Follow TV Tropes


Characters / Lawrence of Arabia

Go To

Lawrence of Arabia

T. E. Lawrence
"Do you think I'm just anybody, Ali? Do you?"
Played By: Peter O'Toole
"My name is for my friends."

  • Badass Bookworm: The film states that he's well-versed in several languages and shown doing cartography along with being primarily desktop military before he was assigned his mission. For someone who works indoors in a white collar job and from aa nation with a very cold climate, he's shown to be quite hardy, able to endure the desert environment and adapt to the nomadic lifestyle rather quick. Before the conquest of Aqaba, no one thought he'd be skilled in waging desert warfare.
  • Advertisement:
  • Badass Bureaucrat: He starts off as this.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Lawrence wants to get out of his desk job and is excited about being sent to Arabia where he sees helping the revolt as a kind of grand adventure. It doesn't go well for him.
  • Believing Their Own Lies: Dryden accuses him of this.
  • Berserker Tears: He shed these during the final battle.
  • Bishōnen: Noël Coward famously quipped that if Peter O'Toole were any prettier the film would have to be called Florence of Arabia.
  • Blasphemous Boast: Lawrence does this so often that Ali actually asks God to please be patient with him.
    Auda: In ten days you will cross Sinai?
    Lawrence: Why not? Moses did.
    Auda: Moses was a prophet and beloved of God!
  • Blood Knight: His expressed aversion to violence is in fact an effort to suppress this part of his personality. At a meeting with Allenby Lawrence tells about having to execute a murderer in his army. Allenby expresses sympathy, but Lawrence explains the real problem.
    "I enjoyed it."
  • Advertisement:
  • Brains and Bondage: Not explicitly stated (it being 1962 and all), but the film implies that Lawrence might have a bit of a kinky streak what with his fondness for putting out matches with his fingers. Also that there might be a sexual component to his love of killing.
  • Break the Cutie: The horrors of war transform him into a broken, regretful man.
    • At one point, Lawrence notices that a man fell off his camel and was left behind. He goes back to find the man despite Ali's protests. The man later kills a member of a rival tribe that allied itself with his band. Lawrence is forced to execute the man to keep the peace and is visibly shaking as he guns him down.
  • Celibate Hero: Being an Edwardian British upper-classman.
  • Colonel Badass: He's a lieutenant colonel.
  • Conflicting Loyalty: Lawrence is caught between loyalty to his country and the Arab Revolt. In fact he talked much of this in Real Life, though when you think of it, it is inevitable in any officer seconded to an allied force. But in any case it is considerably dramatized here.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Lawrence is viewed to be eccentric and insubordinate in Cairo, so much that the commanding general openly treats him with contempt. All that changes when he gets to Arabia.
  • Cunning Linguist: Lawrence learned Arabic during archaeological digs in the Levant before the Great War, and apparently went native to some extent.
  • A Father to His Men: Lawrence impresses the men under his command when he makes a dangerous trek back into the desert to save a straggler.
  • Girly Skirt Twirl: A pretty rare example of this trope being played straight with a male character. Lawrence does this after he is given Arab-style robes to replace his British Army khakis.
  • Glory Hound: To what extent he actually wants to help the Arabs as opposed his desire to be the hero depends on your interpretation of the character.
  • Going Native: His superiors wonder if he's going native, and one of Lawrence's internal conflicts is that he wishes he could, but he knows he can never be truly accepted by the Arabs as one of them. His friends and colleagues in the Arab Revolt fluctuate between seeing him as an English adventurer Glory Hound (Prince Faisal at first, Auda Abu Tayi later) and a genuine Arab sympathizer, who however cannot truly commit to the revolt because of his position and personal character.
  • Guyliner: Lawrence is an Ambiguously Gay badass and this is Arabia.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: At first he seems like the classic pure hearted blonde hero. It doesn't last.
  • Heroic Bastard: Literally. He's a formidable soldier whose biological parents were not married.
  • Heroic BSoD: Has one of these after he's unable to save Daud from quicksand. After his disastrous foray into Daraa, he crosses the Despair Event Horizon.
  • Historical Badass Upgrade: The film portrays the Arab Revolts successes as being almost entirely his creation and ignores how there were other many British officers who played just as much a major role as he did in expelling the Ottomans from the Arabic speaking regions including Allenby (see his entry below). On top of that the film also neglected just how much of a role the Arab tribal leaders played in the role in planning military acts and commanding in the battlefield and credits all military brilliance the Arab guerrillas did to his leadership.
