- Lawrence Of Arabia
- Jules And Jim
- The Exterminating Angel
- The Mad Fox
- The Manchurian Candidate
- Advise And Consent
- An Autumn Afternoon
It’s not easy to carry an entire film as a newcomer, even with as strong a director as David Lean behind you, and to carry a mammoth four hour film about men shouting politics in the desert is an even greater feat. Peter O’Toole emerged as an instant star in Lawrence of Arabia and, as Noel Coward said, if he was any prettier they would have had to call it Florence Of Arabia. He was nominated, didn’t win and it spelled trouble: he would go on to be Oscar’s Susan Lucci, nominated 8 times without ever taking home the gold until the Academy finally handed him an Honorary Oscar in 2002.
I’ve watched Jeanne Moreau enough to state quite confidently that she is probably the greatest actor to have ever walked the face of the earth. A stunning combination of beauty, imperfection, vulnerability, iron-clad strength, intelligence and heedless passion, she can embody just about any director’s needs for a character. She does all of the above as the bewitching object of fantasy for two best friends in Truffaut’s Jules And Jim, and creates one of the most unforgettable portraits ever put on film. She continues to have a legendary career, but if she had only made this one it would have been more than enough (but I’m glad there’s more).
Four hours of men shouting in the desert needs a little heat if you’re going to make it stick with fans; director David Lean wasn’t allowed to be specific about Lawrence’s sexuality, so he seized the opportunity to create a bickering marriage between O’Toole and Omar Sharif‘s hot-blooded Sherif Ali. It puts across a hell of a lot more gay in Lawrence of Arabia than the one (until now excised) scene of Jose Ferrer feeling O’Toole up in a Turkish prison, and Sharif’s exceptionally astute and unwavering delivery deservedly made him a big name for the rest of his career as it did O’Toole.
It seems hard to believe that Lolita was published when it was, let alone adapted into a film but, lo and behold, Stanley Kubrick did it, and even with his massive edits the film is still pretty controversial. One of its greatest assets is the brash, nearly hysterical performance by Shelley Winters as the overbearing mother who draws James Mason’s Humbert Humbert into her life without realizing that he’s actually lusting after her daughter. Winters could have gone full-on cartoon with the role, but her Charlotte Haze has a lot of tangible pain and loneliness hiding beneath the comic mania.
David Lean, Lawrence of Arabia