'Lawrence of Arabia' & 'Young Winston': TCM Films

Peter O'Toole, Omar Sharif, Lawrence of Arabia
Peter O'Toole, Omar Sharif, Lawrence of Arabia

Turner Classic Movies' “Race and Hollywood: Arab Images on Film” continues this evening with four movies about European powers and their difficult relationship with “the Arab races”: Lawrence of Arabia, Lion of the Desert, The Four Feathers, and Young Winston.

In David Lean's sprawling Lawrence of Arabia, Peter O'Toole is a much taller version of T. E. Lawrence, the Englishman who fought alongside Arabs at the time of World War I. Lawrence of Arabia won a total of seven Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director; it's also considered by many one of the greatest movies ever made.

Personally, I find Lawrence of Arabia great-looking but much too long: 227 minutes. Also, at times I couldn't quite figure out what Lean's and screenwriter Robert Bolt's political take was; I'm not sure if their vision is just too muddled and wishy-washy, or if it's oh-so-complex I need to revisit this film a third time.

Peter O'Toole is fine as Lean's version of T. E. Lawrence – one that Lawrence himself might not have recognized. But as far as I'm concerned, the film's best performance is that of Claude Rains, who steals the show in his few, quiet moments. As for David Lean, while watching Lawrence of Arabia I sorely missed the guy who had directed Brief Encounter, This Happy Breed, The Passionate Friends, and Hobson's Choice.

The Four Feathers is the British version of Hollywood's Gunga Din and Beau Geste; in other words, Europeans are good, whereas Arabs are, well, Arabs. Great color cinematography (Georges Périnal), though. And C. Aubrey Smith, too.

I haven't watched Lion of the Desert or Young Winston. The former stars Anthony Quinn, which makes me think it'll be something akin to “Zorba the Arab.” But I could be wrong. The latter stars Simon Ward as the young Winston Churchill. Richard Attenborough directed, which makes me think it'll be something very stately and very old-school, along the lines of Gandhi and Shadowlands. But I could be wrong. Young Winston was nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Original Screenplay.

Schedule (ET) and synopses from the TCM website:

8:00 PM LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (1962) A British military officer enlists the Arabs for desert warfare in World War I. Dir.: David Lean Cast: Peter O'Toole, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn. Color. 227 mins Letterbox Format

12:00 AM LION OF THE DESERT (1981) A Libyan resistance leader fights against Italian invaders on the eve of World War II. Dir.: Moustapha Akkad Cast: Anthony Quinn, Oliver Reed, Irene Papas. Color. 173 mins Letterbox Format

3:00 AM THE FOUR FEATHERS (1939) A disgraced officer risks his life to help his childhood friends in battle.
Dir: Zoltan Korda Cast: John Clements, Ralph Richardson, C. Aubrey Smith. Color. 115 mins

5:00 AM YOUNG WINSTON (1972) The young Winston Churchill overcomes a bad family life and early military mistakes to launch his political career. Dir.: Richard Attenborough Cast: Simon Ward, Peter Cellier, Ronald Hines. Color. 153 mins Letterbox Format

'Lawrence of Arabia' & 'Young Winston': TCM Films © 2004–2018 Alt Film Guide and/or author(s).
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