  • Historical Beauty Update: Not that the real Lawrence was hideous or anything, but he was fairly homely especially compared to the frankly gorgeous Peter O'Toole.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade/Historical Villain Upgrade: Since just about every aspect of T. E. Lawrence's life is controversial, there's been a lot of debate about his portrayal in this film. When it first came out his brother and some biographers (who were personal friends, it's worth noting) protested the depiction of him as bloodthirsty and narcissistic. Other later biographers felt that the film didn't go far enough in that respect. On top of that the film portrays his policy of taking no prisoners at Tafas as sign of his psychological breakdown and emphasizes it as just how twisted he is by the end of the story. In actuality its much more complex: the man shown doing a suicidal cavalry charge and getting down was one of his closest friends during the war, the Turks have massacred the local Arab inhabitants and as a result the Arab rebels were angry and bloodthirsty for revenge, and everyone under Lawrence's command were quite weary of the war at that point. The film neglects how Lawrence traditionally accepted prisoners of war when possible and in a few battles after Tafas he resumed his policy of humane treatment of prisoners.
  • I Just Want to Be Special: At first but later turns into I Just Want to Be Normal.
  • Iconic Outfit: His lovely white Arab clothes are the outfit for any hero crossing the desert. Granted, that's the practical outfit for crossing the desert, but still.
  • Innocent Blue Eyes/Icy Blue Eyes: O'Toole's eyes almost seem to shift with his character. At the beginning of the film they seem to fit with his naiveté but as the film progresses they start to look much colder.
  • It's All About Me: How he sees the Arab Revolt to some extent; Faisal calls him on this right away.
  • Large Ham: This was Peter O'Toole's first starring role, and he'd mostly done stage work up until then. As a result, his performance was a little...outsized. Subverted by the fact that Lawrence, as portrayed in the film, pretty much exemplified this trope as well. Of course, the stage doesn't get any bigger than a vast desert.
  • Last-Name Basis: His full name is Thomas Edward Lawrence, but you wouldn't know that from watching the movie.
  • Laughing Mad: Several times, most notably the hospital scene near the end.
  • Macho Masochism: A less flashy example when he pinches out a burning match. Notably, masochism seems to be the one aspect of Peter O'Toole's Lawrence that historians agree is pretty much dead-on.
    "The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."
  • Majorly Awesome: Lawrence is promoted from lieutenant to major in charge of leading the Arab guerilla forces against the Turks after successfully taking Turkish-held Aqaba
  • Man in White: When he starts Going Native, he begins wearing a white robe and keffiyeh in the Bedouin style.
  • Memetic Badass: In-universe.
    "Don't you know I can only be killed with a golden bullet?"
  • Messianic Archetype: Tries hard to invoke this.
  • Meaningful Rename: After he rescues Gasim, Ali gives him the name El Aurens to show that he considers him to have earned his place among the Bedouin. Which makes sense since for native Arabic speakers the name Lawrence is something of The Unpronounceable.
  • Mighty Whitey: Heavily Deconstructed. At first it's played straight; he impresses the Arabs and is made one of their leaders. However it gradually becomes apparent that Lawrence doesn't really understand their culture, their motivations, or their problems, nor does he fully want to. He vastly overrates his own abilities to inspire and unite them, often conducts actions that compromise and complicate the moderate elements within the Revolt (Sherif Ali) and in the end perhaps sabotaged their cause by unrealistic expectations and promises that, regardless of his sincerity, was beyond his minor position to deliver and uphold. Lawrence's attempts to play this trope straight are summed up in one scene:
    Colonel Brighton: They think he's a kind of prophet.
    General Allenby: They do, or he does?
  • Nice Hat: His turban. At one point, General Allenby is fascinated enough by it to consider trying it on, but then relents, saying it looks better on Lawrence.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: He seems to play up his eccentricity in Cairo, to the point where the other officers have no awareness of his expertise.
  • Pride: If Lawrence has one flaw it is his belief that he and his army are untouchable and can do anything. For a long time he is right, until he reaches Daraa.
  • Pride Before a Fall: Lawrence consistently takes crazy risks but his insistence that he can pass as an Arab in an Deraa even though it's a Turkish garrison and there's a huge price on his head is when his luck runs out.
  • Rape as Drama: His ordeal in Deraa is shown as deeply traumatic and causes him to cross the Despair Event Horizon.
  • Rape and Revenge: His slaughter at Tafas could be seen as this.
  • Sanity Slippage: Those around him may think Lawrence is nuts to begin with, but he really starts to lose it in the second half of the film:
    Allenby: Are you mad?
    Lawrence: No, and I'd rather not go mad.
  • Sociopathic Soldier: He grows closer and closer to this trope as the movie goes on, finally culminating in the massacre at Tafas.

Sherif Ali
"Wadi Safra is another day's ride from here. You will not find it, and not finding it, you will die."
Played By: Omar Sharif
"Truly for some men, nothing is written unless they write it."

  • Ambiguously Gay: His relationship to Lawrence can easily be read as a love story, then there's his claim at the end that he loves Lawrence and fears him.
  • Comforting Comforter: Tucks Lawrence in a couple of times
  • Composite Character: Ali is loosely based on Faisal's brother, but is a mix of different Arab leaders since no one figure was with Lawrence the whole time. There is a Harith chief named Ali mentioned in Seven Pillars of Wisdom, but he's a minor figure whom Lawrence only meets two or three times. On another level, he is meant to embody the spirit of emerging nationalism.
  • The Conscience: Tries to be this to Lawrence.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Wears dark black robes to contrast Lawrence's khaki uniform and white robes. Deliberately played with in his introduction at the well.
  • Defrosting Ice King: Ali's killing of Tafas and interactions with Lawrence at first make him come across as abrasive and unfeeling (at best). But when Lawrence defrosts him, he is shown to have a more tender vulnerable side to him, particularly where Lawrence is concerned. By the end he seems to be one of the more idealistic and principled characters in the film.
  • The Fatalist: At first, though Lawrence changes his mind about this.
  • He Will Not Cry, So I Cry for Him:
    Auda: He is your friend. You love him?
    Ali: No, I fear him!
    Auda: Then why do you weep?
    Ali: If I fear him who love him, how must he fear himself who hates himself?
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: Though he's one of the film's most sympathetic characters, Ali's introduction at the well qualifies. The equivalent incident in Seven Pillars is treated comically, as Ali was traveling incognito with his servant, the two switching roles in Lawrence's presence (who easily saw through the ruse). Anthony Nutting, the film's historical adviser, objected to Lean's alteration of the scene, fearing that Arabs would find it offensive. He was right, as relatives of the real Sherif Ali attempted to sue the filmmakers for defamation.
  • Non-Answer: Gives one to Bentley, who points out that it shows he understands politics.
  • Tall, Dark, and Handsome: This is Omar Sharif we're talking about here.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: His debut shows him killing a man who was Lawrence's guide in the desert for simply taking water from his tribe's well. Initially he was shown to be a Blood Knight and had no calms about Lawrence having to execute a man he just risked his lif to rescue. However he becomes more and more humanistic and Westernized and during the slaughter at Tafas he gives Lawrence a "Reason You Suck" Speech as well as a criticism about how savage the Arabic tribes are. A somewhat racist Proud Warrior Race Guy, by the end of the film he began to respect the British as real humans and prefers peaceful methods over violence.
  • Tsundere: Ali tends to run hot and cold. Best exemplified in his final scene when he goes from crying over his breakup with Lawrence to pulling a knife on Auda, who won't leave him alone.
  • Undying Loyalty: Tells Lawrence that he'll stay with him even if everyone else leaves, but after the Tafas massacre he can't keep to that, admitting to being afraid of him.
  • Warrior Prince: Ali is great for this. He was a perfect Hollywood version of a romanticised Bedouin warrior-prince, being dignified, honourable, and quite badass.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: For a brief period he is optimistic about creating a new independent Arab nation but his hopes are disappointed after they fail to hold on to Damascus. However he resolves to stay and work towards this goal anyway.

Prince Faisal
"There is nothing in the desert, and no man needs nothing."
Played By: Alec Guinness
"With Major Lawrence, mercy is a passion. With me, it is merely good manners. You may judge which motive is more reliable."

