Lawrence of Arabia (1962) presented by TCM Movie Poster

Trivia for Lawrence of Arabia (1962) presented by TCM

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  • Peter O'Toole's performance as T.E. Lawrence is the #1 ranked performance of all time in "Premiere Magazine's 100 Greatest Performances of All Time."
  • "Lawrence of Arabia" was voted the 18th greatest film of all time by "Entertainment Weekly."
  • Cary Grant was producer Sam Spiegel's first choice for General Allenby. But director Sir David Lean convinced Spiegel to cast Jack Hawkins, due to his work for them on "The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)."
  • This movie was largely based on T.E. Lawrence's autobiography "Seven Pillars of Wisdom", which a 1955 revisionist biography by Richard Adlington claimed was highly exaggerated.
  • Production was halted to move production to Spain, but filming did not resume for three months because screenwriter Robert Bolt had been jailed for participating in a nuclear disarmament demonstration. He was released only after producer Sam Spiegel persuaded him to sign an agreement of good behavior.
  • Almost all movement in the movie goes from left to right. Director Sir David Lean said he did this to emphasize that this movie was a journey.
  • Peter O'Toole claimed that he never viewed the completed movie until nearly two decades after its original release, by which time he was highly impressed.
  • The 35mm master interpositive produced by Technicolor in 1966 had reel 2A flipped. So left and right became reversed on-screen for about 10 minutes in all prints, including initial video releases and television broadcasts. With no writing on the screen during these 10 minutes, it was nearly impossible to spot this error. During the restoration by Robert A. Harris, Sir David Lean pointed out the error, and it was corrected. This reversal also led to an urban myth about this movie: that Lawrence had switched his watch from his left wrist to his right wrist. Due to the reversed imagery in reel 2A, he indeed had appeared to do this in early released versions of the film.
  • In the actual Battle of Aqaba, T.E. Lawrence was nearly killed when his camel threw him after he accidentally shot it in the head. In a notable coincidence, during filming Peter O'Toole was nearly killed: a gun or rocket used to signal "action" in the first Aqaba take fired prematurely and O'Toole was thrown by his panicked camel in front of the charging horses. (Other accounts hold that O'Toole was temporarily blinded by pellets from an effects gun and lost control of his animal or that he was too inebriated to hold on.) Fortunately for O'Toole, the camel--trained for such mishaps--stood over him and prevented his being trampled.
  • Although 3 hours and 36 minutes long, this movie has no women in speaking roles. It is reportedly the longest movie not to have any dialogue spoken by a woman.
  • The motorcycle T.E. Lawrence was riding when he died was a Brough Superior. He owned seven of them.
  • T.E. Lawrence declined invitations to film his writings as early as 1926, when Rex Ingram suggested the idea. Later, Alexander Korda tried to launch a version starring Leslie Howard and written by John Monk Saunders and directed by Lewis Milestone. Over the years, such stars as Sir Dirk Bogarde, Robert Donat, Sir Laurence Olivier, Cary Grant, Burgess Meredith, and Alan Ladd were all promoted as leads. 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." Screenwriter Michael Wilson finally convinced Lawrence's brother to sell the movie rights to producer Sam Spiegel by submitting his screenplay for approval in 1960.
  • Sir Anthony Quayle thought the character of Colonel Brighton was an idiot, but Sir David Lean told him Brighton was the only honorable character in the movie.
  • While filming, Peter O'Toole bonded with co-star Omar Sharif. Recalls Sharif, "Peter and I were like brothers immediately. He said to me, 'Your name is not Omar Sharif - no one is called Omar Sharif. Your real name is probably Freddy something!' And for the rest of the film and the rest of our lives, he's never called me Omar. He calls me Freddy."
  • Gamil Ratib was dubbed by Robert Rietty.
  • King Hussein of Jordan lent an entire brigade of his Arab Legion as extras for the movie, so most of the film's "soldiers" are played by real soldiers. Hussein frequently visited the sets and became enamored of a young British secretary, Antoinette Gardiner, who became his second wife in 1962. Their eldest son, Abdullah II King Of Jordan, ascended to the throne in 1999.
  • For the 1989 reconstruction and restoration, many scenes of dialogue were missing. As a result, Peter O'Toole and several living principals returned and re-recorded dialogue from more than twenty years previously. For principals who had died in the intervening years, sound-alike actors were employed (for instance for Jack Hawkins).
  • During an appearance on "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (1962)" in the 1970s, Peter O'Toole was describing just how long the movie took to make. He referred to the scene when T.E. Lawrence and General Allenby, after their meeting, continue talking while walking down a staircase. According to O'Toole, part of the scene had to be re-shot much later "so in the final print, when I get to the bottom of the stairs, I'm a year older than I was when I started walking down them."
  • T.E. Lawrence's brother, Cambridge archaeologist A.W. Lawrence, saw the movie and said he didn't recognize his brother in it.
  • General Murray's (Donald Wolfit's) line about the Arab revolt being "a sideshow of a sideshow" was actually written in real life by T.E. Lawrence, several years after the war, in his book, "Seven Pillars of Wisdom".
  • The role of Sherif Ali was originally intended for Horst Buchholz, but he was forced to turn it down owing to his commitment to Billy Wilder's "One, Two, Three (1961)." Second choice, Alain Delon, screen tested successfully, but he suffered problems with the brown contact lenses required for the role. Maurice Ronet was then cast, but he was replaced after difficulties with his French accent and his Arabian dress: Sir David Lean complained, "He looked like me walking around in drag."
  • In the early days of the production, when the Bentley character had a more prominent role in the movie, Kirk Douglas was considered for the part. However, Douglas wanted a star salary and second billing after Peter O'Toole. Douglas' demands were rejected by producer Sam Spiegel. The Oscar-winner Edmund O'Brien was then cast in the part. Before being disabled by his heart attack, O'Brien filmed the Jerusalem scene and supposedly Bentleys political discussion with Omar Sharif's character Ali. He was replaced on short notice by Arthur Kennedy, who was recommended to director Sir David Lean by Anthony Quinn. (Kennedy had replaced Quinn as King Henry II on Broadway in the play "Becket (1964)." Ironically, when "Becket" was made into a movie, it was Peter O'Toole who was cast as Henry.)
  • In an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (1992), Peter O'Toole confessed quite proudly that, out of fear of falling off during a big camel riding scene, he and Omar Sharif decided to get absolutely hammered and then tied themselves down on the camels before shooting. By his own admission, he was so drunk that he had no idea where he was or what he was doing for the entire scene (attack on Aqaba).
  • Sir David Lean originally wanted Albert Finney for the title role. Katharine Hepburn urged producer Sam Spiegel to cast Peter O'Toole instead.
  • To film Omar Sharif's entrance through a mirage, Freddie Young used a special 482mm lens from Panavision. Panavision still has this lens, and it is known among cinematographers as the "David Lean lens". It was created specifically for this shot and has not been used since.
