Lawrence of Arabia — The History of a Film

Steve Newman Writer
9 min readMay 28, 2018

“ But Spiegel and Lean still had to find their Lawrence…”

Peter O’Toole & Anthony Quinn

I remember watching David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia four or five times in the first week of its release in 1962. Which was only fair if we consider how long it took to get a film about T.E. Lawrence onto the screen.

With Lawrence’s death, in 1935, the interest in the man by the film industry increased hugely, with Lawrence’s box office potential soaring

The first to put his toe in the water was Alexander Korda, who quickly revived an earlier stalled film project, with a script by Robert Graves, direction by Irishman Brian Desmond Hurst (a one time assistant to John Ford), with Lawrence played by Walter Hudd. But again the project failed to get off the ground due to the delicate political situation in Palestine.

Korda tried again in 1937 and 1938, this time with direction by William K. Howard, with such names as Robert Donat, Clifford Evans, and a young Laurence Olivier, put forward for the role of Lawrence. But once again the project stalled due to complaints from a very touchy Turkish Government (Britain was desperately trying to keep the Turks on side against the Germans in any future war), even though Korda promised that the Turkish would be depicted as “ …heroic opponents.” But nothing came of it.