  • Age Lift: The real Faisal was about Lawrence's age, in his early thirties. In the film he's depicted as being middle aged.
  • Awesome Mc Coolname: Lawrence mentions in Seven Pillars of Wisdom that Faisal's name means "the sword flashing downward in the stroke."
  • Big Good: To the Arab revolt.
  • Born in the Wrong Century: Wishes he were alive in Medieval Cordoba.
  • The Chains of Commanding: It's clear that the effort of trying to keep his army together and fighting in the face of superior Turkish forces is really taking it out of him. He doesn't like having to rely on the British for help but knows he doesn't have any other options if he wants to win the war. Then when Allenby accuses him of being hard, he admits that that's what it takes to be king.
  • The Cynic: Sees through British promises but views cooperating with them as a necessary evil.
  • Frontline General: Is shown commanding his troops initially but later leaves on the ground operations to Lawrence and Ali.
  • Good Is Not Soft: A sympathetic character who's as manipulative and hard as the nominal villains.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: Faisal is one of the movie's more upstanding characters, except for his treatment of Lawrence. The film portrays him as knowing that Lawrence is essentially a ticking time bomb but using him to get the job done then being happy to be rid of him. Whereas the real Faisal did genuinely consider him to be a close friend and didn't become aware of his issues until after the war was over.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: To some extent this is his justification for using Lawrence even though he makes it clear that he predicted something like the Tafas Massacre would happen.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Lets Lawrence take a chance on his crazy plan.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Never gives an actual speech as much as he consistently calls the Westerners out on their condescending attitude towards Arabs and their assumption that technological superiority is the same as cultural superiority.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: He's depicted as a leader and a negotiator with British forces.
  • The Wise Prince: Played by Alec Guinness, he's pretty much assured to be.

Auda Abu Tayi
"Thy mother mated with a scorpion!"
Played By: Anthony Quinn
"It is well for I am an old dog and these are new tricks. But be warned, being an Arab will be thornier than you suppose, Harith!"

  • Badass Boast
    Auda: I carry twenty-three great wounds, all got in battle. Seventy-five men have I killed with my own hands in battle. I scatter, I burn my enemies' tents. I take away their flocks and herds. The Turks pay me a golden treasure, yet I am poor! Because I am a river to my people!
  • Brutal Honesty: Auda has no problem speaking his mind whether he's insulting other tribal leaders, telling Brighton he's an idiot or asking Ali if he's in love with Lawrence.
  • The Fatalist: After Ali tells him that Lawrence had to execute the man he saved, he just shrugs and says it must have been written.
  • A Father to His Men: Rather, "a river to my people."
  • Hidden Depths: Despite his roguishness and indifference to politics, at times he shows a better grasp of Lawrence's motivations than any other character in the film. He sees through Lawrence's posture as a messiah early on ("He lied, he is not perfect") and recognizes his inner conflict between British and Arab loyalties ("There is only the desert for you").
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: The movie's Auda isn't drastically different from Lawrence's description in Seven Pillars, but it does elide incidents like Auda smashing a Turkish-made set of dentures before Feisal, warning Lawrence of a treacherous ally and refusing Turkish bribes that show he wasn't entirely motivated by greed or self-interest. Also the film shows him abandoning the campaign during winter months simply there is no loot to gain and he is satisfied with what he got, ignoring just how harsh and dangerous conditions in the desert environment can be during that season along with the fact most Arabs including Lawrence's band of guerrillas disband because of weather conditions.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: After the Arabs take control of Damascus, Auda tells Ali that being an Arab will be harder than he ever imagined. Auda means that Ali and the other Arab tribesmen are unlikely to cooperate as a united Arab force over the long term, and will quickly descend into tribal bickering.
  • Large Ham: Anthony Quinn playing an Arab chieftain? You'd better believe it.
  • Loveable Rogue: See above.
  • Manchild: More concerned with his "toys" (horses, gold and trinkets) than military objectives. Justified because of his background as a nomad and the fact said toys are essential for survival in the region (in particular horses which is shown making up the bulk of Auda's troops).
  • Not in This for Your Revolution: Auda will fight with whichever side pays him the best and doesn't care much about whether the Turks or Faisal is in charge.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: With the Howeitat as the Proud Warrior Race. Even Ali admits their fighting skill.
  • Real Men Love Allah: He's offended when Lawrence compares himself to Moses. "Moses was a prophet and beloved of God!" he cries.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: After they take Damascus, Auda admits that politics and attempting to run a modern city is not his thing, but since he got what he wanted he doesn't care that much anyway.