  • Marlon Brando, who had won an Oscar in the Sam Spiegel-produced "On the Waterfront (1954)," was desired for the title role by producer Spiegel and director Sir David Lean. Still involved in the editing of his directing debut "One-Eyed Jacks (1961)," Brando turned the offer down, saying he didn't want to take two years out of his life riding a camel in the desert. Ironically, Brando signed for the role of Fletcher Christian in "Mutiny on the Bounty (1962)," which ran way over budget and way over schedule. Whereas "Lawrence of Arabia" was a great success, "Mutiny on the Bounty" was considered a flop and damaged Brando's career. As reports of his temperamental and disruptive behavior during that costly Bounty location shoot filtered out, Spiegel and Lean were relieved not to be working with him. Still keen to work with Brando, Lean later offered him the role of Komarovsky in "Doctor Zhivago (1965)" and the schoolteacher married to the eponymous protagonist of "Ryan's Daughter (1970)." Brando did not respond to either offer. (Rod Steiger--who played Brando's brother in "On the Waterfront" (1954)--played Komarovsky, while Robert Mitchum appeared as the schoolteacher in "Ryan's Daughter" (1970).)
  • Once filming commenced, French film actor Maurice Ronet was replaced by Omar Sharif in the role of Ali. Ronet was bought out of the movie for an amount four times greater than the amount Sharif was paid for actually performing the role.
  • This movie credits list Sir Adrian Boult as the conductor. According to the liner notes on the Varese Sarabande (VSD 5263) release of the original soundtrack, composer Maurice Jarre conducted every note of this recording with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. According to "Beyond the Epic: The Life and Films of David Lean" by Gene Phillips, Sir Adrian Boult found conducting a movie score so overwhelming that he handed the job over to Jarre. Sir Adrian's name was still listed for contractual reasons, apparently because he was the chief conductor of the London Philharmonic at that time.
  • The train wreck sequence was filmed in Spain.
  • The first time Peter O'Toole tried riding a camel, blood oozed from his jeans. "This is a very delicate Irish arse", he warned his instructor. He finally mastered his camel-riding technique by adding a layer of sponge rubber under the saddle to ease his bruised backside--a practical innovation quickly adopted by the actual Bedouin tribesmen acting as extras during the desert location filming. O'Toole was nicknamed "ab al-'Isfanjah" ("father of the sponge") by the Bedouin.
  • Indian actor Dilip Kumar, known as the "Tragedy King", was offered the role of Sherif Ali, but he declined.
  • In 2007, the American Film Institute ranked this as the #7 Greatest Movie of All Time.
  • Sir Alec Guinness had a life-long interest in T.E. Lawrence, and had played him on stage in a production of Terence Rattigan's play "Ross". Guinness wanted very much to play Lawrence, but director Sir David Lean and producer Sam Spiegel both told him he was too old. Sir Laurence Olivier was the original choice for Prince Feisal, and Guinness was shifted to that role when Olivier turned it down.
  • Charles Gray re-voiced some of the vocal performance of Jack Hawkins for the 1989 restored edition.
  • Sir David Lean never saw any dailies while filming. He only missed one day of work, though the production endured many illnesses.
  • In his autobiography and in a letter to George Bernard Shaw's wife, there are indications that T.E. Lawrence was forced to perform homosexual acts for the Turkish Governor of Deraa, something over which this movie skimmed. However, friends and enemies of the Governor alike vehemently dismissed T.E. Lawrence's claims as fantasies and insisted the Governor was not a homosexual.
  • When he first heard that the movie was going to be produced, Lowell Thomas (on whom the Jackson Bentley character was based) offered to give producer Sam Spiegel a large amount of background material that he had collected on T.E. Lawrence and the Arab Revolt. The offer was rejected by Spiegel.
  • The character of Jackson Bentley is based on the real-life journalist and travel expert Lowell Thomas, whose writings first brought T.E. Lawrence to public attention.
  • (June 2008) Ranked #1 on the American Film Institute's list of the 10 greatest films in the genre "Epic".
  • T.E. Lawrence was riding from the Bovington Army Camp to his cottage in Cloud Hill when his fatal accident occurred. The scene where he was tortured and assaulted by the Turks was from the book "Seven Pillars of Wisdom", published in shortened form as "Revolt in the Desert". T.E. Lawrence refused to publish "Seven Pillars of Wisdom", his life's work, but did print it exclusively for one hundred twenty people only. The one hundred twenty people who read the book were delighted with it, and it was published after T.E. Lawrence died.
  • After deciding to cast an unknown actor in the role of T.E. Lawrence, Sir David Lean arranged a screen test for Albert Finney shortly before the release of the movie "Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960)," which would make Finney a star. The extensive screen test involved costumes, sets, and included actors Ferdy Mayne and Laurence Payne, and it was shot over four days at a cost of £100,000. In addition to Lean, the test was attended by cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth, assistant director Gerry O'Hara, editor Anne V. Coates, producer Sam Spiegel, and Anthony Nutting, an expert on Arabian history. It was unanimously agreed that the screen test was excellent, and Finney was offered the part of Lawrence,. However, Finney turned it down, as he did not want to be committed to the long-term contract that he would have been required to sign.
  • Producer Sam Spiegel was once known as "S.P. Eagle." He had an amazing talent for finding unusual material and hiring the perfect director to execute it. He produced one of Orson Welles's few commercial successes, "The Stranger (1946)." Sir David Lean, the director of this masterpiece, had been a well-respected director of moderate-budgeted English movies. Spiegel brought Lean to international prominence with Lean's direction of "The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)." Spiegel also worked with John Huston: first on "We Were Strangers (1949)" and then most notably on " The African Queen (1951)." Finally, Spiegel found the funding from Harry Cohn at Columbia Pictures for Elia Kazan's controversial "On the Waterfront (1954)." Perhaps no other independent producer has been associated with so many brilliant movie directors on so many diverse and original stories.
  • Peter O'Toole was considerably taller and better-looking than the real T.E. Lawrence (6'2" to Lawrence's real life height of 5'5"). Noël Coward is rumored to have said, on seeing the premiere, "If he'd been any prettier, they'd have had to call it Florence of Arabia."
  • Elaborate screen tests with Albert Finney as T.E. Lawrence were shot at a cost of £100,000. Finney later balked at producer Sam Spiegel's demand that he sign a 7-year contract if he accepted the role. Finney dropped out, replaced by Peter O'Toole, already under contract to Spiegel.
  • When film conservationists Robert A. Harris and Jim Painten got permission from Columbia Pictures to restore Sir David Lean's movie, four tons of extraneous footage was delivered to their door. It took them nearly a year to get through all the material.
  • This movie spent two years in pre-production before fourteen months of shooting in locations like Jordan, Spain, and Morocco.
  • This movie took longer to make than it did for the real T.E. Lawrence to go from Lieutenant to Colonel and to see the desert tribes united and thus tip the balance in the Allies' favor against the Turks in World War I.
  • Albert Finney's screentests in Arab costume as T.E. Lawrence are the most requested viewing item in Britain's National Film Archive.
