John Wayne Was Set To Play Lawrence Of Arabia
The Making Of "Lawrence of
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|Written by: Brian
decade before David Lean’s Oscar-winning epic
"Lawrence of Arabia",
John Wayne was in line to play the hero, according to a new book, The Making
Of Lawrence of Arabia, launched this weekend at the Bradford
(April 26-28) by Scottish film historian Brian Hannan.
In January 1953 Wayne was announced to play Lawrence in a version of the
film to be made in Cinerama, the three-screen sensation of the 1950s.
Although no director was set, the film was going to be produced by former
journalist Lowell Thomas, the man who single-handedly invented the legend of
‘Lawrence Of Arabia’ in 1919 for a lecture tour that attracted over 5m
people. In the end the Cinerama project went the way of twenty other
potential versions dating back to the 1930s, says Hannan, who is speaking at
this weekend’s Bradford Widescreen Film Festival in the UK. Actors such as
Richard Burton and Gregory Peck were considered for the role before it was
offered to Marlon Brando, who turned it down in favour of Mutiny on the
Bounty. British actor Albert Finney, recently in Skyfall, also rejected the
film and the role went to Irishman Peter O’Toole.
Commented Hannan, ‘I was astonished to come across this piece of
information. Dozens of actors were up for the role over the years but the
last person I would have expected to find was the Duke. But at the time,
people had woken up to the fact that he could actually act - he had just
been Oscar-nominated for "Sands Of Iwo Jima" and had received rave
reviews for John Ford’s "Fort Apache" and Howard Hawks’ "Red
Neither was "Lawrence Of Arabia" the instant hit most people believe.
The book tells how the studio was aghast to discover that a time when
similar big-budget films like "Exodus" and "West Side Story"
had taken advance bookings of $1m (equivalent to $10m these days) and
$250,000, respectively, "Lawrence Of Arabia", two months before
opening in New York could only muster $12,000, less than a third of a week’s
takings. To combat this, the cinema raised ticket prices to record levels,
more than doubling what previous films had charged.
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First In A Major Opus
Some Notes on Shooting "Lawrence of
Restoration of "Lawrence of
Hannan signing his books "The Making of The Guns of Navarone" and "The
Making of Lawrence of Arabia"
Even this was not enough to make the film number one in its opening weeks in
New York and Los Angeles and in Boston it trailed in fourth, although in
London it set a new record. By the end of the year in the box office annual
rankings it was trumped by
"Cleopatra", "How The West
Was Won" and much cheaper Jack Lemmon comedy "Irma la Douce".
The production went so over budget that filming was halted for over three
months. Costing the equivalent today of $250m to make and market, it took
over two years to turn a profit.
Nor was the Oscar success a given. The US National Board of Review, a strong
predictor of Oscar victory, had ranked the movie only the fourth best of the
year. There was a whispering campaign against Omar Sharif and the film was
in danger of being swamped by a massive backlash in Hollywood against
big-budget movies which had dominated the awards for the previous six years
and a whispering cam. There had even been demands that this type of film was
placed in a separate category and "To Kill A Mockingbird", with a
fraction of its budget and with a superlative performance by Gregory Peck,
was seen as the front-runner. But in the end "Lawrence Of Arabia" was
named Best Film and David Lean won his second Best Director Oscar.
The Making Of Lawrence Of Arabia by Brian Hannan is published by Baroliant
Press, priced £8.99 and is available on Kindle in the UK and in bookshops.
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