Interesting article.


When I lived in Los Angeles, many moons ago, I read a very painful letter-to-the-editor in Variety from the widow of the man who won an Oscar for the BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI screenplay. Michael Wilson was then hired by David Lean to write the script for LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. He did and was fired because Lean was a perfectionist and Wilson got worn out, finally.

He got no screen credit, as Robert Bolt got sole writing credit.

The letter came at a time when the studio was about to re-release the film, and the widow wanted her husband’s name on the print. In the letter was an extraordinary list of story points that Wilson had come up with, that are in the movie, that ARE the movie, really… and the guy got no credit. As far as I know, even today, the prints do not show his name, though the WGA now recognizes Wilson as co writer. So does the imdb.

Anyway, it’s fascinating to see what Wilson contributed to the story.

If you have NOT seen Lawrence, don’t read the article as it gives away more than a few surprises.

And if you have not seen the movie, I don’t know how to tell you to see it unless you have a 30 foot screen at your house (or classroom, like me!) because the movie is boring if not seen on a big big screen. It fails utterly on a regular TV. Find a friend who teaches and get him or her to let you watch in their classroom. A HUGE screen is the only way.

But, it holds up. At a zillion and a half hours, it’s not boring. But only with a big enough screen, because you take in all the information there is to see in a fifteen second shot… on a big screen, in fifteen seconds… on a small one, in five… and then the image sits there and doesn’t cut. It’s agony.

But not if you have a friend who’s a teacher…



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6 responses to “Who Wrote LAWRENCE OF ARABIA?

  1. Rebekka Brown

    When are you showing it in YOUR classroom?

  2. naomi

    Yeah, I think now you kinda have to screen it.

    I was actually just having this conversation with a friend last night — all the movies I know I SHOULD have seen by now but haven’t. Lawrence of Arabia made her gasp in shock. I think her eyes might have rolled back a little too.

    • yourscreenplaysucks

      It’s amazing how true it is that it’s boring on a small screen. I have not seen it on a big plasma, but am not sure it would work. It still may not be big enough for your eye to rove around for the fifteen or thirty seconds or one minute that Lean holds some of the shots for.

      Of course, there’s a bit to be said for not seeing the classics. When I was in grad school, we were in a John Ford class. The teacher showed THE PRISONER OF SHARK ISLAND, which was godawful. I raised my hand after the screening (always prints!) and asked why we were watching BAD John Ford films… why weren’t we studying the good ones? Turns out, the teacher, who had seen most everything John Ford had done, wanted to see everything, so he was getting the studios to send over prints of the movies he hadn’t seen. Nice, for the students.

      Anyway, he said, “I assume you’ve all seen Stagecoach.” I said, “I haven’t.” After class a cute girl came over, amazed I’d had the gumption to admit I’d not seen STAGECOACH… we talked and ended up dating the rest of the semester. So, it worked for me not to have seen a classic!

  3. Mike Dowd

    1) I agree with the other posters. this pretty much screams “party at Aker’s place.”

    2) There has to be (and I have the same feeling about literature) some educational merit in studying bad movies that snuck through into production, right? And I don’t mean the cult stuff like “Plan 9”. I mean “Ishtar” or “Gigli”.

    That said, I feel like a student could get more out of a survey course on thoroughly awful movies than on spending time on a successful director’s/writer’s missteps.

  4. mememe meme

    Haha it was written by Winston Churchill:

    44A member
    of the Conservative Party Film Association, Korda utilized Chancellor of the Exchequer Winston Churchill as a
    script writer and as a historical advisor on his 1937 film Lawrence of Arabia. Resulting partly from this
    relationship, Korda, by official request, relocated to Hollywood in 1939 to produce films that projected a
    favorable image of Britain. This arrangement had two advantages: first, Britain assured itself of maintaining a
    wellspring of favorable publicity safe from invading armies; second, this celluloid source of publicity ”would not
    emanate from official sources” and would have no overt affiliations with the state.45Soon after his arrival, Korda
    produced That Hamilton Woman starring Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier. Just as his earlier Fire Over
    England chronicled a defining event in English history. (Anglophilia on Film: Creating an Atmosphere for Alliance, 1935-1941
    Author: Bennett, Michael Todd).

    It is a piece of British propaganda to get the American public opinion favourable towards helping Britain in WW2

    And…IT WORKED!!!

    So the last laughs on you.

    • yourscreenplaysucks

      Hunh? Had no idea there was an earlier Lawrence, not the one I was discussing. Nothing listed for writer under it on IMDB.

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