  • Sir David Lean happened to catch a B-movie called "The Day They Robbed the Bank of England (1960)," which featured a young Peter O'Toole. He was immediately taken by the striking-looking young actor.
  • Producer Sam Spiegel was initially opposed to the casting of Peter O'Toole. He had already worked with O'Toole when he was the understudy for Montgomery Clift on "Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)." Clift's alcoholism had made Clift unreliable to work with.
  • Sir Laurence Olivier was offered the roles of Prince Feisal, General Mellenby, and Auda Abu Tayi. He declined them all, as he was engaged at the Chichester Festival Theatre.
  • Sir Alec Guinness was made up to resemble the real Faisal as closely as possible. When they were shooting in Jordan, several people who knew the man mistook him for the real thing.
  • Anthony Quinn applied his own make-up and would often arrive in real Arab clothes. At one point, Sir David Lean mistook him for a native on the studio lot, and he sent his assistant to tell Quinn that he had been replaced by this new arrival.
  • Jack Hawkins and Sir Alec Guinness shaved their heads for their roles.
  • Omar Sharif was originally cast to play T.E. Lawrence's guide Tafas.
  • José Ferrer was initially very unsatisfied about the small part he was offered. He only accepted on condition that he be paid $25,000, more than Peter O'Toole and Omar Sharif combined, plus a factory-made Porsche. Ironically, Ferrer once said about his tiny role that he considered it to be the finest acting of his career.
  • Jack Hawkins was originally set to take on the part of Colonel Harry Brighton. When he was shifted over to play Allenby, Sir Anthony Quayle got the part of Brighton.
  • Arthur Kennedy replaced Edmond O'Brien in the role of Jackson Bentley--the photo-journalist character based on Lowell Thomas--after O'Brien had a heart attack on-location after filming some scenes.
  • The Allenby family lodged a formal complaint against Columbia Pictures about the portrayal of their ancestor. The descendants of Auda abu Tayi and the real Sharif went even further and actively sued the studio. The case dragged on for ten years before being dropped.
  • Sir David Lean watched John Ford's "The Searchers (1956)" time after time for inspiration.
  • Sir David Lean hoped to film in the real Aqaba and the archaeological site at Petra. Much to his regret, however, the production had to be moved to Spain because of cost overruns and outbreaks of illness amongst the cast and crew before these scenes could be shot.
  • The town of Aqaba was re-created in a dried river bed in southern Spain and consisted of over three hundred buildings.
  • Sir David Lean personally supervised the first cuts that brought the movie down to three hours, as he wanted it to enjoy more showings per day. During the 1989 restoration, he passed blame for the cuts onto the then deceased Sam Spiegel.
  • This is Steven Spielberg's all-time favorite movie.
  • Restorer Robert A. Harris and editor Anne V. Coates went through 450 rusted old film cans for the 1989 restoration.
  • Director Sir David Lean didn't see his first royalty check for this movie until 1978.
  • After the tremendous success of "The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)," producer Sam Spiegel and director Sir David Lean were keen to work together on a similarly worthy topic. Initially the pair considered making a movie of the life of Ghandi (Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi), but they soon gave up on that.
  • Director Sir David Lean wanted Malcolm Arnold to score the movie, while producer Sam Spiegel wanted William Walton. Both composers turned down the chance to work on this movie.
  • Maurice Jarre was hired to write the dramatic musical score; Aram Khachaturyan was to handle the eastern themed music; and Benjamin Britten was to provide the British imperial music. Neither Khatchaturian nor Britten were able to properly get involved so producer Sam Spiegel hired Richard Rodgers to fill in the musical gaps. When Spiegel and director Sir David Lean heard Rodgers' compositions, they were hugely disappointed so they turned to Jarre to see what he had done. The minute Lean heard Jarre's now-classic theme, he knew they had the right composer. Jarre was given the job of scoring the whole movie in a mere six weeks.
  • This movie missed out on an eleventh Oscar nomination, for Best Costume Design, because someone forgot to submit Phyllis Dalton's name for consideration.
  • T.E. Lawrence's brother, A.E. Lawrence, who was also executor of his will, wasn't keen on the movie's representation of his brother, so he didn't allow the use of his sibling's autobiography title "Seven Pillars of Wisdom".
  • This movie was banned in many Arab countries as they felt Arab historical figures and the Arab peoples were misrepresented. Omar Sharif arranged a viewing with President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt to show him that there was nothing wrong with the way they were portrayed. Nasser loved the movie and allowed it to be released in Egypt, where it went on to become a monster hit.
  • Costume designer Phyllis Dalton devised a subtle way to indicate T.E. Lawrence's failing grip. As the movie progresses, his robes become thinner and thinner until they are virtually translucent.
  • The only studio set built for this movie was the set for the crypt in St. Paul's Cathedral, London--the location of T.E. Lawrence's bronze memorial.
  • Costume designer Phyllis Dalton deliberately made Peter O'Toole's Army outfit too small and ill-fitting, to signify T.E. Lawrence's discomfort with the military uniform.
  • The famous cut from T.E. Lawrence blowing out a match to the desert sunrise was originally just going to be a dissolve. But editor Anne V. Coates suggested to Sir David Lean that he use the cut in the fashion of the then current French New Wave.
  • When filming in Jordan, every drop of water for the production was brought in by truck from the nearest well, 150 miles (242 kilometers) away.
  • Initially the production used white plastic cups for its drinking water, but the wind would frequently pick them up and blow them into the desert. After having numerous shots ruined due to errant white plastic cups, Sir David Lean had them banned and replaced with ceramic mugs.
  • Although women have no lines in the movie, they occasionally can be seen in the background of some scenes. Regarding Arabian women, tradition forbade Bedouin women from being photographed, so costume designer Phyllis Dalton had Christian women extras dress up in the flowing robes.
  • The charge on Aqaba employed 450 horses and 150 camels.
  • The production schedule was so long that producer Sam Spiegel insisted on a two-month break. This afforded him the chance to find a filming location that was less arduous than Jordan, ultimately settling on Spain. Anthony Quinn, Sir Anthony Quayle, Sir Alec Guinness, and Omar Sharif all took advantage of the break to work on other movies. Quayle starred in Damn the Defiant! (1962), while Quinn starred in Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962).
  • Two miles of railroad track were laid for the train scenes.
  • José Ferrer had to be talked into taking the role of the sadistic Bey, dubious about it being such a small part. Sir David Lean convinced him that the Bey was a pivotal character in T.E. Lawrence's history.
  • Peter O'Toole claimed that he learned more about acting from his few days of filming with José Ferrer than he did in all of his years at drama school.
  • General Allenby's Jersualem headquarters was filmed at the Moorish mansion, Casa de Pilatos, in Seville, Spain. While setting up there, the lighting crew accidentally smashed a centuries old statue. Fortunately, the authorities were appeased, and filming was allowed to continue.
