Having visited Wadi Rum in Jordan (enduring a sandstorm), Donna and I put Lawrence of Arabia at the top of our Netflix list. And we watched. All 3 hours and 36 minutes. Wow! Hard to believe the movie was filmed in 1962. The cast was a “who’s who” of Hollywood: Anthony Quayle, Alec Guinness, Claude Rains, Jose Ferrer, Jack Hawkins — and introducing Omar Sharif and Peter O’Toole. The story is historically accurate though it doesn’t tell all of it.
Thomas Edward Lawrence (1888-1935) was a British archeologist, army officer and diplomat. He is best known for his liaison role during the Sinai and Palestine Campaign in World War I and the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Turks (1916-18). He was born out of wedlock to Sir Thomas Chapman and Sarah Junner – a governess. Chapman left his first wife and family to live with Sarah under the name “Mr. & Mrs. Lawrence.” And had 5 sons.
The movie begins with Lawrence’s motorcycle accident – trying to avoid two bicyclists (which is what happened). And then forwards to Lawrence as a soldier working in the Army’s Cairo office during the First World War. What you don’t learn is that Lawrence was an archeologist who in 1909 spent 3 months in Syria mapping Crusader castles. From 1910 to 1914, he spent a great deal of time in the Middle East — on digs and learning Arabic. His language skills made him a natural to send to Cairo (in the Intelligence Unit) when the War began. Because of his fluency and keen knowledge of the area, he was tasked to liase with the Arabs. And he did — in the manner that legends – and movies – are made.
After the War, he returned to London. He basked in but then shunned the publicity. In 1922, he tried to enlist in the Royal Air Force under the name John Hume Ross. But his true identity was discovered. He then changed his name to T.E. Shaw. He ended his formal military career in 1928 after a 3 year posting at a remote base in India. He did, however, continue an enlistment with the RAF until 1935.
Lawrence authored two books on his experiences: Seven Pillars of Wisdom (1926) and Revolt in the Desert (1927). Both are on my “to read” list. If you want some armchair adventure, get the movie. It’s fascinating. And the music is stirring. Director David Lean blacks out the screen for the beginning, middle and end while the music plays. There’s nothing wrong with your television. . . .