he was willing to repeat the experience.
       The 16 Nov 1960 Var reported that principal photography would begin 2 Jan 1961 in “the Near East” and North Africa. On 19 Nov 1961, NYT announced Irish actor Peter O’Toole for the title role. O’Toole was currently appearing in three Shakespeare plays in Stratford-on-Avon, England, and would begin preparations for the film when the plays closed two weeks later. More than two months later, the 27 Jan 1961 LAT stated that O’Toole would arrive in Amman, Jordan, the following week to begin “a rigorous one-month training period,” which included lessons in desert warfare and camel riding. Filming was rescheduled to begin 6 Mar 1961. O’Toole told the 5 Feb 1961 NYT that his first meeting with Spiegel was at the premiere of the British film, The Day They Robbed the Bank of England (1960). Although Spiegel complimented O’Toole on his performance, he made no mention that he was casting the role of Lawrence. Sometime later, Spiegel surprised the actor with an invitation to test for the film. O’Toole noted that this would be the first role as a character his own age. Prior to the portraying Lawrence, the actor was best known for playing elderly men.
       The 22 Mar 1961 LAT stated that filming was postponed until 3 Apr 1961. French actor Alain Delon was reportedly added to the cast. According to the 23 Feb 1961 NYT, Gene Kelly was offered a “cameo” role, depending on his availability. The 3 May 1961 Var noted that French actor Maurice Ronet would appear as an Arab sheik. Spiegel offered David Niven the opportunity to play an historical figure, as reported in the 21 Sep 1961 LAT. The actor declined, saying he had no interest in a supporting role, or in working in the desert. The 20 Feb 1961 LAT stated that Edmund O’Brien, cast as “Jackson Bentley,” was forced to leave the production after three days, due to “nervous exhaustion.” He was replaced by Arthur Kennedy. An item in the 12 May 1961 LAT claimed that Laurence Olivier would spend four weeks on location that summer. Olivier, Delon, and Ronet did not appear in the completed film.
       A report from Jordan in the 25 Jun 1961 NYT described a ski lift, constructed in the desert at Jebel Tubeiq, used to move both personnel and equipment. However, Lean and his crew preferred to travel on foot, causing the transportation of two Panavision cameras and related components to occupy an entire morning. The company’s supplies of food and beer were transported from London to Jordan by refrigerated ship, then trucked to the desert location. Another ten months of filming were anticipated.
       According to the 20 Jun 1962 Var, the company took a brief hiatus after leaving Jordan “to recover from dehydration, dysentery and exhaustion.” Production moved to Seville, Spain, on 18 Dec 1961, during the worst flooding the city experienced in more than a century. Once the waters subsided, shooting resumed in a number of “Arabic-Moorish” structures, providing interiors for the Middle Eastern locations.
       At the time of the article, the crew was in Almeria, Spain, preparing the film the explosion of a “40 and 8” railcar, with the coastal sand dunes substituting for desert terrain. After the Spanish government banned the import of “North African camel drivers” to appear as Lawrence’s army, David Lean hired 130 “hastily-trained aficionados.” Further east, in Carboneras, Spain, the crew built a replica of Aqaba, including 300 facades and a Turkish military camp. The next location was Ouarzazate, Morocco, where an epic battle scene was planned.
       While photography continued, editors assembled completed scenes with the goal of keeping the running time within three and one half hours. As the first major film with no fixed budget, production costs rose to $13 million, as stated in the 26 Dec 1962 Var. A 24 Dec 1963 LAT news brief claimed that the cost of supplying water to the production ran as high as $80,000 per day. In addition, the cast, crew, and livestock consumed forty-five tons of food daily. Both food and water were often delivered by airplane.
       The 19 Dec 1962 LAT noted that warfare scenes employed as a many as 15,000 Jordanian Desert Patrolmen, 5,000 camel drivers, and “hundreds of Bedouin.” Egyptian actor Omar Sharif often acted as interpreter for David Lean, according to the 15 Jan 1963 LAT. As stated in the 17 Jan 1963 LAT, Peter O’Toole and his wife, Sian Phillips, were admitted as “blood members” of a Jordanian Bedouin tribe, and given the Arabic names “Shibel” (the young lion) and “Noora” (the glowing light), respectively. On 26 Feb 1963, LAT reported that actual desert mirages were caught on camera during filming.