  • At one point, when filming was progressing far too slowly for his liking, producer Sam Spiegel invited William Wyler to visit the set. He wanted Wyler to encourage Lean to rely more on his second units for filming additional scenes, as he had done on Ben-Hur (1959). The visit was to no avail, however, as Lean was too much of a perfectionist to relinquish control.
  • The moment when T.E. Lawrence, freshly adorned in his new flowing white robes, raises his dagger to look at his reflection was an improvisation by Peter O'Toole. The moment was repeated at the end of the movie in a completely different context when a battered Lawrence looks at his bloodied dagger after the battle for Damascus.
  • Montgomery Clift coveted the role of Lawrence and actively lobbied for the part with director Sir David Lean. Producer Sam Spiegel, however, had a low opinion of Clift after the latter's drinking problems surfaced on "Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)," and he refused to consider casting Clift.
  • Peter O'Toole and Jack Hawkins became close friends on-set, much to Sir David Lean's consternation. Lean thought Hawkins should maintain a fatherly distance from O'Toole to help with the part, but Hawkins "didn't see the point" of Lean's advice. The two frequently went drinking after shooting concluded, including one instance in a Seville restaurant (where Sir Alec Guinness was also present) where a drunken O'Toole threatened a waiter, backing down when the waiter produced a knife. O'Toole and Hawkins would also frequently improvise humorous dialogue on-set (often during takes), which infuriated Lean.
  • Steven Spielberg estimated that to make this movie today would cost in the region of $285 million. In 1962, the production cost of this movie was $15 million. Its box office receipts were $70 million.
  • Because filming was not possible in the complete darkness of night, the night scenes were filmed during the day with light filters on the lenses. This is also the reason there are shadows from the camels during the night scenes.
  • When first telecast by ABC, this movie was shown in two parts on two successive nights because of its four-hour length. Even so, it was edited so that T.E. Lawrence's torture by the Turks was even less explicit (and less comprehensible) than in the original movie.
  • Screenwriter Robert Bolt's original writing contract with producer Sam Spiegel was for three months, as he was needed to work on another play. But due his immersion on material, he ended up working for fourteen months on the script and totally forgot his work on the play.
  • Peter O'Toole won his career-making (and legendary) part as T.E. Lawrence after it was turned down by superstar Marlon Brando and a then-unknown Albert Finney. Director Sir David Lean and producer Sam Spiegel wanted Marlon Brando. (Spiegel had produced "On the Waterfront (1954)," the movie for which Brando and Spiegel had won their first Oscars.) But Brando turned the role down, allegedly saying he didn't want to spend two years of his life riding on a camel. Their second choice Finney was put through extensive screen tests costing 100-thousand pounds sterling, but he refused to sign a 7-year contract demanded by Spiegel. O'Toole signed the 7-year contract and got the part.
  • This movie had been slated to go into production in 1953 with John Wayne in the lead. It collapsed due to lack of funding.
  • Soldiers from the Moroccan Army were employed as extras without pay, which they understandably resented. During off-hours, they actually took potshots at cast and crew, Sir David Lean included. Others deserted between takes and never came back.
  • Contrary to some sources, Richard Burton was never offered the lead role due to the financial failure of "Look Back in Anger (1959)," which had caused Twentieth Century Fox to release him from his contract.
  • Lawrence's rescue of the lost Gasim actually happened, as recounted in his book "Seven Pillars of Wisdom". Though in the movie Lawrence is hailed for the heroism, he was in fact ridiculed and chided for what was seen as a dubious achievement.
  • Despite this movie's success, many people disliked it due to its fictional elements (fictional characters such as Sherif Ali, Colonel Brighton, Jackson Bentley, Mr. Dryden et cetera). Another reason why others disliked it has to do with the death of T.E. Lawrence in this movie. Many people believed T.E. Lawrence was murdered. One of the principal witnesses of the accident of T.E. Lawrence was an Army Corporal named Catchpole who testified about a black van heading toward T.E. Lawrence. After the crash, the black van raced off down the road and the Corporal ran over to T.E. Lawrence who lay on the road with his face covered in blood. The Corporal was instructed not to mention the van as being involved in the accident, and the suspicions increased when it was reported that Catchpole killed himself shortly after testifying about the black van. Right before his death, T.E. Lawrence had been planning to see his friend Henry Williamson, who was facilitating a meeting between T.E. Lawrence and Adolf Hitler for making peace between England and Germany. T.E. Lawrence abhorred the idea of yet another war in Europe.
  • While working on the 1989 restoration of the film, those involved had a hard time locating actor Arthur Kennedy (Jackson Bentley) for voice-over work. They had heard he was living in Savannah Georgia and phoned every Kennedy in the Savannah phonebook. The actor finally returned their call, and he re-recorded his dialogue on a 3/4-inch tape at a local television station.
  • When Omar Sharif signed on with producer Sam Spiegel to do this movie, it was a seven-picture deal at $15,000 per movie. The others were Behold a Pale Horse (1964), Doctor Zhivago (1965), Genghis Khan (1965), The Night of the Generals (1967), Funny Girl (1968), and Mackenna's Gold (1969).
  • Despite the fictional elements, many people who watched this movie acknowledged the fact that the movie did correctly portray the honest intentions of T.E. Lawrence in giving freedom to Arabs.
  • While the team behind the restoration of this movie in 1989 found all of the surviving footage cut after its premiere, they learned that the soundtrack to said footage had been lost. Thus, the team recruited the then-surviving members of the cast to re-record their lines for the scenes. Sir David Lean complimented Peter O'Toole for his effort, telling him that he did a better job than in the original movie. O'Toole replied: "After twenty-five years, I think I have learned enough to play the scene properly."
  • Producer Sam Spiegel wanted director Sir David Lean to consider the cost-saving benefits of shooting in Southern California or the less volatile political climate of Israel. Lean, however, was determined to film the story where it had happened--in a Middle Eastern country. One obvious problem for Spiegel was his religion: given the political situation in the Middle East, a good chance existed that a Jewish producer wouldn't even be allowed into Jordan. The production's British Advisor--Anthony Nutting, who had been England's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs at the start of the Suez crisis (1956)--got around that problem by getting Spiegel a visa that listed his religion as Anglican. When the forthrightly Jewish producer protested, Nutting said, "Sam, just shut up! Here's your bloody visa."
  • On his first location scouting trip in Jordan, director Sir David Lean discovered the remains of the Turkish locomotives and railroad tracks Lawrence had destroyed during the Arab Revolution. After forty years in the sun, they hadn't even rusted.
  • To capture Jordan's grandeur, Sir David Lean decided to shoot the movie in Super Panavision 70mm. He wanted the largest frame possible.
  • Anthony Nutting convinced King Hussein of Jordan that this movie would boost tourism, thus bringing more money into the then cash-starved nation. He also appealed to the King's sense of family. The King's great-grandfather, Sherif of Mecca, had launched the Arab Revolt with T.E. Lawrence in 1916. King Hussein quickly gave this movie his blessing. Nutting even managed to negotiate the fee for the Jordanian Army's cooperation down from 1-million pounds sterling to 165,000 pounds.
