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Temperance
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PostSubject: Lawrence of Arabia   Fri 29 Nov 2013, 18:52

MM, hope you are still around - this is for you.

You mentioned in the Tumbledown Suite a bit ago that you had been watching The Mission, and you noted that the screenplay was by Robert Bolt. I have spent this afternoon watching Lean's production of Lawrence of Arabia - screenplay by Robert Bolt.

I know nothing of the history; I know nothing of Lawrence. I was, however, mesmerised by this film. Am I being foolish - as usual? Was Bolt a superb dramatist, but a rotten historian? Does it matter? Did Bolt use Lawrence's story - as he did Thomas More's - simply as a means of putting over his late 20th century take on life? What should we believe - please?

Can anyone give me any info on Lawrence - or info on how to find info?

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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Fri 29 Nov 2013, 19:29

It's a long, long time ago that I last saw Lawrence of Arabia ... but I do remember that it was a cracking good film ... a good tale and beautifully filmed. I think perhaps I ought to try and get that on dvd too.

But like you I cannot really comment on how true, or not, it was to history.
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Fri 29 Nov 2013, 19:42

I think (but wouldn't guarantee it - and I am writing this without checking anything) that the mythic Lawrence is not quite the actual Lawrence.  I think there was a lot more wheeling and dealing behind the scenes and getting onside and offside with various tribal and governmental leaders.  But I don't think there can be any doubt about his courage and involvement.  And I think he immersed himself in the lives of the local people in a way that was highly unusual.  I feel I've read about him quite recently but I can't remember where - not a full biography anyway, perhaps a review of one, or an article in some magazine or newspaper.
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Sun 01 Dec 2013, 16:24

Temp, Lawrence wrote his own account of his part in the Arab Revolt in The Seven Pillars of Wisdom.

Bolt must have certainly used this as his primary source.

It is now old enough to be out of copywright and is available on Gutenberg;

http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks01/0100111h.html
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Sun 01 Dec 2013, 20:15

The film and the Seven Pillars book seem to have crystallized Lawrence's place in history. However, the extraordinary  tale of Richard Aldington's efforts to get a detraction of him and his exploits into print with Collins press in 1954  smacks of heavy handed attempts to curb a freedom of opinion. Liddell Hart, Bonham Carter and Churchill were all called upon to bear weight to stop publication  - in the UK - though possibly it was printed in France. I read  it abroad with an open mind - pre-film - many moons ago. Detractions can sometimes come out a bit smelly, in my opinion
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Sun 01 Dec 2013, 23:05

@Temperance wrote:
Was Bolt a superb dramatist, but a rotten historian?
The film certainly contains a few historical inaccuracies - although how much of those are down to Robert Bolt and how much to David Lean is debatable.

For a start the film features weapons and aircraft which did not come into use until after the First World War. For example the Browning .30 machine gun M1919 (as the name suggests) wasn't made until 1919, while the De Havilland Tiger Moth biplane didn't come into service until 1931 - more than a whole decade after the events depicted. Those (minor) errors would seem to be Lean's as director and are easily overlooked and forgivable by all except specialist military historians.

One significant chronological error which is almost certainly Bolt's as writer, however, relates to the American character of Jackson Bentley who talks to Prince Feisal about trying to get America into the war. This conversation is during a scene which takes place after the fall of Aqaba. However, since Aqaba fell on 6 July 1917 then the US had already been in the war for 3 months at that time.

That said - the brilliant Lean/Bolt partnership in the 1960s was truly a golden era for British cinema.

Away from the film - one point about the myth of 'Lawrence of Arabia' (and which is not widely appreciated in the UK and elsewhere) is that T E Lawrence backed the wrong horse. Feisal's father Hussein, sharif of Mecca lost out in the contest to become ruler of Arabia to his rival Ibn Saud - although Feisal himself did rule as king of Iraq. So 'Lawrence of Arabia' should perhaps be known as 'Lawrence of Iraq'.

In a further twist, Ibn Saud in the Arabian peninsular had himself earlier been contacted by another British agent and Arabist/adventurer, one Captain William Shakespeare. He was, however, killed in a desert battle with pro-Ottoman forces in January 1915. The premature death of Shakespeare weakened the link between the British and Ibn Saud and correspondingly raised Lawrence's profile.
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Mon 02 Dec 2013, 08:41

Thank you for that information, Trike and Vizzer. Trike - yes, Seven Pillars of Wisdom - I remember the title now. Cass, from the old BBC board, often mentioned that book; I think he was an admirer of Lawrence.

I am still feeling uneasy about this great man. A superb study by O'Toole, of course, but his presentation suggested a man suffering from what today would be diagnosed as narcissistic personality disorder. Such characters are often - for good or ill - hugely charismatic, are exhibitionists and have an absolute belief in their own abilities. They have that terrible ability to inspire devotion beyond the rational.

Lawrence was a brilliant scholar at Oxford, I believe - was a trained historian and archaeologist? I know nothing whatsoever about battle tactics, but presumably his genius as a military strategist was innate?

My comment about "rotten historian" was typed with a wry smile at my own perversity: I was struck by how ready I was to forgive Robert Bolt anything, whereas towards Philippa Gregory and her errors/"artistic" licence I have been implacable.

But then Bolt could write.

