Saturday, July 11, 2015

Omar Sharif, Arab but not only

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Omar Sharif, born Michel Demitri Chalhoub, died at the age of 83. He was perhaps the only Arab actor – Egyptian from Lebanese descent – that reached international stardom without being confined to characters usually reserved to Arabs.

He did, off course, play his fair share of Arab characters – Sherif Ali in Lawrence of Arabia or Prince Hassan in Ashanti, among many – but most of his memorable roles were very ethnically diverse, so to speak.

He was a Russian poet in Doctor Zhivago, an American gambler in Funny Girl, a Spanish priest in Behold a Pale Horse, a Mongol leader in Genghis Khan, an Austrian prince in Mayerling, a German officer in Night of the Generals, a German teacher in The Last Valley, an Armenian king in The Fall of the Roman Empire, a Soviet diplomat in The Tamarind Seed, a Mexican outlaw in Mackenna’s Gold, a British ship captain in Juggernaut, a Greek police officer in Le Casse, a South American revolutionary in Che!, and a very silly French spy in Top Secret!

Omar Sharif’s exceptionally diverse career shows that the film industry would be well advised to see Arab actors more like actors and less like Arabs.

Ashanti (1976)
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
Doctor Zhivago (1965)
Funny Girl (1968)

Behold a Pale Horse (1964)
The Last Valley (1970)
Mayerling (1968)
Mackenna’s Gold (1968)
Night of the Generals (1967)

The Tamarind Seed (1974)

The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964)
Juggernaut (1974)
Le Casse (1971)
Che! (1969)

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