  • Anthony Nutting had to negotiate hiring the Bedouin tribesmen, who wanted £1 million. When Nutting asked how they could ask for so much money, he learned what the Bedouin's representative, Sherif Nasser, had learned: that producer Sam Spiegel had taken out a secret £1-million loan from the Arab Bank there. The bank director, as it turned out, was Sherif Nasser's uncle. Spiegel ultimately got the price down by pulling a ploy his associates were familiar with. He [claimed he had?] had a heart attack, which so threatened the production's future that the Bedouin lowered their price.
  • In July 1961, the company moved to their first location, Jebel Tubeiq near the Saudi Arabian border. The spot was 150 miles (242 kilometers) away from the nearest water, and it had not been inhabited since a band of monks abandoned their monastery there in the seventh century A.D. Temperatures were so high in the summer sun that most thermometers couldn't even register them. In fact, the thermometers had to be cooled down.
  • To accommodate the cast and crew while they were filming in the desert, the production company set up a small city of tents and trailers, complete with air conditioning and refrigerators. The location company started with 75 members and eventually rose to more than 400, most of them Jordanians. The leading actors each had personal servants to see to their needs, from laundry to cold drinks. A master chef was flown in from London to set up the company kitchen. On Saturday nights, movies were shown outdoors, and every 28 days the cast and crew were flown to the nearest city for 2 days of recreation. Omar Sharif and Peter O'Toole separately enjoyed soaking in cold baths during their breaks, as they couldn't do that on-location.
  • While assisting screenwriter Robert Bolt with research, Anthony Nutting was working on his own biography of T.E. Lawrence. He became convinced that the war hero Lawrence had left something out of the final edition of "Seven Pillars of Wisdom" regarding his description of his capture and mistreatment by the Turkish police. Nutting finally uncovered a rare 1922 edition of the manuscript and a letter to George Bernard Shaw's wife that [both of which?] strongly suggested that the Turkish Bey had actually raped Lawrence, a fact only hinted at in the movie.
  • During the desert location shoot, after each rehearsal and take, 300 Bedouins wearing sandals muffled in wool were charged with smoothing out the desert sands with palm fronds so that no extraneous footprints would be visible in the sand.
  • Throughout shooting, producer Sam Spiegel continued to feign heart attacks whenever he wasn't happy with the way things were going. At one point, he had himself strapped to a stretcher and flown by a Red Cross helicopter to the desert location. Attendants carried him to Sir David Lean, to whom he said, "Don't worry about anything, David, not the budget, not the schedule, not my health. The picture, the picture is all that counts!" Then he was flown back out.
  • After five months shooting in Jordan, producer Sam Spiegel ran short on cash and moved the entire production to Spain, where he had frozen assets that he could only spend in that country. Director Sir David Lean was so unhappy about the move that he stayed in Jordan on his own after everyone else had left for a rest in England. Surveying the location for one of the last scenes shot in Jordan--a desert panorama complete with camels--he complained, "Bloody well match that somewhere else in the world."
  • Property manager Eddie Fowlie coordinated the move to Spain on a large tramp steamer. The strangest part of the cargo was 100 stuffed camels. He had bought the skins from a slaughterhouse in Jordan and had them stuffed in case they were needed for battle scenes, which they were.
  • The first Spanish location was in Seville, where the company got to stay in hotels. The production took advantage of the city's Moorish architecture to re-create early twentieth century Damascus, Cairo, and Jerusalem, which had become too modernized for use in this movie. Two thousand local extras turned out to film General Allenby's entry into Damascus in front of Seville's Archeological Museum.
  • After three months of shooting in the Seville area, the company moved again--350 miles (564 kilometers) southeast to the port city of Almeria. The area comes closer to desert terrain than any other part of Europe. A special train carried the company overnight from Seville. Another train carried the trailers in which they had lived in Jordan. A 48-truck convoy brought the props, costumes, and technical equipment to Almeria.
  • Because Jordan had had no snow the year before, the scenes of T.E. Lawrence's trek through the mountains had to be filmed in Spain's Sierra Nevadas. A special sledge with ski-type runners was used to move the camera.
  • In a dried riverbed in Spain, designers recreated the entire town of Aqaba, Jordan, circa 1916. Contemporary Aqaba had become too modernized to serve as a location. The set consisted of 300 separate building fronts and a quarter-mile-long sea wall. On a hillside behind that set, they built a half-mile square Turkish Army camp and parade ground overlooking the town. Here they filmed the Arab charge of 150 camels and 450 horses through the Turkish camp.
  • One of the major scenes shot in southern Spain was the attack on the Turkish railroad. The crew laid tracks and brought in German and Belgian locomotives from the early twentieth century rented from the Spanish national railway system. Each of the two trains included eight passenger cars, fourteen horse cars, two luggage vans, and a guards' van.
  • It took impeccable planning to prepare the railroad attack. The filmmakers could only film the sequence once. After careful testing, they determined that it would take ten pounds of guncotton to cut the rails and another ten to send the train cars careening off the track. To control the trains motion through the desert sand, they had to plant steel plates under the sand. The engineer set the locomotive at full throttle, then jumped off before the tracks exploded.
  • The final shoot location for the movie was in Morocco, where the production had moved to shoot the massacre of the Turkish Army. The scene required an army of 800 Arabs mounted on camels and horses and a Turkish army of 1200 soldiers on carts and mules. Sir David Lean started the day's shoot with long shots that involved large numbers of actors and extras and ended with medium and close-up shots requiring fewer actors. This allowed the gradual release of people throughout the day before they got too tired, a real danger shooting epic scenes of this nature.
  • When the movie was finally put together and shown to T.E. Lawrence's brother, Professor A.W. Lawrence, he was horrified at what he considered liberties taken with history. He called it "an unholy marriage between a Western [film] and a psychological horror [film]", and he refused to let the title "Seven Pillars of Wisdom" be used. He ended up donating to charity most of the money he had been paid for the rights to the book.
  • Many who had known T.E. Lawrence and other real figures featured in the movie were horrified by the movie. Lawrence biographer Basil Liddell Hart wrote to warn many of the man's friends that they would be shocked by the depiction of the hero struggling with sadistic impulses. Lady Allenby, widow of General Allenby, wrote to The London Times: "Is there any way in which a film company can be stopped from portraying a character so inaccurately as that of the late Field Marshal Allenby in Lawrence of Arabia? What can one do? What is the remedy? Or is there one?"
  • Sir David Lean had less than two months to prepare the movie for its premiere after completing second unit work. As a result, the version shown at the premiere was a few minutes longer than he might have liked. He had hoped to go back and cut a few frames from some shots he thought ran too long. But after the premiere, distributor Columbia Pictures asked him to cut 20 minutes from it so that exhibitors could squeeze in an extra showing each day. So instead of his original intent of trimming a few shots, he had to cut whole scenes. For a 1971 re-issue, another 15 minutes were cut from the film. Many critics have complained that this later 1971 version renders the action incoherent, particularly in the second half, which sustained the largest cuts.