PS Thought the whole cast was superb - not just O'Toole. Alec Guinness as Prince Feisal, Jack Hawkins as General Allenby,  Antony Quale as Colonel Brighton and Claude Rains as Mr Dryden - all magnificent.


PPS I like to look at pictures of people when I am trying to puzzle out their characters. I think the photos of Lawrence reveal more than the famous Augustus John portrait, but I may change my mind about that when I've read a bit more.










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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Mon 02 Dec 2013, 09:09

@Vizzer wrote:
@Temperance wrote:
Was Bolt a superb dramatist, but a rotten historian?
That said - the brilliant Lean/Bolt partnership in the 1960s was truly a golden era for British cinema.

It certainly was. Next Sunday afternoon, Temp, try Doctor Zhivago.
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Mon 02 Dec 2013, 09:36

Bolt's screenplay was based not on "The Seven Pillars Of Wisdom" but on "Revolt In The Desert". The latter was a huge best-seller in its time and its success paid off the debt Lawrence accrued when he privately published the former and sold it for one third of its production cost.

Lawrence (aka Chapman/Shaw/ Ross) was dyslexic, as we would say today, and his Seven Pillars was largely written by George Bernard Shaw who did it as a personal favour for a man who fascinated him. Shaw (whose surname Lawrence pinched to enroll in the RAF later) wrote a letter to his niece in Dublin at the time in which he described Lawrence as a man who shunned identity as fervently as he hated fame. Shaw saw this as ironic and tragic as the more Lawrence attempted to distance himself from his "of Arabia" persona the more famous it became.

The Seven Pillars of Wisdom is a deconstruction (and an aggressive one at that) of the whole "of Arabia" character in which the author at several points blatantly lies about his activities in order to portray his role as less than it really was in terms of activity and impact in the Levant at the time. "Revolt in the Desert", written on the insistence of his publishers, was an abridged version of these exploits containing less lies but also less facts. It was this abridged version that sounded like an adventure story and prompted both the legacy and the later film. The proceeds from it were donated by Lawrence via a trust to helping war veterans and widows and the fund is still active today.

A very complex man. O'Toole's portrayal of him as a megalomaniac is accurate, but only in the context of his time in Arabia. The film fails to explain (or even address) Lawrence's abrupt shedding of that persona once back in England. His life from that point is the real story, I feel.
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Mon 02 Dec 2013, 09:53

A much closer examination of the Lawrence character in film form. Anyone who likes Lean's epic should really see this as a fitting sequel. Ralph Fiennes plays the lead and does a terrific job.

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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Mon 02 Dec 2013, 10:34

Thanks for that, I'll watch later.
Did you ever see Michael Asher's documentary "In search of Lawrence"? I also heard him present a lecture and amongst other points he questioned if the Lawrence story had somewhat overblown his contribution at the expense of the Bedouin. I asked that question to a number of people in Jordan, once sitting with some Bedouin in one of his hangouts in Wadi Rum, and without exception they immediately and vigorously disagreed. It's interesting that he is one of the few who we have considered as being heroic in their role in far off places and who have now (or were then, about 10-12 years ago) not been subject to revisionist interpretations in the lands of their exploits, at least outwith the academic community. It was also noticeable that the majority of visitors to places like Qasr Azraq were not European but local so it would seem that he still holds a place in local minds.
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Mon 02 Dec 2013, 11:10

Thank you, nordmann.

I don't like watching films on my computer as they keep stopping and starting, so I've just ordered it from Amazon. The film is apparently very hard to get hold of now, and the one I've ordered is a Polish import - but is an English version. Hope it is - I'm no good at Polish. The American import was £32.

Had no idea about Shaw's interest in the man.
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Mon 02 Dec 2013, 11:35

@ferval wrote:
Did you ever see Michael Asher's documentary "In search of Lawrence"?
I've never seen it, no.

If there was overblowing it was mostly down to Lowell Thomas, the journalist who made $1.5m from Lawrence's name and exploits (a film in its own right, I'd say). Lawrence himself in Seven Pillars spends a good half of the story contradicting what Thomas was simultaneously claiming on his behalf. For a few years after the war Lawrence led an incredible double life personality-wise, writing copiously in books, letters to newspapers and private correspondence contradicting Thomas's claims while intermittently agreeing to lecture tours and publicity stunts organised by Thomas to promote the myth. To be fair to Thomas as a reporter he invented very little and did really report what he was hearing from sources in Arabia, principally from the Feisal crew in whose interest it was to credit Lawrence with much of the liberation process.

Thomas summed Lawrence up very well when he said that he "had an amazing knack of backing into the limelight".
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Mon 02 Dec 2013, 12:12

An engaging character, Lawrence  served in the subcontinent being posted to a somewhat islolated  airfield where the desert meets the sea, where camels abound and the locals claim arab ancestory. He would have been at home there. I suspect that many suffer the cringe factor about  more blatant  days; perhaps Garbo did too? By that I mean the type of person who is actually shy but who opens the windows of an inner strength for a while then retreats from it. Lawrence would not accept any awards. His sympathy ever lay with the Saudis, that along with his circumspection of political manoevering and the posturing of military strength and rank madesociety uneasy about him; he teased and was self depreciating too - which further confused detractors such as Allington.  I can see why he and GBS got along.  I was a Lawrence admirer long before the film - and, arab style, have laid a stone on his grave.
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Mon 02 Dec 2013, 14:23

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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Mon 02 Dec 2013, 15:03

IIRC Robert Graves credited "T E Shaw" - one of Lawrence's later aliases - with some suggestions including "assegai" as a translation for the German "pfreim" in the Claudius novels. Worth chasing down, too, Lawrence's part in the development of Air-Sea Rescue craft.
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Mon 02 Dec 2013, 15:47

I didn't know Graves had written a biography of Lawrence, Gil.