       As production drew to a close, the 21 Aug 1962 LAT announced the film’s opening in Los Angeles, CA, on 21 Dec 1962, sponsored by the Cedars Women’s Guild, with proceeds benefiting Cedars of Lebanon-Mt. Sinai Hospital. A reception at the Beverly Hills Hotel would following the screening. The 1 Nov 1962 LAT reported that “two-a-day showings” would begin 22 Dec 1962. Various “social, fraternal, charitable and church” groups were already making reservations for viewing parties. On 14 Sep 1962, LAT announced a 16 Dec 1962 New York City premiere, benefiting the Police Athletic League (PAL) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and a 10 Dec 1962 royal command performance in London, England, for Queen Elizabeth II. The 29 Nov 1962 LAT noted that it was the first film to open in New York City on a Sunday, due to demand from Broadway stage actors, who were unavailable to attend any other night.
       Lawrence of Arabia opened to critical and public acclaim, and was nominated for ten Academy Awards: Actor in a Leading Role (Peter O’Toole); Actor in a Supporting Role (Omar Sharif); Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium (Robert Bolt); Directing (David Lean); Cinematography, Color (Freddie Young); Art Direction, Color (John Box, John Stoll, Dario Simoni); Sound (John Cox); Film Editing (Anne V. Coates); Music, Score - Substantially Original (Maurice Jarre); Best Picture (Sam Spiegel). It won for the latter seven. Writer Michael Wilson later shared the nomination in 1995, after the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) acknowledged his contribution.
       The picture also won Golden Globe awards for Best Motion Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Sharif), Best Director, Best Cinematography-Color, and Most Promising Newcomers – Male (Sharif and O’Toole). The British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) bestowed awards for Best British Actor (O’Toole), Best British Screenplay, Best Film from any Source, and Best British Film, although the picture was a British-American co-production. The National Board of Review (NBR) listed the film among the ten best releases of 1963, and recognized Lean as best director. He was also honored by the Directors Guild of America (DGA), according to the 10 Feb 1963 LAT. Six months following the picture’s release, a full-page advertisement in the 29 May 1963 Var declared gross receipts of $7,728,000 from “38 domestic and 16 overseas engagements.”
       Despite these accolades, Prof. A. W. Lawrence told the 5 Jan 1963 NYT that he took exception with the film, saying he approved a preliminary screenplay, rather than the shooting script by Robert Bolt, which he described as fictional and “anti-war propaganda.” T. E. Lawrence biographer Liddel Hart also complained, saying the film portrayed his subject as “a sadistical pervert” succumbing to his own bloodlust. In addition, Viscountess Allenby, married to the nephew of General Edmund Allenby, disputed the “slanderous interpretation” of her husband’s late uncle. Bolt defended his screenplay, stating that his story was faithful to the source material. Sam Spiegel responded in the 26 Jan 1963 NYT, arguing that Prof. Lawrence would not have been aware of his brother’s darker nature, as it manifested under extraordinary circumstances. Days later, actor Raymond Massey told the 6 Feb 1963 LAT that he met T. E. Lawrence when the latter was a guest lecturer at Oxford University. Massey described Lawrence as “a brilliant scholar,” “fascinating,” and “a cold fish.” The actor also revealed that he was cast as “Feisel” in Alexander Korda’s aborted 1940 film about Lawrence.
       The 15 Apr 1963 LAT noted that composer Maurice Jarre employed a zither and an Ondes Martenot, an early form of electronic synthesizer, in recording the score.
       In the onscreen credits, the assistant art directors are listed as "R. Rossotti, G. Richardson, T. Marsh, A. Rimmington." A statement in the closing credits reads: "Photographed on overseas locations." The closing credits also acknowledge the Royal Hashemite Government of Jordan and the Royal Government of Morocco.
       Works of T. E. Lawrence that were used as background for Lawrence of Arabia included Revolt in the Desert (London, 1927), The Diary of T. E. Lawrence, MCMXI (London, 1937) and The Letters of T. E. Lawrence (London, 1938).
       Lawrence of Arabia was ranked 7th on AFI's 2007 100 Years...100 Movies--10th Anniversary Edition list of the greatest American films, moving down from the 5th position it occupied on AFI's 1997 list. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Film Daily
17 Dec 1962.
---
Filmfacts
25 Jan 1963
pp. 343-46.
Films and Filming
Feb 1963
pp. 32-33.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Dec 1962
p. 3.
Life
14 Dec 1962
oo, 118-19.
Los Angeles Times
1 Apr 1960
Section A, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
9 Apr 1960
Section B, p. 2.
Los Angeles Times
18 May 1960
Section A, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
19 May 1960
Section B, p. 11.
Los Angeles Times
13 Oct 1960
Section B, p. 16.