  • In 1995, the Writers Guild decided that Michael Wilson had written enough material for this movie to merit a screen credit. All versions of the movie since then, including the DVD and Blu-ray, credit the script to Robert Bolt and Michael Wilson.
  • Omar Sharif was already a big star in his native Egypt when he got the call to meet producer Sam Spiegel in a hotel in Cairo. When he agreed to make a screentest, Spiegel flew him to Jordan. In his autobiography, Sharif would marvel that a Jew from Hollywood had gotten something from the Egyptian government the native-born Sharif had been trying to get for years, an exit visa.
  • Lawrence Kasdan, Steven Spielberg, and Joel Silver all designated this movie as their favorite movie for an AFI poll.
  • This movie depicts the seizing of the port of Aqaba by the Arabs as a stirring sneak-attack that caught the Turks unaware. Actually, most of the fighting for Aqaba involved the capture (and loss and recapture) of a small fort at Abu-al-Lasan, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) well inland. From there, T.E. Lawrence and Sheikh Auda marched unopposed into Aqaba a few days later after British warships shelled the port into submission.
  • Casting was completed before the script was finished.
  • Michael Wilson worked on the screenplay for over a year, but he was summarily dismissed by Sir David Lean for unsatisfactory work. Unfortunately, the cast and crew, already in Jordan, had to wait for a few weeks before a new writer was hired and a script was available.
  • Producer Sam Spiegel and director Sir David Lean's already testy relationship soon reached the breaking point. Spiegel rarely visited the set, and he constantly complained long-distance about Lean's "wasting" money and about alleged poor footage. Lean eventually got back at Spiegel by sneaking into the dailies a shot of him "flipping off" Spiegel in 70mm.
  • Sir David Lean argued with his second unit directors on how to film the battle scenes, firing one (André De Toth). NOTE: Lean set the tone earlier in the production, explicitly telling his crew, "I loathe second unit directors."
  • Sir David Lean thought that one of Lawrence's key conflicts throughout the movie would be his inability to come to terms with his own homosexuality. Keeping this in mind, many moments in the movie can be read this way. Lean also compared the relationship between Lawrence and Ali to the doomed heterosexual love affair in his movie romance "Brief Encounter (1945)."
  • This movie premiered in London at the Royal Command Performance for 1962 on Monday, December 10. Tickets for the charity performance cost between 1 guinea and 25 guineas (the equivalent of 4 dollars to 100 dollars).
  • While filming in Morocco, the crew took up residence at an old Foreign Legion encampment in Ouarzazate with no air conditioning. The location experienced 100-plus degree Fahrenheit (38-plus degree Celsius) temperatures.
  • The crew had great difficulty getting camels in Spain and Morocco.
  • Sir Alec Guinness said in interviews that he developed his Arab accent from a conversation he had with Omar Sharif.
  • According to Sir Alec Guinness, Sir David Lean exploded at Jack Hawkins for lightening the mood on-set by celebrating the end of a day's filming with an impromptu dance.
  • Various members of the film's crew portrayed minor characters. First assistant director Roy Stevens played the truck driver who transports T.E. Lawrence and Farraj to the Cairo headquarters at the end of Act I. The Sergeant who stops T.E. Lawrence and Farraj ("Where do you think you're going to, Mustapha?") is construction assistant Fred Bennett. Screenwriter Robert Bolt has a wordless cameo as one of the officers watching Allenby and T.E. Lawrence confer in the courtyard (he is smoking a pipe). Gaffer Steve Birtles played the motorcyclist at the Suez Canal. Sir David Lean is rumored to be the voice shouting "Who are you?" Finally, continuity girl Barbara Cole appeared as one of the nurses in the Damascus hospital scene.
  • The Sherif Ali character is a combination of numerous Arab leaders--particularly Sharif Nassir, Faisal's cousin, who led the Harith forces involved in the attack on Aqaba. The character was created largely because Lawrence did not serve with any one Arab leader (aside from Auda) throughout the majority of the war. This character was, however, almost certainly named after Sharif Ali ibn Hussein, a leader in the Harith tribe, who played a part in the Revolt and who is mentioned and pictured in Lawrence's memoir "Seven Pillars of Wisdom".
  • Mr. Dryden was based loosely on numerous figures, including Sir Ronald Storrs, who was head of the Arab Bureau and later the Governor of Palestine. It was largely Storrs' doing that T.E. Lawrence first met Faisal and became involved with the revolt. The Dryden character was also partially based upon T.E. Lawrence's archaeologist friend D.G. Hogarth as well as Mark Sykes and Henry McMahon, who historically fulfilled Dryden's role as a political liaison. Dryden was created by the screenwriters to "represent the civilian and political wing of British interests, to balance Allenby's military objectives."
  • Colonel Brighton is in essence a composite of all of the British officers who served in the Middle East with Lawrence, most notably Lieutenant Colonel S.F. Newcombe. Newcombe played much the same role as Brighton does in the movie, being Lawrence's predecessor as liaison to the Arab Revolt. He, and many of his men, were captured by the Turks in 1916, but he later escaped. Also, like Brighton, Newcombe was not well liked by the Arabs, though he remained friends with Lawrence. (In Michael Wilson's original script, he was "Colonel Newcombe". The character's name was changed by Robert Bolt.) Brighton was apparently created to represent how ordinary British soldiers would feel about a man like Lawrence: impressed by his accomplishments, but repulsed by his affected manner.
  • The Turkish Bey who captured T.E. Lawrence in Deraa--according to Lawrence, General Hajim Bey (in Turkish, Hacim Muhiddin Bey)--is not named in the movie. The incident was mentioned in "Seven Pillars of Wisdom". Some biographers (Jeremy Wilson, John Mack) argue that Lawrence's account is to be believed. Others (Michael Asher, Lawrence James) argue that contemporary evidence suggests that Lawrence never went to Deraa at this time and that the story is invented.
  • Jackson Bentley was based on famed American journalist Lowell Thomas. Thomas helped make T.E. Lawrence famous with accounts of his bravery. Thomas--a young man at the time--spent only a few days (or weeks at most) with T.E. Lawrence in the field. Whereas Bentley--depicted as a cynical middle-aged Chicago newspaperman--was present during the whole of T.E. Lawrence's later campaigns. Thomas--who did not start reporting on T.E. Lawrence until after the end of World War I--held T.E. Lawrence in high regard, unlike the Bentley character, who seems to view T.E. Lawrence only as a story he can write about. Bentley had been the narrator in Michael Wilson's original script, but Robert Bolt reduced his role significantly for the final script.
  • André De Toth suggested a shot wherein bags of blood would be machine-gunned, spraying the screen with blood. Second unit cinematographer Nicolas Roeg approached Sir David Lean with this idea, but Lean found it disgusting. De Toth subsequently left the project.
  • Peter O'Toole spent three months learning how to live as an Arab before a frame of film was shot. He travelled across the desert with the Bedouin camel patrol, and he often slept rough under the stars amidst utter silence, just as T.E. Lawrence had done as a child.