General Allenby
"You're an interesting man, there's no doubt about it. Who told you to take Aqaba?"
Played By: Jack Hawkins
"I've got my orders to obey, thank God. Not like that poor devil, he's riding the whirlwind."

  • Anti-Villain: He's somewhere between this and Punch-Clock Villain. He's clearly uncomfortable with some of the actions he's forced to take, assuaging his conscience with protests that he's Just Following Orders. Though in fairness, as a general he's not in much position to protest. Lampshaded late in the film:
    Dryden: Do you think it was worth it?
    Allenby: Not my business. Thank God I'm a soldier.
    Dryden: Yes, sir. So you keep saying.
  • Bad Liar: Angrily denies the Sykes-Picot Treaty to Feisal. Feisal sees through it immediately: "You have lied most bravely, but not convincingly."
  • The Chessmaster: Especially with Lawrence.
  • Deadpan Snarker
    Lawrence: Shouldn't officers use their initiative at all times?
    Allenby: Not really. It's awfully dangerous.
  • Historical Badass Upgrade: Inverted. Other than his role in supplying Lawrence equipment, the film completely overlooks Allenby's generalship. One of the most successful Allied general of the war, a lot of the effectiveness of Lawrence's insurgency would not have been possible without Allenby's military victories against the Turks while the Revolt was taking place. Lawrence happily acknowledges this in Seven Pillars, emphasizing the difference between Allenby's support for the Arabs and the indifference or hostility of his predecessors.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: The real Allenby was fairly sympathetic to Faisal's cause, but like his film counterpart was a solider with his orders. There's really nothing to suggest that he manipulated Lawrence into continuing despite it being clear that he was seriously unbalanced the way he does here. In addition it portrays Allenby as believing the Arabs to be too savage to govern themselves, which grossly oversimplifies Allenby's beliefs and record (especially as High Commissioner of Egypt after the war, when he argued forcefully for Egypt's right to self-government against the wishes of his superiors).
  • Hypocrite: Though it is harsh of Faisal to call Lawrence his friend and then say he's glad to see the back of him, Allenby was the one who saw how unhinged the guy was (not to mention injured so badly he was bleeding through his uniform) but persuaded him to go back out into the field anyway.
  • Just Following Orders: How he justifies his actions.
    Dryden: You give them artillery and you've made them independent.
    Allenby: Then I can't give them artillery, can I?
    Dryden: For you to say, sir.
    Allenby: No, it's not. I've got orders to obey, thank God. Not like that poor devil. He's riding the whirlwind.
    Dryden: Let's hope we're not.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Twice Lawrence returns from the desert emotionally shattered and requesting reassignment. Twice Allenby persuades Lawrence to go back.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: He's shown scheming and plotting behind the Arabs' (and Lawrence's) backs. Some say this is Historical Villain Upgrade.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: He does his job as a military commander without particular relish or enjoyment, even though it involves double-crossing the Arabs and mistreating Lawrence.
  • Stiff Upper Lip: His reaction to Damascus burning qualifies:
    Brighton: Look sir, we can't just do nothing.
    Allenby: Why not? It's usually best.
  • While Rome Burns: He drinks cocktails and practices casting while Damascus burns.

Mr. Dryden
"It is recognized that you have a funny sense of fun."
Played By: Claude Rains
"Big things have small beginnings."

  • Affably Evil: Extremely polite and cheerful: he only loses his temper once, and even that seems calculated for effect.
  • Anti-Villain: Though Dryden doesn't seem to care much about the effects of British Imperialism or feel very guilty about lying and breaking his promises, he expresses concern that they don't really know what they're doing and in the end says he wished he'd stayed at home.
  • At Least I Admit It: Essentially what he tells Lawrence in his little "The Reason You Suck" Speech. He may be lying to the Arabs, but he knows exactly what he's doing and admits to it. Lawrence, on the other hand, had his suspicions but persuaded himself that he was telling the truth anyway.
  • Big Bad: Besides the Turkish Bey, the closest the film has to a straightforward villain.
  • Composite Character: Dryden is kind of an amalgam of Sir Mark Sykes and Ronald Storrs, but he stands in for British diplomats as a whole and civilian interests in the war in general.
  • Cool Old Guy: At first he seems this way, urging Lawrence's appointment to the Arab Bureau, until his true motives shine through.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Every other Dryden line is a droll putdown of Lawrence or someone else.
  • Non-Answer: "Have we any ambition in Arabia, Dryden?" "Difficult question, sir!"
  • Realpolitik: "The job of the moment, sir, is to win the war." And nothing else evidently matters.
  • Smug Snake: Unlike Allenby and Brighton, he has no remorse for his actions.
  • While Rome Burns: He and Allenby read and drink cocktails while Damascus burns.
  • Wicked Cultured: Seems to have an interest in archaeology.