Los Angeles Times
5 Nov 1960
Section B, p. 2.
Los Angeles Times
21 Nov 1960
Section C, p. 14.
Los Angeles Times
27 Jan 1961
p. 21.
Los Angeles Times
22 Mar 1961
Section B, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
12 May 1961
Section A, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
2 Jun 1961
Section A, p. 10.
Los Angeles Times
10 Aug 1961
Section B, p. 12.
Los Angeles Times
2 Dec 1962
Section Q, p. 1, 24.
Los Angeles Times
21 Sep 1961
Section B, p. 10.
Los Angeles Times
20 Nov 1961
Section C, p. 16.
Los Angeles Times
23 Jan 1962
p. 22.
Los Angeles Times
20 Feb 1962
Section C, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
21 Feb 1962
Section C, p. 19.
Los Angeles Times
22 Jul 1962
Section A, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
9 Aug 1962
Section C, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
21 Aug 1962
Section D, p. 2.
Los Angeles Times
1 Sep 1962
Section A, p. 7.
Los Angeles Times
14 Sep 1962
Section C, p. 12.
Los Angeles Times
1 Nov 1962
Section A, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
10 Nov 1962
Section B, p. 2.
Los Angeles Times
15 Nov 1962
Section A, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
29 Nov 1962
Section A, p. 10.
Los Angeles Times
11 Dec 1962
Section E, p. 13.
Los Angeles Times
17 Dec 1962
Section IV, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
17 Dec 1962
Section D, p. 17.
Los Angeles Times
19 Dec 1962
Section D, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
22 Dec 1962
p. 2.
Los Angeles Times
15 Jan 1963
Section C, p. 6.
Los Angeles Times
17 Jan 1963
Section C, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
28 Jan 1963
Section C, p. 11.
Los Angeles Times
29 Jan 1963
Section D, p. 6.
Los Angeles Times
6 Feb 1963
Section D, p. 12.
Los Angeles Times
10 Feb 1963
Section H, p. 7.
Los Angeles Times
19 Feb 1963
p. 4.
Los Angeles Times
26 Feb 1963
p. 22.
Los Angeles Times
26 Feb 1963
Section A, pp. 1-2.
Los Angeles Times
7 Mar 1963
p. 26.
Los Angeles Times
9 Apr 1963
pp. 1-3, 21.
Los Angeles Times
15 Apr 1963
Section C, p. 13.
Los Angeles Times
8 May 1963
p. 10.
Los Angeles Times
24 Dec 1963
Section B, p. 4.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
9 Jan 1963
p. 732.
New Republic
12 Jan 1963
pp. 26-28.
New York Times
7 Feb 1960
Section X, p. 7.
New York Times
18 Feb 1960
p. 38.
New York Times
5 Jun 1960
Section X, p. 5.
New York Times
10 Jul 1960
Section X, p. 6.
New York Times
16 Oct 1960
Section X, p. 9.
New York Times
19 Nov 1960
p. 12.
New York Times
17 Dec 1960
p. 19.
New York Times
1 Jan 1961
Section X, p. 3.
New York Times
5 Feb 1961
Section X, p. 7.
New York Times
23 Feb 1961
p. 30.
New York Times
10 Mar 1961
p. 20.
New York Times
25 Jun 1961
Section X, p. 7.
New York Times
30 Jul 1962
p. 13.
New York Times
15 Sep 1962
p. 15.
New York Times
30 Sep 1962
Section X, p. 7.
New York Times
21 Oct 1962
p. 100.
New York Times
17 Dec 1962
p. 5.
New York Times
22 Dec 1962
p. 5.
New York Times
28 Dec 1962
p. 5.
New York Times
5 Jan 1963
p. 7.
New York Times
26 Jan 1963
p. 5.
Newsweek
24 Dec 1962
p. 64.
Saturday Review
29 Dec 1962
pp. 29-30.
Time
4 Jan 1963
p. 58.
Variety
6 Apr 1960
p. 15.
Variety
16 Nov 1960
p. 12.
Variety
3 May 1961
p. 86.
Variety
28 Feb 1962
p. 5.
Variety
20 Jun 1962
p. 11.
Variety
19 Dec 1962
p. 6.
Variety
26 Dec 1962
p. 5.
Variety
29 May 1963
p. 14.
