Director: David Lean
Stars: Peter O'Toole, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn
Plot: The story of T.E. Lawrence, the English officer who successfully united and led the diverse, often warring, Arab tribes during World War I in order to fight the Turks.
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.
Although 227 minutes long, this film has no women in speaking roles. It is reportedly the longest film not to have any dialogue spoken by a woman.
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.
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.
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.
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.
When filming in Jordan, every drop of water for the production was brought in by truck from the nearest well, 150 miles away.
T.E. Lawrence's rescue of the lost Gasim actually happened, as Lawrence recounts in his book "Seven Pillars of Wisdom". Though in the film Lawrence is hailed for the heroism, he was in reality ridiculed and chided for what was seen as a waste of effort anyway.
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 rumoured to have said, on seeing the première, "If he'd been any prettier, they'd have had to call it Florence of Arabia."
On his first location scouting trip in Jordan, David Lean discovered the remains of the Turkish locomotives and railroad tracks Lawrence had destroyed during the Arab Revolution. After 40 years in the sun, they hadn't even rusted.
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 would be repeated at the end of the film in a wholly different context when a battered Lawrence looks at his bloodied dagger after the battle for Damascus.
When Omar Sharif tested to play Sherif Ali, David Lean wanted to give the character facial hair to contrast with the fair, clean-shaven star, Peter O'Toole. He tried him with a beard but didn't like it. Then he fitted the actor with a mustache, which is how he played the role. Sharif had become a star in his native Egypt without facial hair. The impact he made in the film was so strong that he has kept the mustache for the rest of his career.
The film 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.
The Allenby family lodged a formal complaint against Columbia 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 10 years before being dropped.
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.
This is Steven Spielberg's all-time favorite film.
While assisting Robert Bolt with research, Anthony Nutting, who was working on his own biography of T.E. Lawrence, became convinced that the war hero had left something out of the final edition of Seven Pillars of Wisdom in his description of his capture and mistreatment by the Turkish police. He finally uncovered a rare 1922 edition of the manuscript and a letter to George Bernard Shaw's wife that strongly suggested that the Turkish Bey had actually raped Lawrence, a fact hinted at in the movie.
Omar Sharif was originally cast to play T.E. Lawrence's guide Tafas. Indian actor Dilip Kumar was offered the role of Sherif Ali but he declined and Omar Sharif was given the role. Omar Sharif considers it to be the turning point of his life.
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 often slept rough under the stars amidst utter silence, just as Lawrence had done as a child.
David Lean thought that one of Lawrence's key conflicts throughout the film was his inability to come to terms with his own homosexuality, and if you keep this in mind there are a lot of moments in the film that can be read in this way. He also compared the relationship between Lawrence and Ali to the doomed love affair in his heterosexual romance Brief Encounter (1945).