Colonel Harry Brighton
"He was the most extraordinary man I ever knew."
Played By: Anthony Quayle
"Look sir, we can’t just do nothing."

  • Brutal Honesty: In his first scene with Feisal, he bluntly (and rather rudely) tells Feisal that he must either retreat or face annihilation by the Turks. Feisal admits "You tread heavily, but you speak the truth."
  • Composite Character: Stands in for a few different British officers serving with Lawrence during his desert campaigns, most notably Colonel Stewart F. Newcombe.
  • Good Is Dumb: Director David Lean described him as the "only truly honorable character in the film", whereas actor Anthony Quayle just thought he was an idiot. Both descriptions are pretty accurate.
  • Heel–Face Turn: After Lawrence captures Aqaba, Brighton grows to respect Lawrence (and by extension the Arabs). Tellingly, he's much more sympathetic in the film's second half than the first.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Though he's shown as being pretty racist in regards to the Arabs, he really does want to help them, unlike the other British officers and he calls Allenby and Dryden out on their callousness regarding Damascus. He's also one of the few characters who actually cares about Lawrence, getting upset at the way Allenby, Dryden and Faisal are all brushing him off and storms out of the conference room to try and tell Lawrence how he feels.
  • Noble Bigot: Makes little compunction about disliking Arab culture, calling them "savages" and treating both Feisal and Auda rudely (he does show more respect for Ali, at times anyway). Ultimately though his heart's in the right place.
  • Officer and a Gentleman: Whatever his faults he's always keen on doing the "honorable" thing, which annoys and vexes his colleagues (especially Auda).
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: He genuinely seems to believe that British and Arab interests are synonymous. He gets a rude awakening about his country and the military in general when it becomes clear that Allenby won't do anything to help the people of Damascus.
  • Your Normal Is Our Taboo: How he feels about the Bedouin looting Turkish trains and leaving even though the war isn't over. To Brighton, this is desertion and robbery, but as Ali points out, this is how they get paid and the two look down on the British soldiers who aren't free to leave. Also, Auda makes a good point when he says that everyone goes home when they have what they want.

The Turkish Bey
"Beat him!"
Played By: Jose Ferrer
"Two years I have been posted to Deraa. If I had been stationed on the dark side of the moon I could not have been more isolated."

  • Advertised Extra: At the time Ferrer was a much bigger name than O'Toole and Sharif, so he got very high billing despite being in the film for only five minutes.
  • Bad Boss: Insults his underlings to their faces.
  • Depraved Homosexual: He immediately starts pawing Lawrence and remarking on his attractive face, skin and eyes. Lawrence realizes what's going on and kicks the general in the groin, after which Lawrence is brutally beaten as the Bey watches. This scene corresponds to a chapter of the real Lawrence's memoir Seven Pillars of Wisdom, where he explicitly recounts being gang raped. Lawrence himself was gay and that's abundantly clear in the book, but this scene was the only one the filmmakers chose to include... so it definitely fits the trope.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The coughing he does while stripping Lawrence and watching him from the other room is supposed to be reminiscent of an orgasm to underline the subtext of the scene.
  • Faux Affably Evil: When he first tries to seduce Lawrence he attempts to come off as a lonely man looking for some company. But when Lawrence makes it clear he isn't interested he gives up any pretense, strips him and starts pawing him up, then when Lawrence fights back, he has him beaten and (it's implied) raped.
  • Peeping Tom: Watches what his men do to Lawrence from the other room.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: It's heavily implied that he arranged for his men to gang-rape Lawrence during Lawrence's captivity.
  • Rape Discretion Shot: Despite the film's reputation for the infamous scene, nothing is actually shown of Lawrence being molested or raped by the Bey or his soldier, instead Cold-Blooded Torture in which Lawrence is subjected to being whipped by a cane.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: "Two years I have been posted to Daraa. If I had been stationed on the dark side of the moon I could not have been more isolated."
  • Small Role, Big Impact: Lawrence loses any remaining semblance of idealism (or sanity, arguably) after encountering the Bey.
  • Soft-Spoken Sadist: He's a soft-spoken, reserved man who is very depraved.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: "I'm surrounded by cattle."