 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/7767200/Lawrence-of-Arabia-corrected-biography-by-Robert-Graves.html


EDIT: I like this little snippet:



He (Lawrence) corresponded with many of the leading figures of the day, heading his letters A/C338171, which promoted Noel Coward's celebrated reply, "Dear 338171 (may I call you 338?)."
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Tue 03 Dec 2013, 09:31

Re Lawrence's grave - he wasn't buried at St. Martin's, Wareham, but the north aisle of this little church -   which dates back to Saxon times - contains a beautiful stone effigy of the man. It was sculpted by Eric Kennington. Lawrence is dressed in his flowing Arab robes, and he lies there like some ancient crusader from the wrong side. The memorial is there only because it wasn't wanted in other, grander, places:


"The effigy was actually made for St Paul’s Cathedral.  I think the political unrest surrounding his death meant that they wouldn't accept him.  He was then offered to Westminster Abbey and they wouldn't accept him.  Then he was offered to Salisbury Cathedral and they wouldn't accept him.  That's why he came to St Martin's.  They had to put him somewhere."






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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Tue 03 Dec 2013, 12:23

To Temps from confused P. of Res Hist. I have just ggogled up a photo of Lawrence's grave - where I once placed a stone - at Morton, Dorset, churchyard.

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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Tue 03 Dec 2013, 13:10

No need for confusion, P. Temp did say he wasn't buried in St Martin's in Wareham - however it is where Kennington's effigy can be found. Kennington was also responsible for the design of Lawrence's grave by the way.
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Fri 06 Dec 2013, 11:08

I have seen a train he blew up on the Hejaz railway - it was still lying there in the 1990s and a bit of a tourist destination for we expats.
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Fri 06 Dec 2013, 14:15

This the one, Nan?

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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Sat 07 Dec 2013, 11:40

The film recommended above, A Dangerous Man, Lawrence After Arabia, starring Ralph Fiennes, is indeed terrific. Fiennes strives to capture the intention of the man's soul - whatever that might have been -  more thoughtfully perhaps than did O'Toole playing O'Toole playing Lawrence.

The British in the film come across as a bunch of total b*astards - especially Lord Dyson, Lord Curzon and Lloyd George - wheeling and dealing with the French over who bagged Syria and who got the Persian Gulf in the general distribution of booty after WW1. The Persian Gulf, also known as Blunderland - to use Lawrence's prescient description of that dangerous and unhappy region. And I use the word "b*astards" deliberately here: how much did Lawrence's illegitimacy (and he was taunted - by Lord Dyson, I think -  about it in the film) shape his character and so his destiny (and the destinies of so many others)? An obvious question, I know, but it has to be considered.

Tim Rose Price's script, like Bolt's thirty years before, is revisionist history, I believe: post-colonial guilt and all that? Usual question - just what is the truth about all this? Can't believe that the Americans were really the good guys at the time, which is how they come across in the film. Wasn't Standard Oil also very interested in the Persian Gulf, just as interested, in fact, as the newly formed Anglo-Persian Oil Company, (later British Petroleum)? And wasn't there established, around 1912, a very determined Turkish Oil Company, too? Lawrence in A Dangerous Man observes quietly, as he watches a man lubricating something: "It's all about oil, isn't it?"

But all the politics aside (if that's possible), I'm still interested in asking, "Yes, but what's the man?" We want our heroes, of course, but was Lawrence in fact a passionate and idealistic - but essentially adolescent - solipsist: what the psychologists today would call an "adult child", a brilliant but mixed-up kid who, fighting his father* - and/or his mother? -  in his battles in the desert, made it into the history books? I've just  started Michael Korda's Hero: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia; although I realise it's definitely going to take more than one book to find some answers. Also found this painting of Lawrence by an Austrian-born religious artist, Herbert Gurschner, which shows the man looking, not like Kennington's medieval crusader, but more like a medieval saint. Don't like it - it makes me very uncomfortable. 




* The story of Sir Thomas Chapman - an alcoholic who abandoned the life-style of an Anglo-Irish aristocrat and left behind a fanatically religious wife when he ran off to live (in rooms above an oyster bar in Dublin) with the woman who had been his daughters' governess - is a tale in itself. Sarah Junner, the governess, herself illegitimate, was Lawrence's mother: she and Chapman moved to Wales where their second son (they had five sons), Thomas Edward, was born in 1888. They called themselves Mr and Mrs. Lawrence, but they were never married.
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Sat 07 Dec 2013, 17:56

My picture of Lawrence has disappeared - it has been there since this morning. Where has it gone?
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Sat 07 Dec 2013, 21:54

The National Gallery in Dublin closes at 4pm on a Saturday, Temp. I've smuggled it out for you though.

All the Chapmans were worthy of stories written about them. The Gurschner painting above was donated to the gallery by Major Desmond Chapman-Huston (an older cousin of TE Lawrence) who was an Irish major of the British Army and who is regarded still in Germany as a respected historian. They love him in Borneo too, even if they can't decide which is worse - that he was a major in the British colonial forces who occupied them or that he later became a favourite dinner party guest of Hitler when he lived in Bavaria. In Ireland we like to think that the whole Chapman clan was so barmy that they could be considered honorary Irish, even if they traced themselves back to Walter Raleigh (who never quite made it to becoming an honorary Cork man).

Here's a Gurschner of him too, just for the record.



Temp wrote:
... was Lawrence in fact a passionate and idealistic - but essentially adolescent - solipsist: what the psychologists today would call an "adult child", a brilliant but mixed-up kid who, fighting his father* - and/or his mother? - in his battles in the desert, made it into the history books?
Quite a lot of prominent Irishmen, excepting the desert part, would seem to fit that bill. Must be the genes.
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Sun 08 Dec 2013, 13:37

Enjoy the engaging reading trail, Temps. I did so many years ago. A beguiling man, Lawrence - perhaps in a sense I identified with his feel for deserts and their tribal people, sustained by not much more than faith - and who are ever an unknown quantity in their complex weave of loyalties, trust, ambiguity and pragmatism for their survival. In my early days, I met old colonial types who quietly achieved great things but then too there were more pompous people in military, govt service and commerce whom one would like to brain-dash. Like him or not, Kipling extracted the unpalatable essence of colonial power. Lawrence was an adventurer...... not quite a hero. What if he died in his desert crossing or the raid of Akbar, I wonder? He was ever a pain in some eyes - and I've not seen it mentioned in this thread, but there has always been circumspection about how he came to crash his bike.
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Sun 08 Dec 2013, 16:30

In many ways the worst thing that ever happened to Lawrence's legacy and the chances of understanding so complex a character was the huge success of Lean's film and the charismatic portrayal of the man by Peter O'Toole (yet another honorary Irishman in this whole story). It was a stunningly brilliant film but as biography it was clumsy, to put it politely. We got the gist of the back story - the illegitimacy, the distance from the father both emotionally and geographically which in the son's case simply fuelled an unhealthy self-obsession, the uneasy relationship with authority which had its roots in his experiences at school, the suspicion of genius that prompted as much guilt as it did excessive self-belief and pride - but only the gist, and always at interludes between elements of action and adventure that tended to distract from their importance.

In the film everyone talks English. We are deprived therefore of a real appreciation of Lawrence's assimilation into the world of the Bedouin. The main events cover eighteen months, in which time Lawrence went from an academic and basic understanding of Arabic to being fluent in several Bedouin dialects. It was this more than any wartime achievement that first caught the attention and indeed the admiration of Gertrude Bell, no slouch herself in this regard but who had spent half a lifetime working to that end with less success. Remember, this was a time when the "Arab" in western eyes was still a mysterious and exotic figure of almost mythical proportions, their contribution to history still confined in many peoples' view to their role as enigmatic villain in a romantic idea of medieval chivalry on crusade, and to literature via the the dodgy translations by Gallard and others of their folk tales. Archaeology was only beginning to puncture this illusion, and indeed Lawrence had already played a significant role in that regard. We are shown only however that he "went native" in 1917, but we are not shown the why of it nor indeed the full how of it. We see the Bedouins being quickly impressed into awe at the man, but unless we take them to be easily impressionable as a people (and they are no more or less so than anyone else) then we are left wondering what on earth was really going on.

Lawrence, for complicated reasons, always understated his motives even as he overstated his achievements during that crucial year and a half. Even at the time this unsatisfactory account prompted wild speculation and open distrust - from Lowell Thomas's glowing eulogies to those for whom he was "The Wild Ass of the Desert", a sobriquet which to more uncouth ears had a double resonance after doubt was immediately thrown on Lawrence's own account of his capture at the hands of Ottoman officials. The author's failure to address his true motivations simply helped to fuel the fire of both adulation and contempt that his image provoked. And far from those individuals for whom fame at any price is worth the odd ignominy, there is sufficient evidence to deduce that for Lawrence both of these excesses in the extent to which others speculated prompted only deep depression.

However for so many now Lean's film is the final word, or at least the last word they wish to hear. Contrary to what has been stated above its screenplay was not the work solely of Robert Bolt (who was drafted in later to help "Anglicise" the dialogue) but of Michael Wilson, the blacklisted screenwriter who had collaborated with Lean on "Bridge on the River Kwai". If the film is to be labelled revisionist history then it is at Wilson's door the claim should be laid. However I think myself that "revisionist" is wrong in this case. Wilson had a strong distrust for his source material, so much of which emanates from three dubious sides - the overtly critical, the stupidly sycophantic and then, probably the worst source of all, the often mendacious Lawrence himself. Wilson effectively threw in the towel in trying to extract fact from fiction and realised quite early in the treatment process that the story's best chance of success lay in it exploring the growth of a myth rather than a clinical dissection of that myth in a revisionist exercise which - as the evidence from many authors' attempts proved - would be bound to fail. Gone therefore is any laboured or subtle attempt to explore the why's, any implied critique of the how's, and in their stead is a recounting of the generally agreed elements with a particularly charismatic young actor and an inspired and experienced director imbuing them with the stuff of myth as they occur (Omar Sharif does his share in that respect too). There are enough clues remaining in the screenplay that the truth is being done a disservice in the name of drama, but there is also an implied warning to the audience that to pursue those truths will serve only to effectively destroy the myth that the film has so dramatically and convincingly delivered. Having savoured so fine a delight as the film version of Lawrence the incentive to spoil the myth with truth would have to be strong indeed, however the film not only weakens that resolve but is actually - thanks to its splendour in every respect - the greatest incentive therefore not to do so.