  • Peter O'Toole was often injured during filming. He received third-degree burns, sprained both ankles, tore ligaments in both his hip and thigh, broke his thumb, dislocated his spine, fractured his skull, was bitten by a camel, sprained his neck, tore a groin muscle, and was concussed twice. He also seriously injured his hand during filming by punching through the window of a caravan while drunk. A brace or bandage can be seen on his left thumb during the first train attack scene, presumably due to this incident.
  • Peter O'Toole dubbed Spain, "Pontefract with scorpions".
  • After signing for the movie, Peter O'Toole was flown to New York City to meet the Columbia Pictures executives backing the movie, an experience he didn't care for. One said to him, "When I look at you, I see six million dollars." O'Toole replied, "How'd you like a punch up the throat?" He later said, "I hate all that stuff, it made me feel like a prize bull."
  • Peter O'Toole and Omar Sharif would often go drinking and gambling together in Beirut on their days off.
  • During filming, Peter O'Toole visited Bethlehem. He was unmoved by the experience, calling it "Christ commercialized."
  • Peter O'Toole attended press interviews drunk.
  • After six months filming in the desert, Peter O'Toole was allowed to return to Britain for a week's rest following injuries. Once out of the hospital, he went on a bender: he was arrested for drunk driving, jailed, fined £75, and disqualified for a year. Producer Sam Spiegel reprimanded him, "You're not supposed to get up to that kind of caper on a film like this."
  • While working on the 1989 restoration of the film, those involved had a hard time locating actor Arthur Kennedy (Jackson Bentley) for voice-over work. They had heard he was living in Savannah Georgia and phoned every Kennedy in the Savannah phonebook. The actor finally returned their call, and he re-recorded his dialogue on a 3/4-inch tape at a local television station.
  • Peter O'Toole feared he was having a nervous breakdown due to the harsh terrain and the pressure enforced on him by Sir David Lean. He begged his wife, Siân Phillips, to come and raise his spirits: "Here, you have to be a little mad to be sane."
  • This movie's American premiere was presented during a newspaper strike in New York City. The few critics who saw it gave overwhelmingly negative reviews, notably Bosley Crowther, who dismissed it as a "camel opera".
  • The score was used in a scene in "The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)." Incidentally, "Lawrence of Arabia" was Sir Roger Moore's favorite movie.
  • Referring to the secret Sykes-Picot Treaty, Faisal speaks of "the need to keep (the Arabs) in the British interest and the French interest." When he says "British interest," he shakes Allenby's hand, and when he says "French interest," he shakes Dryden's hand. The character Dryden--played by Claude Rains--is not French. However, one of Claude Rains's iconic roles was that of the French Captain Renault in "Casablanca (1942)."
  • David Niven turned down the role of Colonel Harry Brighton.
  • Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
  • After producer Sam's Spiegel's choosing him for the part of T.E. Lawrence, Peter O'Toole signed a contract with Spiegel for three movies at $50,000 a piece. Albert Finney's screen test alone for the same part cost £100,000.
  • Producer Sam Spiegel offered William Holden the role of Jackson Bentley.
  • As production wound down in Jordan, Omar Sharif and Peter O'Toole wanted to prepare themselves for their return to civilization. Having read about the sudden popularity of the "Twist" dance craze in one of the magazines shipped to the company's desert compound, they 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 Omar Sharif screentested to play Sherif Ali, Sir David Lean wanted to give the character facial hair to contrast with the fair, clean-shaven Peter O'Toole. He tried Sharif with a beard, but didn't like it. Then he fitted the actor with a mustache, which is how Sharif played the role. Sharif had become a star in his native Egypt without facial hair. The impact that the mustachioed Sharif made in the movie was so strong that he has kept the mustache for the rest of his career.
  • When the company moved from Jordan to Spain aboard ship, the camels travelled reclined with their legs drawn up under them so they wouldn't get seasick. After the camels got to Spain, they needed a day to recuperate from the ordeal before they could travel to the shooting locations.
  • During the initial release, the joke spread that one patron had gone to the ticket window and requested two seats on the shady side.
  • When this movie first came out, rumors spread that some theater managers turned down the air conditioning and/or turned up the heat during the half hour before intermission in order to sell more ice cream and cold drinks.
  • When he re-dubbed his dialogue for the restored version, Peter O'Toole made fun of his inexperience 27 years earlier, quipping, "Now I know how to read the lines."
  • Upon being cast, Peter O'Toole immediately set out to research T.E. Lawrence, almost memorizing "Seven Pillars of Wisdom" and interviewing anyone he could find who had known Lawrence. He had to move fast, as he was set to leave for the location shoot only five weeks after winning the role.
  • Peter O'Toole's screen test was more modest than Albert Finney's, taking only a day to shoot. He dyed his hair blond and shaved the beard that he was wearing in a Stratford, England, production of "The Merchant of Venice." Sir David Lean was impressed at the first sight of him in costume. Halfway through the screen test, he stopped the cameras and said, "No use shooting another foot of film. The boy is Lawrence." O'Toole signed for the movie with the stipulation that his wife, actress Siân Phillips, be flown to the location once a month at the production's expense.
  • As the departure for location shooting neared, director Sir David Lean still didn't have a final script. He had decided he didn't care for Michael Wilson's treatment, and he insisted that someone else be found to re-write it. Then he saw Robert Bolt's historical drama "A Man for All Seasons" in London and realized he'd found his writer. At first, the playwright was asked to rewrite the dialogue: Bolt refused. Then producer Sam Spiegel offered a large fee for a complete re-write, but only if Bolt could finish it in seven weeks. Bolt tried reading several books about T.E. Lawrence but, finding them too contradictory, finally focused on Lawrence's own "Seven Pillars of Wisdom" as his primary source.
  • Competing with Spiegel's Lawrence movie for production rights and funding was a stage play by Terence Rattigan called "Ross", Ross being an alias used by T.E. Lawrence in his later years to escape notice. The play had a successful London run, and it was set for a movie adaptation with Laurence Harvey starring. But a threatened court injunction from producer Sam Spiegel made it impossible for "Ross" producer Herbert Wilcox to obtain financing. So the "Ross" production was dropped at a loss of £100,000. In this case, turnabout was fair play: Wilcox had turned Lawrence down in 1926 when the hero was trying to sell the screen rights to his "Seven Pillars of Wisdom".
  • Peter O'Toole lost 28 pounds making this movie.
  • Anthony Perkins was considered for the lead role. But when he scored a hit with Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho (1960)," producer Sam Spiegel and director Sir David Lean dropped the idea for fear their film would be labelled "Psycho of Arabia."
  • This movie's military advisor, an Army officer, went mad with sunstroke, wandering out of his tent in the dark of night and shooting at anything that moved across the landscape with live ammunition. He had to be carted away.
