Lawrence of Arabia (1963)

 ●  English ● 4 hrs 56 mins

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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. Lawrence's extraordinary tale of adventure begins 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. Despite meteoric success in the Army, Lawrence becomes cynical and disillusioned about his violent life, why? What are the events that mould his life and how will the future pan out for him?
See Storyline (May Contain Spoilers)

Cast: Alec Guinness, Peter O Toole

Crew: David Lean (Director), Freddie Young (Director of Photography), Maurice Jarre (Music Director)

Rating: U (India)

Genres: Adventure, Drama

Release Dates: 30 Jan 1963 (India)

Tagline: A mighty spectacle of action and adventure!

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Did you know? Anthony Quayle thought the character of Colonel Brighton was an idiot but David Lean told him Brighton was the only honorable character in the film. Read More
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as Prince Feisal
as T.E. Lawrence
as Colonel Brighton
as Auda Abu Tayi
as Jackson Bentley
as General Murray
as Majid
as Club Secretary
as General Allenby
as Daud
as Turkish Bey
as Sherif Ali
as Mr. Dryden
as Tafas




Production Company




Screenplay Writer

Camera and Electrical

Director of Photography


Music Director


Art Director

Costume and Wardrobe

Costume Designer



Makeup and Hair

Makeup Artist

Special Effects

Special Effects Coordinator
Film Type:
Colour Info:
Sound Mix:
4-Track Stereo, Mono
Frame Rate:
24 fps
Aspect Ratio:
A mighty spectacle of action and adventure!
An Epic Masterpiece As You've Never Seen It Before!
A Mighty Motion Picture Of Action And Adventure!
Factual Mistake
In the movie, Farraj is mortally wounded by a detonator going off in his clothes, but in The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, T.E. Lawrence writes that Farraj was wounded by a Turk shooting him while riding on his camel.

Revealing Mistakes
In the opening scene he is riding a motorcycle at high speeds, but his hair does not get swept back as it would at high speeds.

Revealing Mistakes
Further to the change of the shadow position during the "drifting" scene, this shot is of an apparent evening/dusk period where the shadow is almost directly under the camel, revealing it to be a "day-for-night" shot which must therefore have taken place near noon.

Factual Mistake
On one of this film's many releases on DVD, during the intermission, the title on the screen reads "ENTER'E ACTE"- a French phrase which should actually be spelled either "entre acte" or "entr'acte."

Factual Mistake
Details of some historical characters and events have been changed to fit the dramatic narrative.

Factual Mistake
Throughout the movie T.E. Lawrence is seen carrying a revolver. The Real T.E. Lawrence had sent for two Colt M1911 pistols in 1914 when a friend was traveling in the US and British pistols were scarce due to WW1. In his letters to this brother he wrote: "The Colt is a lovely pistol. The more I examine it the more I like it. There is a vast gulf between it and the ordinary revolver."

Factual Mistake
At several points in the movie, Turkish soldiers are shown using Browning Model 1919A6 .30 caliber air-cooled machine guns. The Browning 1919 first entered service in 1919, too late to have been used in WWI. The Turks would have been using German Maxim machine guns. At other times, they are shown using Short-Magazine Lee-Enfield rifles which were standard issue to the British Empire forces. The Turks would, in all likelihood, have been carrying German Mausers.

Errors in Geography
When traveling north to Damacus, T.E. Lawrence and Ali look to their right to see the artillery at night. The British forces were to their west, which would have been their left.

Errors in Geography
On their way to Wadi Rhum and Aqabah Lawrence and his party of 50 have to travel north and cross the Devil's Anvil. Yet, when Gasim is seen walking at sunrise he has the sun to his left and a stretched shadow to his right, meaning he is travelling south.

Errors in Geography
As the Arab Army advances upon the Turkish rear, T.E. Lawrence and Ali look to their right at the thunder of the British artillery shelling the Turkish lines. Since in real life they were on the British right flank, they should have been looking to their left.

Errors in Geography
It is implied in the early scenes with Colonel Brighton and Prince Feisal that Yenbo is "fifty miles south" of Wadi Safra, when it reality it is only about five miles west of it.

