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A Child's Memories of "Lawrence"
on 14 April 2009
I went to my son's house for Easter and instead of sitting down to watch the latest action flick (His great joke is treating me to films that I would never watch on my own.), I discovered to my great pleasure that the evening's entertainment was "Lawrence of Arabia." As my son set up the DVD, he said, "Don't you remember? You took us to see it when we were kids." I had forgotten.
When I got home, I pulled out my own two-disc set of the Limited Edition, noting the incredibly clear transfer that looks like HD when I played it on my computer. I then watched the extras. Whereas so many "the making of" documentaries nowadays are self-serving and otherwise forgettable, the Interview with David Lean, Omar Sherif, and the behind-the-scenes crew is truly enlightening, as are the comments of Steven Spielberg.
Enough cannot be said about the subtleties of Peter O'Toole's nuanced performance of the troubled protagonist (and I am still cross about Hollywood's failure to recognize him in any other way than a "Lifetime Achievement Award"--Hollywood's booby prize). In perusing the other reviews on this website, I have noted proper accolades for the performances of Omar Sharif, Jack Hawkins, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, and Claude Raines (always brilliant), but I noticed a failure to appreciate the performance of Anthony Quayle, whose portrayal of the adjutant moves from stiff-upper-lipped-Empire-right-or-wrong--at first resenting Lawrence whom he clearly considers an eccentric loose cannon--to anguished disgust at the political manipulations of Allenby (Hawkins), Dryden (Raines), and Faisal (Guinness), who shamelessly discard Lawrence as an embarrassment after they not only have used him but also have used him up to achieve their political ends. Quayle's sterling performance complements and completes this phenomenal ensemble cast.
Having seen the film several times since 1963, and realizing that my young adult self did not understand the full implications of the story, which I have since come to appreciate, I can well imagine that it was David Lean's sweeping panoramas, Maurice Jarre's haunting musical score which evokes the emptiness of the desert, and the spectacle of the snorting camels, the prancing Arabian horses, and the snappy British military bands that imprinted "Lawrence of Arabia" indelibly into the childhood memories of my son, who was seven years old at the time. Certainly, a tribute to the magic of David Lean's filmmaking.