  • For T.E. Lawrence's death scene, Peter O'Toole sat on a bike that was strapped to a trailer and pulled along behind the camera car. During filming, the bar connecting the trailer to the camera truck snapped and the only thing preventing O'Toole hurtling out of control into the road was a flimsy piece of rope. The trailer abruptly stopped, and the crew breathed a heavy sigh of relief to see O'Toole still in one piece. "I think it was only Lawrence up there teasing", he said.
  • Sir Alec Guinness admired Peter O'Toole's talent and charm but, as he watched him drink to excess on-location, his appreciation cooled. One day, the two of them were invited to dinner at a local dignitary's house. O'Toole got drunk, quarrelled with his host, and threw a glass of champagne in his face. Guinness wrote to a friend, "O'Toole could have been killed, shot or strangled, and I'm beginning to think it's a pity he wasn't."
  • The night before the 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 [heroin?]. At that moment, the police broke in and arrested all three on drug charges. Sharif called Sam 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 also get the comedian's drug charges dropped .
  • The scene where Lawrence is given his first Arab clothes wasn't working as written, so Sir David Lean took Peter O'Toole aside and said, "There's something missing, Peter. What do you think a young man would do alone in the desert if he'd just been given these beautiful robes?" He pointed out to the desert and O'Toole's eyes followed. "There's your theatre, Peter. Do what you like." So, O'Toole improvised Lawrence looking at his reflection in his knife.
  • Peter O'Toole sometimes played practical jokes on-set that were not always appreciated by everyone. Once, he demolished the tents as the crew lay sleeping. "After a hard day's work in 140-degree (60-degree Celsius) heat, that wasn't funny," said Cameraman Peter Newbrook.
  • While shooting Peter O'Toole and I.S. Johar riding together on a single camel, Sir David Lean saw that they had trouble staying on the animal. On closer inspection, a large block of hashish was discovered. Both actors were completely stoned. Shooting was abandoned for the day.
  • When sandstorms periodically hit the set, Peter O'Toole and Omar Sharif found that the safest place was under the make-up trailer.
  • The cast includes four Oscar winners (Anthony Quinn, José Ferrer, Sir David Lean, and Sir Alec Guinness) and five Oscar nominees (Peter O'Toole, Claude Rains, Sir Anthony Quayle, Arthur Kennedy, and Omar Sharif).
  • The character of Tafas--the Arab guide shot by Ali (Omar Sharif) for drinking water from the wrong well--was played by Zia Mohyeddin, who is a Pakistani actor, producer, director, and television broadcaster. He is considered a legend, and he is of great influence in literary circles.
  • Some of the desert scenes for this movie were shot at Merthyr Mawr Sand Dunes, near Bridgend, South Wales, U.K. The sand dunes there are vast and the second highest in Europe. A few miles further west along the coast is Margam Sands, at Port Talbot, which was the location for Ealing Studio's World War II desert movie "Nine Men" (1943).
  • In the opening scene, following the fatal motorcycle crash, the registration of the fallen motorcycle can be seen: it is UL 656. The registration of the actual motorcycle involved in the fatal crash was GW 2275. The registration UL 656 was that of another Brough Superior motorcycle T.E. Lawrence owned.
  • Marlon Brando was the first choice to play T.E. Lawrence.
  • Sir David Lean and Omar Sharif's first movie together.
  • This movie is included on Roger Ebert's "Great Movies" list.
  • In 1999, it was ranked #3 on "The British Film Institute's 100 Greatest British Films of the 20th Century."
  • Notice the attention to detail when T.E. Lawrence (Peter O'Toole) is writing out the promissory note for Auda Abu Tayi (Anthony Quinn). He writes from right to left, as one would write in Arabic, and not left to right, as English and most other languages are written.
  • Anthony Quinn's and Peter O'Toole's second movie together.
  • (At around 40 minutes) When T.E. Lawrence and Colonel Brighton first sit with King Faisal in Faisal's tent, Brighton stretches out his legs while Lawrence keeps his folded meekly behind. In Arab culture the blatant exposing of the soles of one's shoes is considered a gross insult, and Lawrence (already something of a scholar on Araby) would have certainly avoided the misstep. Brighton, on the other hand--an archetype here of the typical British officer in that theater of war--either doesn't know or doesn't care.
  • Included among the American Film Institute's 1998 list of the "Top 100 Greatest American Movies."
  • T.E. Lawrence and his Arabs are shown capturing Damascus, but the city had been captured by Australians units two days earlier.
  • Two actors named Jack Hawkins are in this movie. The veteran character actor who played General Allenby and Jack Hedley (born Jack Hawkins). Hedley played the reporter at the beginning of the movie.
  • When Henry Oscar, who was not a native Arabic speaker, was reciting from the Koran, an Imam was on hand to ensure it was not misquoted.
  • Peter O'Toole had rhinoplasty before filming began.
  • In 1991, this movie was added to the National Film Registry by the United States Library of Congress.
  • This movie features Omar Sharif's only Oscar nominated performance.
  • Peter O'Toole had only one son , and he christened him "Lorcan". "Lorcan" is the Gaelic, or Irish, for Lawrence.
  • At that year's Academy Awards, Omar Sharif was the only "Best Actor in a Supporting Role" Oscar nominee from a "Best Picture" nominated movie.
  • When George Stevens fell behind schedule during the filming of "The Greatest Story Ever Told" (1965), he turned to Sir David Lean to shoot some key scenes. The scenes involved Herod and his son, and they utilized two of this movie's actors--Claude Rains and José Ferrer. This would be the only directing work Lean undertook between "Lawrence of Arabia" (1962) and "Doctor Zhivago" (1965). His work on "The Greatest Story Ever Told" remains uncredited.
  • The Arabs frequently refer to T.E. Lawrence as "Awrence" and later "El Awrence." In Arabic, "El" or "Al" is the definite article, equivalent to "the" in English. Many European names that begin with L or an El or Al sound are therefore abridged of this in Arabic. For example, Iskederun is named for Alexander the Great.
  • Omar Sharif, who is Middle Eastern (Egyptian), played a Middle-Eastern character. Other Middle-Eastern characters were played by Hispanic actors (José Ferrer and Anthony Quinn) and an Englishmen (Sir Alec Guinness).
  • Anthony Hawkins played the character of General Allenby in the movie "The Lighthorsemen" (1987). His cousin, Jack Hawkins, has portrayed the same person in "Lawrence of Arabia." "The Lighthorsemen" (1987) debuted in the 25th Anniversary year of this movie.
  • Wadi Rum, the valley in Jordan where some of the filming took place, is so bleak and barren that it is frequently used as a background for science fiction movies, especially those set on Mars.
  • Riding into battle in one scene, Lawrence shouts, "No prisoners, no prisoners!" This command would be a major violation of the international rules of war and the Geneva Conventions. Such a command would be considered a war crime by those rules.
  • A few years after "Lawrence of Arabia" was made, Turkish cinema made a high-budget movie describing the events from a Turkish perspective--a movie called "Çöl Kartali" about Ottoman army officers who showed heroism in the Yemen deserts.
  • Anthony Quinn and Sir Anthony Quayle previously starred together in The Guns of Navarone (1961).
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