Peter O'Toole, left, Omar Sharif, 'Lawrence of Arabia' (1962)

For, Friday, Aug. 23, 2019

EDITOR’S NOTE: Thirty years ago, when a new restored version of ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ began crossing the country, I began to receive phone calls and letters (no email back then) from all over the valley asking when the film would arrive in a Salt Lake City theater. So I wrote a couple of short stories about it in anticipation. When the film finally arrived locally I followed up with a lengthy cover story about the restoration (which will run in this space next week) and a review (which is to the right on this page). But in 1989 things were different; nothing was digital, most theaters were single-screen affairs and a major film might play for weeks, even months, at one venue. And stereo and larger-than-normal screens were at a premium. So bringing in a old classic for exclusive, top-of-the-line screenings was not at all the norm. Under the headline, ‘When’s “Lawrence” coming? Grab a pencil and some paper,’ this ‘Hicks on Flicks’ column was published in the Deseret News on Feb. 26, 1989.

What’s the No. 1 question moviegoers are asking these days?

Hands down, it’s “When is ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ coming?”

And at last, an answer – Wednesday, March 15.

Where? Exclusively at the Cineplex Regency Theater.

In 70mm? Absolutely.

And Dolby Stereo? Of course.

Those who are not aware of what’s been happening with “Lawrence” may wonder why all the interest in a 27-year-old movie.

David Lean won an Academy Award for directing the ultimate desert picture — the film won seven Oscars altogether — and Peter O’Toole became an instant star.

Critics agree that of Lean’s later “epic” pictures, this is indeed the best.

But the current fuss is over a restoration project that has put “Lawrence” back together after years of cutting and pasting for various re-releases, TV showings and video dubs, which left it at a mere 187 minutes in length.


David Lean gathers the troops for an epic scene on the set of 'Lawrence of Arabia' (1962)

Now it has been returned to its full 222-minute length (plus intermission, of course), and the film has been subtly, slightly reshaped and enhanced.

Lean and his Oscar-winning editor Anne Coates participated in the restoration, and the surviving actors (O’Toole, Omar Sharif, Anthony Quinn, Alec Guinness, etc.) redubbed some of their dialogue.

The result is considered by those who have seen it probably the best example of state-of-the-art film restoration ever.

And there is only one way to see this movie, on the big screen in 70mm, where its scope and expansive vision can be appreciated the way it was meant to be seen.

When you hear the phrase, “They don’t make pictures like this anymore,” this is the movie they’re talking about.

EDITOR’S SECOND NOTE: And on Sept. 27, 2012, the Deseret News published another short piece of mine about the film as it was gearing up for a video release, following yet another restoration (digital, this time), to be preceded by a one-day theatrical reissue. Despite the worry I express here that it might not return to theaters, ‘Lawrence’ has proved to be a regular on the big-screen revival circuit. Thank goodness. (See the review to the right.)

David Lean’s magnificent epic “Lawrence of Arabia,” about real-life adventurer T.E. Lawrence (superbly played by Peter O’Toole), is a film that needs to be seen on a theater screen to be fully appreciated.


To say they don’t make ’em like this anymore is to wildly understate, whether referring to the film’s breadth and depth, the vast number of extras in any given sequence or it’s deliberate pacing, which takes its time but is never dull. This is high entertainment with thrills, excitement, comedy, memorable set pieces and thought-provoking drama. It’s also as artistically framed as cinema gets.

Despite its ambitious scope, however, Lean never lets the grandeur overwhelm the story or characters, and he’s not afraid to allow his camera to rest on broadly choreographed images that fill the wide screen, forcing audience members to discover for themselves what is most meaningful at any given moment.

Before its Blu-ray debut in November, “Lawrence of Arabia” will play theatrically for one day, and who knows when or if another opportunity to see it on the big screen will present itself very soon.

Originally released in 1962, the film fell into disrepair over the next two-plus decades, until, after a meticulous restoration process, it was reissued in theaters in 1989. Now, here it is 2012, and yet another restoration has taken place so that it reportedly looks even better, sharper and more vivid than in 1962.

The digital version will play one day, Thursday, Oct. 4, with two screenings, at 2 and 7 p.m., in several local Cinemark theaters. This is a nearly four-hour movie, so plan accordingly.