Jackson Bentley
"Yes sir, that's my baby!"
Played By: Arthur Kennedy
"Oh you rotten man... Here, let me take your rotten bloody picture. For the rotten bloody newspaper."

  • Age Lift: The real Lowell Thomas was a young man at the time the movie takes place.
  • The Artifact: Originally Bentley was to be the movie's protagonist, but his role was drastically scaled down as the script evolved.
  • Ascended Extra: While Thomas was instrumental in spreading Lawrence's reputation, he isn't even mentioned in Seven Pillars of Wisdom and only met Lawrence two or three times during the war (though they were much better-acquainted in the early '20s, when Thomas was preparing his lecture series). His role in the movie's significantly more prominent.
  • The Barnum: Wants to make Lawrence into a hero to cast the war in a better light for Americans.
  • The Cynic: Sees instantly through Allenby's deceit and tries to deflate Lawrence and Ali's pretensions of Arab independence.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Has a snide quip for every occasion.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Bentley may be a cynical jerk unmoved by scenes of carnage, but the Tafas massacre genuinely shocks him.
  • Hawaiian-Shirted Tourist: Aside from his practical dress, he fits this trope to a T. As the only American character in the film, he's depicted as rude, boorish and more interested in finding a story than what's actually going on around him (though even he has his limits, as shown in his reaction to the Tafas massacre). Lawrence treats him with undisguised contempt and other characters barely conceal theirs. That said, his outsider status gives him a clearer-eyed view of Britain's political machinations, and he tries to warn Feisal in their first meeting not to trust Allenby.
  • Intrepid Reporter: A rather unlikeable example.
  • Jerkass: Bentley is generally snarky and rude to just about anyone he interacts with. He treats the beheading of the Turkish solider like some interesting little spectacle, has no compunction about trying to get America to enter the slaughterhouse that was WWI, and he pretends he sympathizes with the Arabs to Faisal (who clearly doesn't buy it) but is patronizing to Ali about his hopes to establish a democracy.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Is clearly based on Lowell Thomas. Though the real Thomas' writing about Lawrence comes off as offensive to Arabs and (in the case of one of his articles) homophobic to a modern audience, he wasn't as predatory as Bentley in the film. He seemed to genuinely just think Lawrence was a heroic figure who made for a good story, unlike Bentley who sees the worst Lawrence is capable of and lies about him to the rest of the world.
  • Pass the Popcorn
    Bentley: Never seen a man killed with a sword before.
    Lawrence: Why don't you take a picture?
    Bentley: Wish I had.
  • Truth Twister: Even after he sees the terrible things Lawrence has done he still makes him look like a hero to the papers. Even after he's dead, Bentley sings his praises to the press then covertly remarks about what a showoff he was.

General Murray
"This whole theater of operations is a sideshow!"
Played by: Donald Wolfit
"How can I fight a bloody war without bloody artillery?"

  • Adaptation Distillation: Murray's role in appointing Lawrence to join the Arabs is exaggerated. Lawrence's appointment was actually approved by Sir Reginald Wingate, the Governor-General of the Sudan, who was then in charge of British forces supporting the Arab Revolt; Murray was merely the field commander of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force and had little direct involvement. Later, Lawrence convinced Wingate to relinquish his role to General Allenby to ensure easier cooperation between Arab and British forces.
  • Armchair Military: Never leaves his comfy headquarters in Cairo (unlike Allenby, who joins his troops at the front).
  • Bad Boss: Openly insults Lawrence, calling him "the kind of creature I can't stand."
  • General Failure: Lawrence holds him in contempt and his few scenes reinforce this impression. Truth in Television as the real Lawrence didn't think much of Murray.
  • Jerkass: An incompetent fool who insults Lawrence and grouses at his staff. He isn't missed by anyone when he's gone.
  • The Neidermeyer: Thinks he should be fighting the "real war" in France, even though he can barely manage his current job. In Real Life Murray had been Chief of the Imperial General Staff before getting reassigned to Egypt.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: He'd rather keep Lawrence in a menial desk job than let him do something useful, apparently out of spite.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: