Lawrence of Arabia is often touted as one of the greatest films of all time, and deservedly so. However it's one of those films were some elements are often overlooked in its praise. Of course the masterful vision of David Lean's direction, the sheer scope, and Peter O'Toole performance as Lawrence are praised, again deservedly so. What seems more often a little overlooked is how well developed the cast of characters are along with Lawrence, it is not a one character piece. These smaller, yet not underdeveloped roles, are help realized by the film's brilliant screenplay and of course its large ensemble.
Alec Guinness did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Prince Faisal in Lawrence of Arabia.
This is something very interesting about the way Guinness manages to conduct himself as Faisal in that he makes him seem as though he's somewhat aloof, though paints this as merely a facade in order disarm those around him. Guinness presents Faisal as an educated man, but one who purposefully does not try to remove himself from the simple view that a foreigner may take from him. Guinness's approach here is very effective as he shows the way that Faisal does this in order for his more important remarks to be all the more incisive. Guinness utilizes the set up so well as he has this the overriding feature of Faisal yet still suggests so much more about him. There's a great scene for Guinness when the Prince is interviewed about
his campaign. Guinness is so good as he keeps Faisal the proper Prince
on the surface, however underneath it Guinness finds a striking cutting edge to the man when he states that for him mercy is only good manners. The same holds true in the scenes where he directly interacts with the British high command. There is a definite determination, a far more fervent desire, that Guinness brings within this as Faisal questions the British intentions, and later when he goes into direct negotiations with them. Speaking of the British High Command.
Jack Hawkins did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying General Allenby in Lawrence of Arabia.
Hawkins is especially strong in his scenes where he converses with Lawrence directly. Hawkins does well to show the different wavelengths that Allenby is playing at. He keeps the stature of the General correctly when trying support Lawrence's ideas, or attempt to explain away that the English may intend to take Arabia for themselves. Hawkins does not leave it at that though revealing a bit of introspection in Allenby as he puts forth some casual jealousy in the man when he ponders about his own stature when compared to Lawrence's. My favorite moments of Hawkins's though is when Allenby attempts to get Lawrence back on track in terms of defeating the Turkish empire. These moments could have been easy enough to show Allenby attempting to get Lawrence to tow the line so to speak. I love that Hawkins does not play it that way as he calls upon the certain chemistry he has with O'Toole to make it more than that. Hawkins exudes an underlying respect Allenby has as his glances which suggest that Allenby sees the man he wishes he could be. When Allenby encourages Lawrence to take back the fight once again Hawkins is genuinely inspirational as he brings so much vigor in his eyes and words as he tells Lawrence to go on and fulfill his destiny.
Now a favorite scene of mine for both Hawkins and Guinness is near the end of the film where the two argue over who Lawrence belongs to, and the two are forced to decide that he is equally useless for the both of them since either side can lay claim to his actions. Both Hawkins and Guinness are rather cold in this moment by speaking as men of straight duty trying to simply get their demands across without much care for who it might effect. The two do share an equally memorable moment though just as they agree to basically forget Lawrence and get onto more business. Before that though Hawkins and Guinness each have a silent reaction that is quietly moving as Faisal and Allenby each for the moment suggest what Lawrence really does mean to them, before overcoming their emotional connection and moving on. Both Guinness and Hawkins do very commendable work here since either could have been reduced to caricatures of just an Arab Prince or a British General, and could have been just there to occasionally move the plot along. Neither actor allows this to be the case. They both are able to realize not only what are Allenby's and Faisal's motivations, but also who they are as men as well as what their relationship with Lawrence truly is.
Anthony Quinn did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Auda Ibu Tayi in Lawrence of Arabia.
Quinn is indeed very entertaining in the role as he enlivens the screen with his presence at any given moment he is in. He has some very enjoyable moments as he shows Tayi's personal beliefs that he is very passionate about. He is also effective in showing the certain callousness that comes from such a man, particularly in his brutally straight forward delivery of "It was written then" when he hears that Lawrence had to execute man he previously risked his life to save. Quinn though does well to not make Tayi too simplistic ever. He carefully throughout the film portrays Tayi's growing personal respect for Lawrence. I really like the way he does this still within in his own blunt personal style of course. There's a moment towards the end of the film between Lawrence's right hand man Sherif Ali (Omar Sharif), and Auda Ibu Tayi, where Ali actually threatens Tayi with violence. However it's actually made a rather poignant scene by both actors as they reveal a stronger concern for Lawrence than they are willing to let on. I like how Quinn keeps Tayi rather uncouth as speaks to Ali on the matter, yet he still alludes to Tayi's own honest sympathy for their ally. Quinn's work contributes well to the film offering the right larger than life figure in Tayi, while still finding some depth within him.