History is complicated, isn't it? Unlike film depictions, which can be intricate and clever, but never complicated to the same degree by confused self-abusive and often megalomaniac characters who fate has thrown together at the cusp of great shifts in political and social history. In real life they often self-destruct or achieve great things but neither to much end. In film, as in myth, they must have a dramatic point to their existence. Lawrence, infuriatingly, never delivered one. One had to be made for him, even in his own lifetime.
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Sun 08 Dec 2013, 18:48

Lovely bit of writing, nordmann. Superb analysis.
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Sun 08 Dec 2013, 20:53

This was mentioned in the Tim Rose Price script - Chauvel's claim that his Australians entered Damascus before Lawrence:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1572464/Australia-claims-it-captured-Damascus-first.html

Priscilla - I am reading about Lawrence's death at the moment. So conspiracy theories abound? I had no idea. The dramatic rumours seem very similar to those which circulated after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales - even talk of a mysterious black car seen seen just before the crash and reports of people being ordered to keep their mouths shut. Was Lawrence got rid of? Surely not.
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Mon 09 Dec 2013, 07:29

Having read a little more this morning, will add - was Lawrence the victim of a political assassination, arranged by MI5 (who else?) because the British government was concerned he was about to become involved with Sir Oswald Mosley? Was his death suicide?

Lawrence had written, "In speed we hurl ourselves beyond the body" (adrenaline junkies everywhere could well adopt that as a personal motto), but it was established after the accident that he was travelling at quite a sedate speed when he crashed - less than forty miles an hour. His bike was found to be stuck in second gear.

Suicide or a political assassination - either would have been a suitably dramatic end for a tragic hero, but the truth, as it usually is, is surely more prosaic: Lawrence swerved suddenly to avoid a couple of kids on bikes; he wasn't wearing a crash helmet; and he banged his head very hard twice - on the road itself and then against a tree. He died six days later.

http://www.criminalelement.com/blogs/2013/04/the-murder-of-lawrence-of-arabia-tony-hays
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Mon 09 Dec 2013, 10:00

A clue to how seriously that link can be taken is to be found in the author's by-line;

"When Tony Hays isn’t traveling the world, teaching students, and adopting puppies, he takes time out to write the Arthurian Mystery series from Tor/Forge."

Although the author neglects to mention it his information has been gleaned from a minority of "biographies" written long after Lawrence's death which theorise based on a sentence written by fascist (as in Moseley-type fascism) sympathiser Henry Williamson in a 1937 book "Lawrence by His Friends". If you read this book you will readily see the truth in the old saw "with friends like these ..."

Williamson claimed that just prior to Lawrence's death, and based on his known friendship with the Astors, he had concluded (his word) that Lawrence would be sympathetic to the idea of a meeting with Hitler to discuss the idea of a National Socialist bulwark against communist expansion in Europe.

So far so good. Williamson does not claim to have ever had a reply and nor does he go into any other detail.

However by 1969 and "The Secret Lives of Lawrence of Arabia" (one amongst a glut of "biographies" cashing in on David Lean's film's success) two journalists, when not "proving" that Lawrence employed a Scotsman to beat him regularly, had decided that Williamson had actually sent a telegram on the very day of Lawrence's death and that Aircraftman Shaw in fact had the positive reply in his pocket when he crashed - driving incidentally en route to the Wareham post office to send it *. The black car (which was indeed mentioned in the inquest as a potential witness to the accident who had done a runner) suddenly adopted sinister proportions. It became a British Intelligence hit-man hurtling across the Dorset countryside to intercept our hero before he could send the fateful despatch and sideswipe him off the road to his doom.

Leaving aside how crummy an assassination attempt this might sound (after reading many books about British Intelligence one grows to understand the oxymoronic claim being made in the name so this in itself doesn't mean much) there is the slight matter of "evidence" for any of this. One cannot even claim "hearsay" in one's defence as none of the salient protagonists on any side appear to have mentioned it ever, and in fact when one reads about Lawrence's activities in the last few weeks and months of his life then any observation based on hearsay or even intimate knowledge of his movements would lead one to conclude that he had allied himself to just about every major political viewpoint then in vogue. This is largely due to his hob-nobbing with some rather prominent people, normally it must be said to avail of offers made by them for use of facilities such as private yachts and country residences which he used, not to socialise, but as retreats where he could write.

The man was living something of a double life, it must be said. But the dichotomy was between a public persona as an ordinary RAF member which he liked to advertise and the private one in which he still sought to pursue his academic leanings. He was at the time of his death in communication with three editors regarding input to collaborative books covering the crusades, further war memoirs and the British countryside.

