81 Days With Oscar And Me

Every Academy Award-Winning Movie, Back to Back, Starting With the First

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Lawrence of Arabia

September 23rd, 2009 · No Comments · 1962, Adaptation, Claude Rains, Color, Columbia Pictures, David Lean, Drama, Jack Hawkins, Lawrence of Arabia, Panavision (Widescreen), Peter O'Toole

Lawrence of Arabia Sweeping doesn’t begin to describe Lawrence of Arabia. Even the making-of feature is epic. And, certainly, the aspect ratio of Lawrence of Arabia is vast. Of that, the description of the film on Amazon says this:

There’s no getting around a simple, basic truth: watching Lawrence of Arabia in any home-video format represents a compromise. There’s no better way to appreciate this epic biographical adventure than to see it projected in 70 millimeter onto a huge theater screen. That caveat aside, David Lean’s masterful “desert classic” is still enjoyable on the small screen, especially if viewed in widescreen format. (If your only option is to view a “pan & scan” version, it’s best not to bother; this is a film for which the widescreen format is utterly mandatory.)

So here are three requirements for watching Lawrence of Arabia:
1. Buy the widescreen version
2. Buy the 2-disc special edition with the making-of features, which you should watch first
3. Have as large a widescreen TV as possible

Then, sit back and enjoy one of the greatest achievements in the history of film-making.

Which is what I intend to do.

But first, here’s the plot of the movie from IMDB, followed by the star-studded cast:

An inordinately complex man who has been labeled everything from hero, to charlatan, to sadist, Thomas Edward Lawrence blazed his way to glory in the Arabian desert, then sought anonymity as a common soldier under an assumed name. The story opens with the death of Lawrence in a motorcycle accident in London at the age of 47, then flashbacks to recount his adventures: as a young intelligence officer in Cairo in 1916, he is given leave to investigate the progress of the Arab revolt against the Turks in World War I. In the desert, he organizes a guerrilla army and–for two years–leads the Arabs in harassing the Turks with desert raids, train-wrecking and camel attacks. Eventually, he leads his army northward and helps a British General destroy the power of the Ottoman Empire. (Written by alfiehitchie.)

THE CAST
Peter O’Toole (1932- )………………………………………T.E. Lawrence
Alec Guinness (1914-2000)……………………………….Prince Feisal
Anthony Quinn (1915-2001)………………………………Auda abu Tayi
Jack Hawkins (1910-1973)…………………………………General Lord Edmund Allenby
Omar Sharif (1932- )…………………………………………Sherif Ali
José Ferrer (1912-1922)…………………………………….Turkish Bey (as Jose Ferrer)
Anthony Quayle (1913-1989)……………………………..Colonel Brighton
Claude Rains (1989-1967)…………………………………Mr. Dryden
Arthur Kennedy (1914-1990)……………………………..Jackson Bentley
Donald Wolfit (1902-1968)………………………………..General Sir Archibald Murray

The movie was directed by David Lean (1908-1991), who also directed The Bridge On the River Kwai. The movie is an adaptation based on the writings of T.E. Lawrence (1888-1935). The script was written by Robert Bolt (1924-1995) and Michael Wilson (1914-1978).

Lawrence of Arabia was nominated for 10 Academy Awards. It won seven: Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Color, Best Cinematography, Color, Best Director (David Lean), Best Film Editing, Best Music Score (Maurice Jarre, 1924-2009), Best Picture (Sam Spiegel, 1901-1985), Best Sound. Strangely, despite the remarkable performances, Peter O’Toole did not win for Best Actor in a Leading Role, and Omar Sharif did not win for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. Also non-winners are screenwriters Robert Bolt and Michael Wilson.

A few last words before I put aside my laptop and simply experience the movie.

The cinematography is exquisite. And it’s not just the gorgeous landscape. It’s the framing of the shots as well. Director David Lean has an artist’s eye. What he captured on film is inspired. I also enjoyed the previous David Lean movie (The Bridge on the River Kwai) so I made a note to watch two more of his movies Doctor Zhivago (1965), and A Passage to India (1984).

NOTE: Another “vast” and “epic” aspect of the movie – its length. At 220+ minutes, it is just under 10 minutes shy of four hours. So don’t attempt Lawrence of Arabia if you’re in a hurry.

One more thing. There’s a wicked cut at the end of Disc One. Instead of ending the movie at the natural point of Intermission, the first disc abruptly stops, leaving viewers wondering if something went awry. A message to insert Disc Two appears on the screen. So I did. And within about 20 minutes or so the Intermission point popped up. Why couldn’t this movie had been split more cleanly? That was a sloppy edit that interrupted the flow of the story. Maybe the four-disc edition corrects that rather unfortunate error.

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