Now Brighton's arc is not heavily focused upon but based around his view of Lawrence changing throughout the film. Obviously he begins frankly as an obstacle who wishes to keep Lawrence from making any sort of real impact. However Lawrence proves everyone wrong by taking an important city in a way that no one believed could have been done. When Brighton continues to work along with Lawrence as they proceed to attack the Turkish rail lines. Quayle keeps the skepticism with Brighton, though it is not nearly as strong as it was a before. Quayle though is in one very good scene where he questions some of the Arabs' motivation including Auda Ibu Tayi's. Again both interpretations potentially shine through though it is no less effective as Quayle reveals the intense discontent in Brighton against them. Again Quayle manages both because, he may be foolish to hold such a simple view, yet he is honorable as Quayle once again brings only a genuine passion to Brighton as man who believes one should fight for what one believes in. Now the character's transition in regards to Lawrence continues throughout the film, and Quayle gradually reflects in Brighton as a further understanding of the man. That brings it to his most pivotal moments of the film, that are at completely opposite points in the film. That being his first and last scene, his first scene taking place after Lawrence's death, but each show Brighton's final perspective on the man. The first scene Quayle is rather moving in showing Brighton fully accepting the important, and rather great man that Lawrence was at his funeral, as in the end both men fought for what they believed was right. His last scene is equally strong as Quayle presents Brighton as the one man who can appreciate what Lawrence did without exception through his depiction of Brighton's disdain as he sees that everyone else in the end was merely using him for their own ends. This somewhat brief work once again brings so much unexpected depth to the role, and in turn the film, as Quayle makes Brighton anything but a stock side character.
Kennedy's good in the scenes where he interacts with Lawrence, and the rest of the party. This is largely because Kennedy embraces the idea that Bentley is able to be the most detached from the situation given that he's really there just to get a good story out of Lawrence. Kennedy reveals the right enthusiasm as he goes about taking Lawrence's picture, and getting the icon he's looking for. Kennedy again brings back the proper broadcaster routine as he interviews Lawrence, as well as Sherif Ali, and he's very effective in the way he drifts from that to a semi-sardonic observer whenever Bentley decides on a bit of an editorial. One of his best moments is in his first scene as he eulogizes Lawrence first in a proper memorial ready for a headline which Kennedy delivers with the utmost passion and respect, then a second later the truth about the man's shortcoming which Kennedy delivers with a definite sarcastic edge. I love that not even the understandably detached Bentley is not only defined by that. Kennedy has a great final scene where he must witness a changed Lawrence as he goes on a massacre of a Turkish brigade. It's a brief moment but rather affecting one as Kennedy bluntly shows that Bentley cannot be detached from what Lawrence has done. Kennedy's excellent in revealing how disturbed Bentley is by what he sees and the outrage as he still must go about his duty to glorify Lawrence. Again this is not a huge role yet Kennedy makes a definite impact with Bentley. He successfully, in just his few scenes, creates a portrait of this journalist as man ready to make stories for more mainstream public consumption yet is well aware of the reality.
Rains is terribly clever here as he makes a man so terribly clever in such a tricky way. When he sends Lawrence on his original mission it seems simple enough, yet the potential involved from the mission seems in Rains's expression the whole time. Rains makes Dryden actually the most powerful man in the film, even though he never states his power in least. In fact he acts as though he's just a modest official who has no great ambitions. There's one magnificent scene where he, Brighton, and Allenby discuss the ability to give the Arabs artillery. It is Dryden who makes decision, even though he specifically states it's Allenby's decision, yet the way Rains conveys the message within a question seems so incisive, more than if even directly told Allenby what to do. There's another great moment when Allenby inquires to Dryden if Britain has any plans for Arabia. Dryden states only that "it's a difficult question" but Rains is so perfect in making it a casual deflection yet in his expression there is no question on the matter in Dryden's mind. Rains is amazing in the way he makes it that Dryden really is always in charge even though he never in fact gives away his position. Rains could not be smoother in how eloquent he is in the depiction of a truly seasoned political operator. Rains is even fantastic when he's not do anything. Even in scenes where he is silent every glance is worth something due to Rains. He suggests Dryden analyzing and dissecting everything he sees. It is fascinating to just watch Rains in any given scene as there's not a wasted second in the entirety of his performance. One favorite moment of mine is when Dryden notices cuts have reopened on Lawrence's back, and Dryden for brief instance tries to inform Lawrence of this. Rains's reaction is so good, even humorous in a way, as he shows as Dryden quickly evaluates the situation and decides it's best not get involved with this issue. Another magnificent moment for Rains is at the end of the film is when he finally responds to Allenby claiming not to be a politician. Rains is hilarious, but also oh so shrewd as Dryden subtly scoffs at hearing the rather false claim once again. I love everything about this performance as Rains adds so much to film with a part that with the wrong actor have easily almost just been part of the background. It's such an astute piece of work by Rains as he does so much with so little.