Failed attempts to make a film about Lawrence of Arabia

Several failed attempts were made to film the life of Lawrence of Arabia before finally, David Lean made the movie in the early Sixties.

The earlier attempts failed because of pressure from Turkey. In the mid-Thirties, the Lawrence Trust authorized director Alexander Korda to make a movie about Lawrence’s life.

After considering Laurence Olivier and Robert Donat for the lead, Korda picked Leslie Howard. After obtaining a draft script, the Turkish embassy protested to the British government that “the Turks were represented as tyrants and oppressors of Arabs,” casting unacceptable aspersions on “Turkish history and national character.”

Expecting another world war, Churchill said it was important to have the Turks as allies when the war came. The movie was canceled. Another attempt was made in the early ‘50s with Alec Guinness in the lead. That too was canceled for political reasons.

When in the Thirties the British attempted to produce a movie about Lawrence of Arabia, the MGM studios in Hollywood were working on the script of “Forty Days of Musa Dagh”.

Clark Gable was to be the lead. Sets were constructed and a shooting schedule was ready. The project was canceled when the Turkish Ambassador complained to the State Department which pressured MGM to drop the movie.

Fifteen years ago, Sylvester Stallone announced he would produce a movie based on the Musa Dagh novel. He said the movie would be “an epic about the destruction of a civilization…talking about a political hot potato, the Turks have been killing that subject for 85 years.”

By Jirair Tutunjian, Toronto

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *