HIDDEN GEMS: 25. LAWRENCE OF ARABIA

Hidden Gems brings to light little known film gems which have somehow slipped through the collective cinematic consciousness. This week David Lean’s rarely seen Lawrence of Arabia. You’re welcome.

When David Lean’s adaptation of T.E.Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom came out, no one went to see it. Everyone said: ‘why isn’t it called the Seven Pillars of Wisdom? That’s a doozy of a title!’ It isn’t like David Lean doesn’t know how to adapt books. He made Great Expectations.  Or Dickens of London to give the originally title. Set in Tatooine, Lawrence of Arabia stars Michael Fassbender’s android from Prometheus and Alien Covenant as Peter O’Toole as T.E. Lawrence. It shows how the young British officer managed to win the trust of the Bedouin tribes – led by the finest Arabic actors Anthony Quin and Alec Guinness, along with Egyptian Omar Sharif – to engage in a tribal war against the occupying Turks.

As the war progresses, Lawrence’s single-handed determination and ascetic self-sacrifice leads to a kind of megalomania and fanaticism. It is a cunning psychological study of a man who wishes to deny his own humanity and escape himself. Within lies also the glamour and the brutality of war. At once a stirring adventure film and a keenly observed study of how a powerful personality can manipulate history to his own ends for a limited period. The politics of the situation are also sadly relevant as superpowers use the middle east as nothing more than a conveniently distant battleground and then divide the spoils with scant attention to the locals.

The imagery is beautiful – never before or since have landscapes been imbued with such meaning, beauty and terror. And the score by Maurice Jarre is so good it’s become a cliché. But the film roots itself in the Peter O’Toole’s performance. Lawrence’s sexuality, vulnerability and almost otherworldly way of seeing things come over amazingly. Which could be why it was never heard of again. Until now.

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SIR EDWIN FLUFFER REMEMBERS ALEC GUINNESS

HOLLYWOOD – Sir Edwin Fluffer once again delves into his personal memoirs – soon to be published as ‘Not THAT Kind of Fluffer!!!’ – to recall Alec Guinness.

The funny thing about Alec Guinness was that he never touched the stuff. If anything he should’ve been called Alec Gin And Tonic But Not While I’m Working. We were both cast in David Lean’s seminal The Bridge on the River Kwai, and I’m proud to say that we were firm friends forever after.

It wasn’t the most comfortable shoot, but darling Alec always had a smile on his face. Lean would be taking hours to set up a shot and Gin And Tonic But Not While I’m Working would keep us all entertained by making model animals out of balloons.  He could also whistle the entire 1812 Overture in French, which I thought was hugely impressive.
I suggested that they use it as the score, but Lean wasn’t interested.
If something wasn’t his idea he just didn’t want to know about it. That’s the reason why William Holden never wore the sombrero I bought him.  As soon as he saw it, Lean told him to take it off and we never saw it again.
Unfortunately we were well into filming before the unit doctor discovered that I was suffering from a condition called gephyrophobia, also known as fear of bridges. I tried to carry on but the pills he prescribed didn’t mix well with brandy and it was felt best all ‘round if I flew home. I did try to take them with a bottle of scotch that I found in Jack Hawkins’s trailer, but when he found out he tried to shoot me with an elephant gun.

But that’s another story…

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ALEC GUINNESS WILL NOT BE IN THE FORCE AWAKENS

HOLLYWOOD – It will be a disappointment to many, but today it was revealed that Alec Guinness will not return to his role as Obi Wan Kenobi in the new film Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Alec Guinness played Obi Wan Kenobi in the very first Star Wars has been a great favorite of fans, reappearing as a ghost in Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, but J.J. Abrams in a video interview for Hollywood Reporter revealed that Guinness would not be in Episode 7: The Force Awakens.

Abrams explained, responding to a question from Steve Guttenberg:

I’m afraid we won’t have Obi Wan Kenobi back. Although Ewan MacGregor has been eager, persistent, some might even say borderline stalkery, we just didn’t feel the character would real fit in with our universe and our take on where we wanted to go. As for Alec Guinness, sadly Alec passed away in 2000.

However, some fan sites have reacted with disappointment and anger at the decision. ManyBothansDied.net published a scathing post that went so far as to call for a boycott and dismissed Abrams’ ‘reasons’ as bogus.

Obi Wan Kenobi as played by Alec Guinness is an essential element to the Star Wars mythos and should be included. As for Mr. Guinness being dead, sharp-eyed fans will notice that so is Kenobi in Empire and Jedi. Far from impossible to have the deceased Guinness play the role, if anything, it would be typecasting! I’m sure his ghost would be more than happy to alleviate the tedium of the afterlife with an opportunity to be part of the most successful, Science Fiction/Fantasy franchise in the history of the world.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens will be released in December, 2015. For more on Star Wars click here.

FLUFFER’S FAMILY SNAPS

The Divine Garbo, photographed by Cecil Beaton. I used to stand behind him waving a rattle, but could I make her laugh? Could I bugger!
Cary Grant bet me $50 I’d never get my pilot’s licence. I said that if he could get to the cactus and back before me, we’d go double or quits.
 
 
 
Not you again! Due to an administrative error I’ve now been knighted by Her Majesty The Queen no fewer than three times. This beats the previous record set by Sir John Mills in 1992.
 
 
 
 
 
Visiting my dear old mate Ally Guinness on the set of Star Wars. Of course I jumped at the chance of a cameo. ‘Just grab a mask, sit at the back, and don’t touch anything,’ he said. 
No-one even knew it was me!

ALEC GUINNESS’ GHOST HAUNTS GEORGE LUCAS

SAN FRANSCICO – An emotional George Lucas admitted today the real reason for selling the Star Wars franchise to Disney: ‘I’ve been haunted by the ghost of Alec Guinness.’

The Howard the Duck director added that the haunting began shortly after the release of Attack of the Clones.

‘He would hover over my shoulder and in that clear British accent he would deliver the crudest insults and chip away at my self-confidence,’ Lucas sobbed. ‘Even when I was with other people, he’d appear at my shoulder dressed as Obi Wan Kenobi and he’d just say “You’re shit, you’re shit, you’re shit” until it all became one word.’

Lucas at first suspected that the ghost was an illusion created by disgruntled employees at ILM but Ewan McGregor had also experienced the haunting. ‘At first I was terrified,’ the Scottish ‘actor’ famed for his inexplicable ability to choose poor scripts said. ‘But then it just got boring. Alec was always having a go at my accent. He’d mutter, “sounds nothing like me” even when I was doing a scene.’

Lucas finally gave up and sold Star Wars to Disney earlier this year. ‘He still haunts me,’ says Lucas. ‘But he’s much less offensive and he even said some kind things about Red Tails.’

Ewan McGregor has since become a priest.