Farewell Lawrence of Arabia, Omar El Sharif 1932-2015

Big 5

Egyptian legend Omar El Sharif has passed away on Friday aged 83 after suffering  heart attack.

Omar Sharif was born on 10 April 1932, as Michel Demitri Chalhoubin Alexandria, Egypt, to a Melkite Greek Catholic family of Syrian-Lebanese Levant descent. His father, Joseph Chalhoub, was a wealthy merchant of exotic woods who, in the early 20th century, settled in Egypt, where Sharif was born and raised.

In 1954, Sharif began his acting career as his first film , Siraa fil-Wadi ( The Blazing Sun) as a co-star for Faten Hamama.

El Sharif and Hamama have fallen in love; he converted to Islam and married her.

They had one son, Tarek El-Sharif, born in 1957 in Egypt, who appeared in Doctor Zhivago as Yuri at the age of eight. The couple separated in 1966 and the marriage ended in 1974.

Sharif never remarried; he stated that since his divorce, he had never fallen in love with another woman.

He quickly rose to stardom, appearing in Egyptian productions, including La Anam (Sleepless) in 1958, Sayyidat al-Qasr (Lady of the Palace) in 1959 and the Anna Karenina adaptation Nahr el hub (The River of Love) in 1961.

He starred with his wife, Egyptian actress Faten Hamama, in several movies as romantic leads.

Sharif met his wife Faten Hamama, at the time one of the Middle East’s most successful female stars, when they were cast together in his debut film, The Blazing Sun in 1954.

Sharif’s first English-language role was that of Sharif Ali in David Lean’s historical epic Lawrence of Arabia in 1962 with which he won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture, as well as a shared Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year – Actor.

He co-starred in other films, including Behold a Pale Horse (1964).

The Egyptian actor played a Yugoslav wartime patriot in The Yellow Rolls-Royce (1964), the Mongolian conqueror in Genghis Khan (1965), a German military officer in The Night of the Generals (1967), Rudolf, Crown Prince of Austria in Mayerling (1968) and Che Guevara in Che! (1969).

In 1965, Sharif played the title role in the epic love story Doctor Zhivago , an adaptation of Boris Pasternak’s 1957 novel, which was banned in the USSR for 30 years, in which he played the role of a poet and physician.

For his performance, he won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama, while the film received ten Academy Award nominations, but Sharif was not nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor.

Sharif was also acclaimed for his portrayal of Nicky Arnstein in Funny Girl (1968) in which he portrayed the husband of Fanny Brice, played by Barbra Streisand in her first film role.

Egypt has condemned the film as the government has faced his decision to work alongside Streisand due to her support for the state of Israel.

Funny Girl was banned in numerous Arab states.

Among Sharif’s other films were the western Mackenna’s Gold (1969), playing an outlaw opposite Gregory Peck; the thriller Juggernaut (1974) and the romantic drama The Tamarind Seed (1974). Sharif also contributed comic cameo performances in Edwards’ The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976) and in the 1984 spy-film spoof Top Secret!

In the late 1990s Sharif began declining film offers, claiming he had lost his “self-respect and dignity”.

In 2003, he received acclaim for his leading role in Monsieur Ibrahim, a French-language film adaptation of the novel Monsieur Ibrahim et les fleurs du Coran, as a Muslim Turkish merchant who becomes a father figure for a Jewish boy.

For this performance, Sharif received the César Award for Best Actor. Sharif’s later film roles included performances in Hidalgo (2004) and Rock the Casbah (2013).

Sharif suffered a public embarrassment in 2007 after punching a parking valet who refused to accept his European currency.

The actor pleaded no contest to misdemeanour battery and was ordered to take an anger management course.

Earlier this year his agent confirmed he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease after his son Tarek gave an interview in which he discussed his father’s deteriorating condition.

“He still knows he’s a famous actor,” Tarek El-Sharif told Spain’s El Mundo newspaper. “He remembers, for example, [he was in] Doctor Zhivago but he’s forgotten when it was filmed.”

After less than six months from his love’s death , Faten Hamama, Omar El Sharif died on 10 July 2015 at the age of 83 after suffering a heart attack at a hospital in Cairo, Egypt.