Classic Movie Countdown: Best Picture # 7 — Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

7. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

Other Nominated Films:
The Longest Day, The Music Man, Mutiny on the Bounty, To Kill a Mockingbird

Before I go on to talk about this film, I would just like to say one thing: David Lean is one of the finest directors of all time. Lean doesn’t have just one film in my Top 10, but two, one of which is ranked in my Top 5. Lawrence of Arabia is undoubtedly one of the greatest films ever made, and if that isn’t enough, it also revealed the greatness of actor Peter O’Toole to the world. The film opens with the death of Lawrence (Peter O’Toole) by a motorcycle accident. At his memorial service, reporters try to better understand who this remarkable and complicated man really was. From here, we flashback into the life of Lawrence and where his military career begins…Lawrence is a British Army lieutenant stationed in Cairo during World War I. Mr. Dryden of the Arab Bureau (Claude Rains) sends Lawrence to evaluate the progress of Prince Faisal (Alec Guinness) in his revolt against the Turks. The journey is not an easy one but I won’t go into detail here so that you can see it for yourself – but I’ll continue talking about what happens next…At the end of this journey, Lawrence meets Colonel Brighton (Anthony Quayle), who tells him to be quiet, assess Faisal’s camp, and leave at once. Lawrence instead ignores Brighton’s orders and advises Faisal to attack Aqaba — and thus begins Lawrence’s exploits as he leads the Arab revolt against the Turks. Again, I don’t want to ruin the movie for you by going into any great detail here, but suffice to say that Lawrence uses guerilla warfare tactics and performs heroic feats but also experiences emotional struggles with acts of violence and his personal identityLawrence of Arabia was a huge success both critically and financially, and is still popular among viewers today. Critics have repeatedly cited the film’s impressive visuals, music and screenplay, as well as the magnificent performance of Peter O’Toole. O’Toole was nominated for the Best Actor Oscar, but would wind up losing to Gregory Peck who played Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird (which is also one of the best films in the history of cinema). It’s interesting to compare O’Toole’s performance as Lawrence and Peck’s performance as Finch since they’re both ranked on the American Film Institute’s 100 Heroes and Villains list; O’Toole would be ranked as the 10th Hero, while Peck would be ranked as the #1 Hero. Both excellent performances; both iconic roles; and yet both very different types of heroes.  Lawrence of Arabia would be producer Sam Spiegel’s third Academy Award for Best Picture (the first two are #4 and #2 on this list),and David Lean’s second Academy Award for Best Director (the other being #4 on this list). O’Toole would go on to be nominated for another seven Academy Awards, but would not win any – however he was the recipient of an Honorary Academy Award for his remarkable talents that “provided cinema with some of its most memorable characters.

Nominated for 10 Oscars, Winner of 7
Best Art Direction – Set Decoration, Color - John Box, John Stoll, Dario Simoni (WON)
Best Cinematography, Color - Freddie Young (WON)
Best Director - David Lean (WON)
Best Film Editing - Anne V. Coates (WON)
Best Music, Score – Substantially Original - Maurice Jarre (WON)
Best Picture - Sam Spiegel (WON)
Best Sound - John Cox (Shepperton SSD) (WON)
Best Actor in a Leading Role - Peter O’Toole
Best Actor in a Supporting Role - Omar Sharif
Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium - Robert Bolt, Michael Wilson

Prince Feisal: But you know, Lieutenant, in the Arab city of Cordoba were two miles of public lighting in the streets when London was a village?
T.E. Lawrence: Yes, you were great.
Prince Feisal: Nine centuries ago.
T.E. Lawrence: Time to be great again, my lord.

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