* For the record there was indeed a telegram sent to Williamson with receipt dated 13th May 1935. It had actually been sent the previous evening (Lawrence had a telephone) and it read:

Lunch Tuesday wet fine cottage one mile north Bovington Camp
Shaw


Hitler would have been delighted.
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Mon 09 Dec 2013, 10:31

It's Mosley, not Moseley, nordmann - otherwise a very good effort. Smile 

Sorry, can't resist a bit of lese-majeste once in a while.

I actually agree with what you say, not that I have read nearly enough to comment.

That said, it's a shame we'll all be dead (ish) in fifty years time: I wonder what secret stuff will have been released by then - relating to Diana and many, many others? There may be some surprises in store - even about Lawrence perhaps. Who knows?

Mosley was being monitored by MI5, but then no surprise there.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/2518271.stm
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Mon 09 Dec 2013, 10:43

I reckon by 1969 the bar for salaciousness had been raised so high in Lawrence's case when it came to profiting from fresh "revelations" that it is a wonder space aliens hadn't been roped into the equation (maybe they were - I admit I haven't read all the books yet either).

As a "Moseley" aside: The village of Moseley (now a suburb of Birmingham) was listed in the Doomsday Book as "Museleie". In NyNorsk this is in fact more or less how one spells the breakfast cereal too. I know that Brummies have it tough, but they had a narrow escape there ....
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Mon 09 Dec 2013, 10:53

Ah - Sir Oswald Muesli - I bet someone has spelled it like that.
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Mon 09 Dec 2013, 11:29

Yes - if he had implemented a British version of Hitler's "Final Solution" he would have gone down in history as a cereal killer.
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Mon 09 Dec 2013, 12:05

Ah yes, that man. Only partly understanding an adult conversation, for many youthful years I thought he was a Brownie......and wondered how he managed that.
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Mon 09 Dec 2013, 12:35

Worse than being a Brownie, or even an All-Nut Muesli is selling ladies' knickers. Remember Roderick Spode?

As Bertie says, "You can't be a successful Dictator and design women's underclothing. One or the other. Not both."


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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Mon 09 Dec 2013, 13:48

I hope Mosley got to see this:

"The trouble with you, Spode, is that just because you have succeeded in inducing a handful of half-wits to disfigure the London scene by going about in black shorts, you think you're someone. You hear them shouting "Heil, Spode!" and you imagine it is the Voice of the People. That is where you make your bloomer. What the Voice of the People is saying is: "Look at that frightful ass Spode swanking about in footer bags! Did you ever in your puff see such a perfect perisher".

—P. G. Wodehouse, Bertie Wooster in The Code of the Woosters (1938)

But - dare I say it - Lawrence swanking about in his Arab robes (cool and sensible in the desert, perhaps, but not entirely appropriate in Paris or London) could also - perhaps - be at times something of a "perfect perisher"? He was once described by Colonel Wilson in Jidda as a "bumptious ass". Someone else referred to him as "an extraordinary pip-squeak".

PS What an amazing woman Gertrude Bell was and what a life she led! The postmodern feminists just can't compare...

Like Lawrence, Bell had attended Oxford and earned First Class Honours in Modern History. Bell spoke Arabic, Persian, French and German. She was an archaeologist, traveller and photographer in the Middle East before World War I. Under recommendation by renowned archaeologist and historian Lt. Cmdr. David Hogarth, first Lawrence, then Bell, were assigned to Army Intelligence Headquarters in Cairo in 1915 for war service. Because both Bell and Lawrence had travelled the desert and established ties with the local tribes and gained unique perspectives of the people and the land before World War I, Hogarth realised the value of Lawrence and Bell's expertise. Both Bell and Lawrence stood hardly 5'5", yet both could ride with great determination and endurance through the desert for hours on end.

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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Mon 09 Dec 2013, 14:05

Bell is one of my true heroes - the type for whom you could forgive any character fault since their importance pales in comparison to their virtues (for me always intelligence, intelligence and just to be sure, intelligence).

Charlotte Shaw (another one of my all-time heroes) in one of her letters to the Shaw-wannabe did remark that he was no Rudy Valentino and was only drawing public derision on himself with his acquiescence to Thomas to be publicised in Arab garb. Lawrence's reply was along the lines of "yes, but not fast enough".

In another letter to Thomas, Lawrence once asked with more than a hint of self-irony just how far this public persona could be pushed without them both looking like "damned fools". Thomas's reply was along the lines of "until the money stops coming in" to which Lawrence replied that he would therefore desist from paying Thomas to stop. Thomas, being an American, didn't get either remark.
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Mon 09 Dec 2013, 15:01

Excellent piece about Bell here - from James Buchan, writing in the Guardian:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2003/mar/12/iraq.jamesbuchan

And yet this fiercely intelligent and independent woman - a woman who had lived a life of study, passion and adventure such as most of us can only dream about - ended up, so it would seem, alone and depressed. She died (if Buchan is to be believed) just like Marilyn.

The official story was that years of gruelling work in the 49C (120F) heat of the Baghdad summer had proved too much for "her slender stock of physical energy". In fact, she took an overdose of sleeping pills, by accident or by intention. She is buried in Baghdad.

This BBC Great Lives programme is very interesting. Both experts (including Bell's biographer, Georgina Howell) believe she took her own life.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00xhh2q
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Mon 09 Dec 2013, 16:20

On a lighter note, there is a telling incident described in the BBC programme where some important sheikh or other, having met Gertrude Bell, said something along the lines of: "We know in truth that Allah created women inferior to men, yet this English woman is so very remarkable - how very splendid then must the English men be!"

