Peter O'Toole in Lawrence of Arabia

My Favorite Scene: Lawrence of Arabia (1962) “A Funny Sense of Fun”

 

1963 brought Oscar voters one of their biggest dilemmas of all-time as they had to choose between Lawrence of Arabia and To Kill a Mockingbird and Gregory Peck and Peter O’Toole.  Lawrence won the most Oscars with 7 and took Best Picture, but Gregory Peck won Best Actor, something Peter O’Toole never did.  Both pictures, however, continue to stand the test of time as two of the greatest films ever made with two of the greatest performances ever given.

David Lean’s biopic of TE Lawrence is epic in a scope that modern Hollywood can’t approach.  Even filmed in Panavision, the massive landscapes of the desert boggle the mind.  In a career filled with astounding performances, O’Toole’s Lawrence is the most iconic.  Lawrence is one of my personal favorites and O’Toole probably second only to Paul Newman on my list of favorite actors.  I picked one of the film’s first scenes for two reasons.  One, Lawrence receiving his assignment establishes just how odd a duck he is even in his “home”.  Two, the scene contains-in my opinion-the greatest cut in any film ever made.  This is why film editor’s matter (and Anne Coates won an Oscar for it).  O’Toole’s extinguishing a match into a desert sunrise is something I’ve watched a hundred times, and it never fails to astonish me with its simple brilliance.

Lawrence of Arabia Poster

10 thoughts on “My Favorite Scene: Lawrence of Arabia (1962) “A Funny Sense of Fun””

  1. I always thought this cut was second only to the one in 2001, but you just made me reconsider. This one isn’t subtle, but it’s the more subtle of the two, and that counts for a lot.

    Because of this movie’s venerated status, a lot of people forget how weird it is. I think the Acadamy voters made the right descision… Mockingbird was great because of script and performances (at least those are the things that tip the balance) while Lawrence is a work of virtuoso filmmaking with every aspect of the craft (performances included) firing at full blast. Mockingbird is the movie that resonates more, both morally and emotionally, because of the material and Peck, but if you’re going to honor the cinematic craft, there is no contest, Lawrence wins.

    Also, listening to that iconic music… John Williams was really inspired by it when he wrote something, wasn’t he?

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  2. Williams has always borrowed from other composers, in Star Wars and everything. I don’t see the problem with composers doing this. Artists and writers and filmmakers reference those who came before all the time. But Williams does it musically and everyone gets bent out of shape.

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    1. Given the state of scores in film, I don’t think there’s a composer working can compete with Williams in his mid-80’s. It seems like scores are becoming an afterthought and a lost art. When we lose Williams, I think it will be the end of an era, sadly.

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      1. We are living in the end of an era. Layering and complexity have almost become lost arts. As a child I was fascinated by the music of Williams. You can get lost in rich and intricate things. In fact nothing holds the attention better. But it has been decided, by people with a lot more sway than insignificant me, that everyone needs to be hypnotized by shiny objects. People are better than that, but now the philosophy seems to be that even our public discourse will be shaped by whichever side can get thier message out in the fewest number of sentences.

        A match going out, cutting to a sun on a horizon, in a sparse Kubrekian masterpiece used to hold power because it really stood out. These days, without a filmmaker who has true clout, and belongs to the previous generation that will be gone soon, the sparseness might remain, but not for effect. And no poetry.

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      2. Speaking of no poetry, that was a really badly phrased comment I wrote.

        So much modern popular entertainment, like the MCU, is so much better than it ever was. I’m just longing for other kinds of movies too. Small, indie films are great, they’re there if you pay attention, but I’m longing for the days when dark, serious, and/or unusual films were given budgets and attention.

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      3. What’s sad is that Nolan is the modern equivalent of Hitchcock. That is not a criticism of Hitchcock or Nolan, Hitchcock is my third favorite director of all time, what I mean is that Nolan is not Fellini or Bergman, he ought to be the most mainstream of the mainstream.

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