Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
Frequently Asked Questions
In the film's original release, Robert Bolt was the only listed screenwriter, even though Michael Wilson had worked on the script longer than Bolt (17 months to Bolt's 14). Wilson was denied a screen credit, because Wilson had been "blacklisted" as a Communist sympathizer by HUAC in the early 1950s. Sam Spiegel tried to force Wilson to sign a document disavowing all of his Communist ties. Wilson refused, and after Bolt took over the project, he became the sole credited writer. Wilson appealed for credit to Bolt, but Bolt was unsympathetic. Bolt and David Lean were instrumental in blocking Wilson's credit when the film was restored in 1989, and he was not listed on the credits until a video release in the 1990s after Lean and Bolt had both died. Exactly what each writer contributed is a source of contention, but it can be summed up as follows: Wilson contributed many of the historical inventions of the film: the relationship between Lawrence and Ali, the rescue/execution of Gassim, the Lowell Thomas/Bentley character, for instance. However, Bolt and Wilson's scripts were of a decidedly different focus. Wilson drew a broader analysis of the story's political context, while Bolt focused on Lawrence himself. And by Wilson's own admission, over 90% of the dialogue was Bolt's.
The first version, shown in cinemas in 1962 (10 December: world premiere [UK]; 16 December: US premiere) was 222 minutes long. Because it was too long for the cinema managers 20 minutes had been cut by the director and producer Sam Spiegel. This version was shown in cinemas in 1963. In 1970, director David Lean was ordered to cut another 15 minutes for TV airings, which he did under the condition that this version was not to be shown in cinemas. (The first TV version reduced José Ferrer's role to little more than two lines, completely obscuring his character's homosexual inclinations and rendering the Turkish Bey as simply a sadist.) In 1989, attempts were made to recreate and restore the original version. Cut scenes were re-integrated and missing audio parts were re-recorded with the original cast.