EDIT:

She wrote this:

"To those bred under an elaborate social order few such moments of exhilaration can come as that which stands at the threshold of wild travel. The gates of the enclosed garden are thrown open, the chain at the entrance of the sanctuary is lowered, with a wary glance to right and left you step forth, and, behold! the immeasurable world."



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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Wed 11 Dec 2013, 13:30

I have just started Janet Wallach's biography of Bell, and on the very first page of her foreword I discovered that the "some important sheikh or other" whom I mentioned above was in fact the chief of the Anazeh, Fahad Bey. He, according to Wallach, "proclaimed to thousands of his tribesmen, 'If this is a British woman, imagine what their men are like!' "

The BBC discussion mentioned Allah and the inferiority of women: Wallach does not.
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Sun 15 Dec 2013, 19:28

Sidesways to Lawrence, I hear that Peter O'Toole died today/yesterday after a long illness which was not specified but usually means cancer.  Honorary Oscar after being nominated for 8, I suppose that is a sort of sympathy or longevity one.  Lawrence of Arabia, Goodbye Mr Chips, The Lion in Winter, Becket, The Ruling Class, The Stunt Man, My Favourite Year, Venus.  I see that is the most nominations for anyone who has not win one.
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Fri 02 May 2014, 08:17

Back to Lawrence briefly.  At the moment I am reading a book called An Awfully Big Adventure by Jane Tolerton.  This book, written in 2011, is from edited oral histories she did in the late 1980s with WWI veterans.  There were more than 80 of them, aged from 87 to 99, only one woman.  One of them Beet Algar talks re the Sinai-Palestine Campaign, "Waiting to go into action one place, I had a boxing match and put on a good show apparently. I can only think it was for this reason I was chosen to go to headquarters to meet Mr Lawrence - Lawrence of Arabia later - and I escorted him for about a fortnight.
He was a little Pommie, and very snobbish. He rode ahead of us and never spoke to us. He used to say that he'd be going in here for quarter of an hour, half an hour - but there were never any incidents. As soon as he left us he went into Arab garb. The thing I've often thought, there is this thing they call homosexuals. [Some of these men, even in the 1980s, sound very innocent.] I never heard of that during the war and I've often wondered how that ever came into anybody's lives during the war because we slept...I remember one night sleeping under a cactus cuddling another fellow, and that sort of thing never came into my life and I'd never heard of it. Could you believe that?

[The interviewer asks: When did you first hear about homosexuality?]  He answers: "Talking about Lawrence. He had two boys he took on his trips - not while I was with him. And then he talked about it himself: where the Turks got him and one of the Turkish ministers assaulted him. Men did talk about going to the brothels - but I thought too much of my body to have ever gone there, because imagine the thousands of troops."  [The footnote says: In 1916 - 18, British Army officer TE Lawrence played a liaison role during the Arab Revolt against Ottoman Turkish rule. In his auitobiographical book The Seven Pillars of Wisdom Lawrence writes of being subject to sexual assault by the local Turkish Bey governor and his guardsmen. Although not specified this was probably rape. There is no reliable evidence that Lawrence ever had consensual sexual intercourse with anyone of either sex.]

Beet's first name was Beethoven, named by his pianist and composer mother, and at one stage when there was a spy crisis he had to go before the authorities and explain his name. The book also mentions a choral group where there was a worry about whether they should sing Beethoven songs or not.


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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Mon 05 May 2014, 08:48

Richard Aldington published a very critical biography of Lawrence in 1955 which for the first time brought to light his illegitimacy and - more importantly - his alleged homosexuality. Prior to this the issue had never been publicly raised and presumably never questioned much either. Even after Aldington's rather venomous hatchet job on his one-time friend it was difficult for the muck-rakers to find anyone who served under Lawrence or knew him well to corroborate Aldington's assertions. However mud sticks, as they say, and since Aldington's book it has remained at least an open question.

What did emerge after 1955 were several instances of people who claimed to have known him in passing (a bit like the man you quote above) and who have retrospectively reassessed Lawrence's sexual orientation. In the case of ex-servicemen it also has to be borne in mind that opinion of the "officer class" was predisposed to denigratory assessment in any case and this also might have played a large role in subsequent reappraisals too.

Those who knew him (as well as anyone could know Lawrence) tended to agree that when it came to sexuality he was probably best described as "non-sexual" - he lived an almost obsessively celibate life and pointedly spurned affection he considered might be a precursor to any type of committed relationship. People like this often give rise to speculation about their motives, including questions about their sexual preferences, and those who live in the glare of public attention - as Lawrence did for many years - probably more than most.

It is unfortunate that this question came to overshadow all those others which surround the enigma that Lawrence was. In his life he left a legacy of achievement and literary product which in most cases would have satisfied almost all serious attempts at a later evaluation of his personality and person. In typical Lawrentian fashion however this does not seem to apply in his case. I blame Peter O'Toole.
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Mon 05 May 2014, 11:50

Now that I've spent half an hour correcting the typos in my post I can answer this. I don't think your last paragraph is quite right, Nordmann.  It seems to me that for the last twenty or thirty years if any literary or artistic figure could possibly be homosexual or have paedophiliac tendencies or just not be married and therefore suspect, then that is the main focus of any biographical or media analysis. 

