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YMMV / Lawrence of Arabia

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  • Alternative Character Interpretation: Were the Arab tribesmen proud warriors who were manipulated into exchanging Turkish masters for English ones? Or backwards, amoral thugs who were incapable of administering Damascus, much less a country of their own?
    • Is Allenby a callous, manipulative villain or a good but conflicted man "just following orders"? The finished film leaves it ambiguous; several deleted scenes point to the latter.
    • Lawrence himself - a good albeit eccentric man fighting for a just cause, or a Manipulative Bastard out for personal glory?
    • Brighton. His actor Anthony Quayle thought he was an idiot, while director David Lean thought he was noble. Due to Brighton's Character Development, it's probably fair to say that he starts as the former and ultimately becomes the latter.
  • Award Snub: A tricky one. While winning almost all the major awards, it won none for acting, leaving Peter O'Toole (regarded as some of the best acting ever in film) empty handed. Of course, Gregory Peck won that year for To Kill a Mockingbird, so it was either giving it to the newcomer (O'Toole) doing (in hindsight) the role of his career, or the veteran doing the role of his career. Essentially, no matter who won, the other would have equally deserved it. What makes it Harsher in Hindsight is that this was very much a Tough Act to Follow for O'Toole: He holds the record (8 nominations) without ever winning an Academy Award.
    • Similarly, the heavily-acclaimed script lost in Best Adapted Screenplay (again, to Horton Foote for To Kill a Mockingbird). Without slighting Foote, the main reason appears to be co-writer Michael Wilson being denied credit by Sam Spiegel. His involvement, though unacknowledged by Columbia (and denied by credited screenwriter, Robert Bolt), was an open secret (and minor scandal) in Hollywood due to Wilson's former blacklist status.
    • Additionally, Omar Sharif was seen as the frontrunner to win Best Supporting Actor, even winning the Golden Globe that year. However, in a stunning upset, he lost out to Ed Begley for Sweet Bird of Youthnote .
  • Awesome Music: Maurice Jarre's sweeping orchestral score (originally recorded by the London Symphony) has long been regarded as one of the best in cinema history.
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  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: The inexplicable Mr. Perkins, who praises Lawrence on a job well-done while only being shown from the waist-down (and is never seen or heard from again). Odd in and of itself, doubly so as Mood Whiplash during a very tense scene between Lawrence and Allenby.
  • Estrogen Brigade: There are many stories of women flocking to the theaters because of the very alluring Peter O'Toole and Omar Sharif appearing in the film. The fact that all the main characters are men and there's a great amount of Ho Yay may also have helped attract them.
  • Fair for Its Day:
    • When originally released, Lawrence was considered fairly progressive in making the Arabs not only sympathetic, but drawing fairly complex characters in Ali, Feisal and Auda. In contrast, modern reviewers often complain about alleged stereotyping due to the emphasis on Bedouin looting and political discord, and the casting of English Alec Guinness and Hispanic Anthony Quinn as Feisal and Auda. That said, their characters and performances are mostly free of stereotyping, making it less egregious than many other films from the same time period.
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    • Later audiences have come to appreciate the film for being one of the few big-budget films about an Ambiguously Gay man that refused to hide it with a female love interest. The intense friendship between Lawrence and Sheriff Ali (who is played by Omar Sharif, an Egyptian) is also rare for portraying them as true equals, and Sheriff Ali is a highly complex character who actually ends up becoming Lawrence's conscience and arguably the most heroic figure in the film.
  • Fridge Brilliance: Peter O'Toole was primarily a stage actor before this, and it shows. But think about the way in which Lawrence is trying to create a larger-than-life persona for himself, and suddenly his grandiose way of carrying himself makes perfect sense.
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment: Daud, Farraj, and Gasim are all introduced as comedic characters. Good luck with that.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: While there have long been historical animosity between Europeans and Middle Easterners, this film brings to the forefront an alliance between the British Empire and Arab tribes, which is rendered complicated due to British and French colonial ambitions. This conflict only magnified in the decades after the movie was made, further detailed in pages like The War on Terror.
  • Ho Yay: Lawrence and Ali, intentionally so.
    • Also, Lawrence, Ali, and Auda when the three dine in Auda's tent. Lawrence in particular behaves flirtatiously when trying to convince Auda to join his side. Auda even tells them, "You trouble me like women!"
  • One-Scene Wonder:
    • Jose Ferrer's scene-stealing cameo as a perverted Turkish general. Ferrer himself reportedly considered this his best film performance.
    • Hugh Miller's R.A.M.C. Colonel has less than a minute of screen-time and is the last character in the credits, but openly protests how Allenby is refusing medical treatment to the Arabs and Turkish prisoners, threatening to treat them in spite of Allenby's orders, and upon being sent to Lawrence making an emotional appeal to him about how overwhelmed the medical facilities are, with Lawrence's visit to them completing his Despair Event Horizon.
  • Strawman Has a Point: While Murray is caricatured as an unimaginative martinet he makes a reasonable point: why encourage an Arab uprising when the British plan to rule over them anyway?
  • Tear Jerker: The whole film becomes this with Reality Subtext. Despite Lawrence's efforts, the British and French went behind his back and carved up the middle east with little concern for the native groups there. The region is still dealing with the fallout today.
  • Values Resonance: In the wake of the The Arab Spring and the Arab Winter, the film's criticism of imperialist meddling and fomenting uprisings for short-sighted political gains regardless of the feelings of the people on the ground, has made it timelier than ever. This is especially the case since many people cite the Sykes-Picot Agreement discussed in the film as one of the main causes for the crisis in Syria.


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