Crew/Equipment Visible
When Gasim is walking through the sun's anvil after falling off his camel, he begins to shed various items. During a reverse tracking shot, the dolly tracks are clearly visible in the sand.

As Lawrence approaches the Suez canal from the east, he hears then sees over a dune the ship traveling left to right, obviously north. When he goes atop the dune, the ship is trailing away to the south.

After Lawrence is wounded in the shoulder, the bloodstain appears and disappears between shots as he marches along the top of the train.

In two consecutive shots of Bentley passing by the fountain in Jerusalem, the shadows are completely different.

When Col. Brighton and T.E. Lawrence are having a discussion after just having destroyed the train carrying some horses, the shadow on Col. Brighton's face changes from covering his entire face when both speakers are shown and the sun is behind him, to appearing only beneath the collar of his shirt when he is the only person in the frame.

When Lawrence is crossing the desert with the prince's 50 men he starts to drift off. He is seen looking at his own shadow on the right side of the camel, but in the next shot the shadow is right under the camel.

When T.E. Lawrence is showing off in his new Arab dress, the shadows are initially long, but in the next shot have suddenly shortened.

Character Error
When Jackson Bentley shows his business-card to Selim the Reciter the initial letter of his first name is printed as a G instead of a J.

Character Error
"When T.E. Lawrence is being escorted across the desert on his way to Faisal's camp, his Bedu guide offers to share his food with him..." etc. Lawrence had traveled the region before the war, and knew custom. He would have taken the food in his stride, and would probably not been as clumsy on a camel as he was initially shown.

Character Error
When T.E. Lawrence is being escorted across the desert on his way to Faisal's camp, his Bedu guide offers to share his food with him. Lawrence is somewhat reluctant but is anxious to show that, unlike other Brits, he is at one with the desert people. He reaches into the guide's proffered dish and takes a morsel - but with his left hand, and he does it twice. The Bedu shows no reaction, but he should: among the desert Bedouin tribes, who eat by hand, the left is kept away from the food as it is the hand with which they clean themselves after defecating. It could be that the guide is observing another Bedouin custom, that of warm hospitality and unstinting generosity to strangers, and is too polite to mention the gaffe (he would probably be aware that many outsiders do not know of the taboo), but it is more likely that it is a genuine error. Peter O'Toole is left-handed, and though he goes to great lengths throughout the rest of the movie to do things right-handedly (Lawrence was right-handed), this was probably a momentary lapse that no one noticed, or thought to mention.

Audio/Video Mismatch
In the well scene when Lawrence and Ali first meet, Ali uses the water bag of the man he has just killed to hoist up some water, fill Lawrence's cup and drink from it. He then drops the water bag, which clearly falls behind the well and can be heard splashing on the ground, but that sound is immediately followed by a much louder dubbed sound of the water bag hitting the bottom of the well.
Producer Sam Spiegel was initially opposed to the casting of Peter O'Toole. He had already worked with the actor when he was understudy for Montgomery Clift on Suddenly, Last Summer (1959) as Clift's alcoholism had made him unreliable to work with.

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. In the early days of the production, when the Bentley character had a more prominent role in the film, 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 and the Oscar-winner O'Brien was cast in the part. O'Brien filmed the Jerusalem scene, and supposedly Jackson's political discussion with Omar Sharif's character Ali before being felled by his heart attack. He was replaced on short notice by Kennedy, who was recommended to director 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 film, it was Peter O'Toole who was cast as Henry.)

Sam Spiegel was much taken with Robert Bolt's successful play A Man for All Seasons. When he and David Lean weren't happy with Michael Wilson's stab at the screenplay, he sent it to Bolt for rewriting. Bolt found the script lacking in good dialog and also character depth. He essentially rewrote the whole thing, using T.E. Lawrence's book 'The Seven Pillars of Wisdom' as his starting point.

Sam Spiegel, the producer of this film, was once known as S.P. Eagle. He had an amazing talent for finding unusual material and hiring exactly the perfect director to execute it. He produced one of Orson Welles's few commercial successes The Stranger (1946). David Lean, the director of this masterpiece, was a well-respected director of moderate-budgeted English films when Spiegel brought him to international prominence with Lean's direction of The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957). He also worked with John Huston, first on We Were Strangers (1949) and most notably on The African Queen (1951). Finally he found the funding from Harry Cohn at Columbia for Elia Kazan's controversial On the Waterfront (1954). Perhaps no other independent producer has been associated with so many brilliant film directors on so many diverse and original stories.

The film spent 2 years in pre-production before 14 months of shooting in locations like Jordan, Spain and Morocco.

Production was halted to move to Spain, but filming did not resume for three months because writer Robert Bolt had been jailed for participating in a nuclear disarmament demonstration. He was released only after Sam Spiegel persuaded him to sign an agreement of good behavior.

Robert Bolt's original writing contract with Sam Spiegelwas for three months as he was needed to work on another play. But due his immersion on material, he ended up working for 14 months on the script and totally forgot his work on the play.

T.E. Lawrence's brother, A.E. Lawrence, who was also executor of his will, wasn't keen on the film's representation of his brother so he didn't allow the use of his sibling's autobiography title "Seven Pillars of Wisdom".

Peter O'Toole and Jack Hawkins became close friends on set, much to 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 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.

Peter O'Toole won his career-making (and legendary) part as Lawrence of Arabia after it was turned down by superstar Marlon Brando and a then-unknown Albert Finney. Both director David Lean and producer Sam Spiegel (who produced On the Waterfront (1954), the movie for which Brando and Spiegel won their first Oscars) wanted Brando, but he 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 100,000 pounds, but refused to sign a seven-year contract demanded by Spiegel. O'Toole signed the seven-year contract and got the part.

Anthony Quayle thought the character of Colonel Brighton was an idiot but David Lean told him Brighton was the only honorable character in the film.

Anthony Quinn applied his own make-up and would often arrive in real Arab clothes. At one point, David Lean mistook him for a native on the studio lot and so he sent his assistant to tell Quinn that he had replaced by this new arrival.

The town of Aqaba was recreated in a dried river bed in southern Spain, consisting of over 300 buildings.

Peter O'Toole was nearly killed during the first take of the Aqaba scene. A gun (used to signal the beginning of the scene) went off prematurely, and O'Toole's camel panicked, throwing him to the ground, while the extras on horseback began charging. Fortunately for O'Toole, his camel stayed still and stood over O'Toole, saving him from being trampled.

The 35mm master interpositive produced by Technicolor in 1966 had reel 2A flipped so that left and right became reversed on screen in all prints, including initial video releases. During the Harris restoration, David Lean himself pointed out this error and it was corrected.

David Lean didn't see his first royalty check for the film until 1978.

Musically, Maurice Jarre was hired to write the dramatic score, Aram Khachaturyan was handling the eastern themes and Benjamin Britten was to provide the British imperial music. Neither Khatchaturian or Britten were able to properly get involved so Sam Spiegel hired Richard Rodgers to fill in the musical gaps. When Spiegel and 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 film - in a mere six weeks.

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."

When filming in Jordan, every drop of water for the production was brought in by truck from the nearest well, 150 miles away.

Alec Guinness was made up to look like the real Faisal as close as possible. When they were shooting in Jordan, several people who knew the man mistook him for the real thing.

Almost all movement in the film goes from left to right. David Lean said he did this to emphasize that the film was a journey.

Peter O'Toole 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.

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 by referring to the scene when T.E. Lawrence and Gen. Allenby, after their meeting, continue talking while walking down a staircase. According to O'Toole, part of the scene had to be reshot 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."

Peter O'Toole claims he never viewed the completed film until nearly two decades after its original release, by which time he was highly impressed.

The film was banned in many Arab countries as they felt they were misrepresented. Omar Sharif arranged with President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt to view the film to show him there was nothing wrong with the way they were portrayed. Nasser loved the film and allowed it to be released in Egypt where it went on to become a monster hit.

King Hussein of Jordan lent an entire brigade of his Arab Legion as extras for the film, so most of the "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.

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.