NZ soldiers not only objected to officers as a class, they specially objected to British officers.  With some justification - NZ officers generally didn't bother too much with salutes and other formalities, whereas it seems British ones took such things very seriously.  I've just finished reading another of the men saying, "The old touching the forelock was very prominent still. Yes sir, no sir and all that sort of damn thing...Apart from that they were a fairly decent bunch of chaps. The hardest blokes were the sergeant majors and warrant officers. I went back after I got my commission just to make certain that one bugger called me 'Sir'. Some of those Tommy instructors were really loathsome creatures, real bastards. They didn't have any soul at all, they were just merciless tough jokers."  (Mind you my husband, more or less conscripted to the army in the 1970s, said there were similar types here then, and one went berserk in the young recruits' barracks in the middle of one night.  He was punished for this.)
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Mon 05 May 2014, 12:11

@Caro wrote:
It seems to me that for the last twenty or thirty years if any literary or artistic figure could possibly be homosexual or have paedophiliac tendencies or just not be married and therefore suspect, then that is the main focus of any biographical or media analysis.

I did say serious attempts at evaluation of personality and person. Unless a person's particular sexuality plays a major role in whatever they did that merits their biography being written then as far as I'm concerned such treatment of the subject, however more popular it may have become according to you in the last twenty or thirty years, is still hardly serious.

Having said that I have read quite a few biographical works written in that period and cannot say that I have ever noticed this trend. People might be more willing to address the subject in a biography than they were in times past but it has still hardly become by default the central theme that outweighs all others. However in Lawrence's case it appears to have done so in recent books and essays alright, at least to the annoying point where it deflects from the truly interesting biographical information which might intelligently inform an opinion about this very complex man.
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Mon 05 May 2014, 12:36

Caro, re saluting - there is an interesting incident mentioned in Michael Korda's biography of Lawrence. It happened during Lawrence's journey from the Middle East to the Paris Peace Conference and there are different versions.

Either at Taranto or possibly at Marseilles Lawrence saw a British major dressing down a private for failing to salute. The major humiliated the private by making him salute over and over again. Lawrence intervened and when the major asked what business it was of his, he removed his mackintosh (which had no badge of rank) and revealed the crown and two stars of a full colonel on the shoulders of the uniform beneath - indications of rank that had been concealed by the outer garment. Lawrence then pointed out that the major had failed to salute him and made the officer do so several times.

In Robert Graves' biography, Lawrence sees "a major...bullying two privates...for not saluting him" - the major neglects to return their salute until Lawrence appears and makes him do so.

Another story - Lowell Thomas's version - has a lieutenant-colonel, a "Railway Transport Officer", snubbing Lawrence, upon which Lawrence removes the concealing raincoat to show the pompous official (who is described as "a huge fellow, with a fierce moustache") that he has been insubordinate to a higher-ranking officer.

Whichever story is true, they illustrate the same point, which is Lawrence's awareness - and intense dislike - of conventional discipline and of officers who abused their power over "other ranks".

Sexual orientation is a very tricky subject. I think Lawrence certainly loved other men/boys; Dahoum was a beloved companion and his affection for Feisal cannot be disputed, but that does not necessarily imply he had a sexual relationship with either. We are obsessed these days with the idea that intense affection/friendship must also mean that a sexual consummation of the friendship has taken place.

Korda suggests that the misfortune of his birth - and what his father had "given up" because of his need for "a transitory and guilty pleasure" - affected Lawrence very much. He may well have feared his own sexuality and so ruthlessly - with all the remarkable willpower and determination of which he was certainly capable - suppressed it.

That said, his own honest account of what happened to him at the hands of the Turks is very revealing.


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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Mon 05 May 2014, 12:43

Temp wrote:
That said, his own honest account of what happened to him at the hands of the Turks is very revealing.

Yes, in that it is probably the one incident upon which all of his biographers - supportive and anatagonistic - agree regarding the likelihood that it is not in fact honest at all. I agree it is a strange thing to lie about but it is also very likely, based on Lawrence's own contemporary diary entries, that it was a fabrication.

A difficult man to pin down, Mr Shaw.
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PostSubject: Re: Lawrence of Arabia   Mon 05 May 2014, 13:16

Korda quotes the relevant passage and comments:

"Those who are critical of Lawrence have argued that he exaggerated the incident or even invented it altogether. But the incident was not improbable - the brutality of the Turks...was a known fact and the practice of anal rape, while by no means restricted to the Turkish soldiery and their officers, was a recognised peril of becoming a prisoner of the Turks in World War I..."

But perhaps you suggest that it not the rape that is disputed, but Lawrence's confession that, not only had he been humiliated, tortured and brutally violated, but to his horror had felt a sexual excitement that made his torturers mock him and which filled him with shame. The ultimate abasement is not to be violated after all, but to enjoy being violated, and perhaps Lawrence had discovered in himself at Deraa just what he had been at such pains all his life to avoid admitting.

I certainly can't pin him down - about his sexuality or anything else. But I must admit I grew more and more uneasy the more I read about him (not about the man's sexuality, but about his passion for violence and killing. Sublimation?)

A very great man, but a very disturbed one, as great people so often are? I still haven't made up my mind.
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