Village Voice
20 Dec 1962
p. 16.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
The Sam Spiegel-David Lean Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2d unit dir
2d unit dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
2d unit photog
2d unit photog
2d unit photog
Cam op
Chief elec
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Asst art dir
Asst art dir
Asst art dir
Asst art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATORS
Set dresser
Prop master
Const mgr
Const asst
COSTUMES
Cost des
SOUND
Sd dubbing
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Loc mgr
Casting dir
Research
DETAILS
Release Date:
16 December 1962
Premiere Information:
London premiere: 9 December 1962
New York opening: 16 December 1962
Los Angeles opening: 22 December 1962
Production Date:
3 April 1961--summer 1962
Copyright Claimant:
Horizon Pictures (G.B.) Ltd.
Copyright Date:
19 December 1962
Copyright Number:
LP25769
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound Recording
Color
Technicolor
gauge
35mm & 70mm
Widescreen/ratio
Super-Panavision 70
Duration(in mins):
180 or 220-222
Countries:
United Kingdom, United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

In 1916 British Intelligence supports the Arab rebellion against the Turkish-German alliance. Dryden, a civilian member of the Arab Bureau, selects Lt. T. E. Lawrence, an enigmatic twenty-nine-year-old scholar, to evaluate the Arab revolt. Enthusiastically undertaking this assignment, the officer contacts Prince Feisal, a rebel leader, and persuades Feisal to lend him a force of fifty men. With this skeleton band, accompanied by Sherif Ali ibn el Karish, Lawrence crosses the Nefud Desert. At the journey's end, however, Lawrence learns that one of his men is missing. Undeterred by Arab assertions that the missing man's death had been divinely decreed, Lawrence returns to the desert and rescues him, earning thereby Ali's friendship and the respect of his subordinates. At a well Lawrence is confronted by the sheikh Auda Abu Tayi, whom he persuades to join the assault on Aqaba, a Turkish port at the desert's edge. The Turks, surprised by the overland attack, are routed, and the victory revitalizes the Arab rebellion. Arab unity, however, is undermined by internecine warfare. When one of his troop slays one of Auda Abu Tayi's henchmen, Lawrence in expiation executes the murderer, who proves to be the Arab he had saved in the desert. Unnerved, Lawrence returns to Cairo. Delighted by Lawrence's military success, however, General Allenby provides him with arms and money for future victories. Lawrence launches a series of successful guerrilla raids, which, as reported by American journalist Jackson Bentley, establish his international reputation. While on a scouting mission with Ali, Lawrence is captured and tortured by the Turks. He returns to Cairo, where General Allenby persuades him to spearhead an attack on Damascus. After the battle, Lawrence leads his men ... +


In 1916 British Intelligence supports the Arab rebellion against the Turkish-German alliance. Dryden, a civilian member of the Arab Bureau, selects Lt. T. E. Lawrence, an enigmatic twenty-nine-year-old scholar, to evaluate the Arab revolt. Enthusiastically undertaking this assignment, the officer contacts Prince Feisal, a rebel leader, and persuades Feisal to lend him a force of fifty men. With this skeleton band, accompanied by Sherif Ali ibn el Karish, Lawrence crosses the Nefud Desert. At the journey's end, however, Lawrence learns that one of his men is missing. Undeterred by Arab assertions that the missing man's death had been divinely decreed, Lawrence returns to the desert and rescues him, earning thereby Ali's friendship and the respect of his subordinates. At a well Lawrence is confronted by the sheikh Auda Abu Tayi, whom he persuades to join the assault on Aqaba, a Turkish port at the desert's edge. The Turks, surprised by the overland attack, are routed, and the victory revitalizes the Arab rebellion. Arab unity, however, is undermined by internecine warfare. When one of his troop slays one of Auda Abu Tayi's henchmen, Lawrence in expiation executes the murderer, who proves to be the Arab he had saved in the desert. Unnerved, Lawrence returns to Cairo. Delighted by Lawrence's military success, however, General Allenby provides him with arms and money for future victories. Lawrence launches a series of successful guerrilla raids, which, as reported by American journalist Jackson Bentley, establish his international reputation. While on a scouting mission with Ali, Lawrence is captured and tortured by the Turks. He returns to Cairo, where General Allenby persuades him to spearhead an attack on Damascus. After the battle, Lawrence leads his men in the massacre of the retreating Turks. Upon entering Damascus the British Army is met by victorious Arab forces. Lawrence relinquishes control of the city to an Arab Council, but soon factionalism threatens to destroy it. On May 19, 1935, Lawrence dies in a motorcycle crash in Dorset, England, and is commemorated in services at St. Paul's. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

Peter O’Toole on LAWRENCE OF ARABIA

Steven Spielberg on LAWRENCE OF ARABIA

Gary Sinise on LAWRENCE OF ARABIA

The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.