Omar Sharif : An Obituary


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MUMBAI – MAHARASHTRA – INDIA           19 JULY 2015           11.55 P.M.

I read about Omar Sharif’s demise on 10th July 2015. It brought some distant memories to my mind. I was not his ardent fan but have very early memory of his film Mackenna’s Gold  [ 1969 ], where he played an outlaw opposite Gregory Peck .

I visited Mumbai [ then known as Bombay ] in June 71. I stayed here for one year. My visit failed miserably because of my inexperience and poor planning. But I remember one film, Mackenna’s Gold , which I saw during my stay. It was running in Strand Talkies, [ now closed ] Colaba in 50th week. A Hollywood film celebrating golden Jubilee in India was incredulous. So I got curious and went to watch it. I was amazed and mesmerized. It got imprinted in my mind and remained in my memory.

After one year I returned to Allahabad to complete my post graduation in English literature. There I watched his debut film Lawrence of Arabia [ 1962 ]. The film was and will always be a memorable film for me. The part he played in Lawrence of Arabia , was originally offered to Dilip Kumar, which he refused and thus became instrumental in Omar Sharif’s Hollywood career.

So when I read about his sad demise, I thought that I must write an obituary.

 

Sharif in Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

Sharif in Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

Omar Sharif

10 April 1932 – 10 July 2015

Omar Sharif was born as Michel Demitri Chalhoub on 10 April 1932 in Alexandria, Egypt, to a Melkite Greek Catholic family of Lebanese descent.

In his youth, Sharif studied at Victoria College, Alexandria, where he showed a talent for languages. He later graduated from Cairo University . He then enrolled himself for acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. In 1955, Sharif changed his name and converted to Islam in order to marry fellow Egyptian actress Faten Hamama.

In 1954, Sharif began his acting career in his native Egypt with a role in Shaytan Al-Sahra (“Devil of the Desert”). In the same year he appeared in Sira` Fi al-Wadi (“Struggle in the Valley”). 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 also starred with his wife, Egyptian actress Faten Hamama, in several movies as romantic leads.

Sharif’s first English-language role was that of Sharif Ali in David Lean‘s historical epic Lawrence of Arabia in 1962. This performance earned him 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. Sharif was fluent in French, Greek, Italian, Spanish and Arabic , so he managed the accent beautifully.

Over the next few years, Sharif co-starred in other films, including Behold a Pale Horse (1964). Sharif also 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).

With Geraldine Chaplin in Doctor Zhivago (1965)

With Geraldine Chaplin in Doctor Zhivago (1965)

In 1965, Sharif reunited with Lean in order to play the title role in the epic love story Doctor Zhivago (1965), an adaptation of Boris Pasternak‘s 1957 novel set during World War I and the Russian Revolution . For his performance, he won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama, while the film received ten Academy Award nominations.

Sharif was also acclaimed for his portrayal of Nicky Arnstein in Funny Girl (1968). He portrayed the husband of Fanny Brice, played by Barbra Streisand in her first film role. His decision to work alongside Streisand angered Egypt’s government because she was Jewish, and the country condemned the film. It was also “immediately banned” in numerous Arab nations. Sharif reprised the role in the film’s sequel, Funny Lady in 1975.

Among Sharif’s other films were the thriller Juggernaut (1974), which co-starred Richard Harris, and the romantic drama The Tamarind Seed (1974), co-starring Julie Andrews, and directed by Blake Edwards. Sharif also contributed comic cameo performances in Edwards’ The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976) and in the 1984 spy-film spoof Top Secret!

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).

 

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On behalf of all the students & staff of VIDUR Acting Institute , VIDUR Editing Studio , VIDUR Club and VIDUR Merchandise, I offer my condolences to the departed soul.

[ I have taken few facts of his life from Wikipedia. I express gratitude. ]

 

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