The Oscar Winner for Best Picture in 1963 still resonates today.
Looking at “Lawrence of Arabia” in a different generation, I have to compare and contrast the patience and majesty between New Hollywood (1960s-1980s) and Modern Hollywood movies.
Back then, the longest ones were given intermissions, unlike most movies today when they basically cram everything in a short amount of time, just to please people who want shorter things. The only ways for them to get intermissions, as far as I’m concerned, are to either watch a long movie-half now and half later-or pray for the fire alarm to go off.
But for these type of classics, some of which ran between 3 and 4 hours, there’s something magical in these movies that most today can’t seem to grasp. They have beauty, majesty, patience, and style; and they’re drawn with a certain kind of complexity.
Hailed as one of the greatest films of all time, “Lawrence of Arabia” tells the true story of Thomas Edward Lawrence, better known as T.E. Lawrence, and his collaboration with the Sinai and Palestine Campaign and the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire in World War I.
Peter O’Toole was nominated an Oscar for his portrayal of Lawrence, and he’s did it with intelligence, charisma, and persistence. In his Arabian travels, he’s had victories, guilts, persuasions, and ambitions. The screenplay writers, Robert Bolt and Michael Wilson, have given him a egotistical personality, and some have complained about the height difference between O’Toole and the real Lawrence. Regardless, O’Toole is a marvel.
Also in the cast is Alec Guinesss as Prince Faisal, a leader in the Arab Revolt; Anthony Quinn supplying his own make-up as the sheikh Auda Abu Tayi; Omar Sharif as the fictionalized Sheriff Ali; and Arthur Kennedy as Chicago journalist Jackson Bentley, who’s eager to find a story on Lawrence. O’Toole has the charms and emotions as Lawrence, Guinness has the bravery and grace as Faisal, and Quinn is perfect as the main sheikh.
Why is “Lawrence if Arabia” still a classic today? Because it resonates with the time periods, the true nature of it all, and how O’Toole has proven himself to be the greatest actor to portray T.E. Lawrence. It’s a Hollywood production with more faith and courage than most modern day reenactments. It makes its choices, and whether or not we agree with the writing and casting, we still see a magical spark in the actors and the writers.
I absolutely love every shot of the horses, camels, authentic locations, and people. The wars are so pure and sincere, you have to appreciate how Director David Lean guides everyone on set. It’s always amazing to see how filmmakers have taken these kinds of risks and constituencies. This was way before CGI has taken over the cinematic universe, and you must acknowledge that.
There are many great challenges in the film that keep you glued. There are good characters who have to die; supply trains that have to be blown up; the hero taking an emotional trek; and the historical war that stays in the books, even if characters and certain elements are embellished.
“Lawrence of Arabia,” like many other original masterpieces, will always be with us. Don’t you forget that.
Playing at select locations on September 1 and 4