Blue Eyes in the Desert: Lawrence of Arabia (David Lean, 1962)


Ah, Lawrence of Arabia… An illustrious man and the subject of one of movie history’s best films. It is British movie director David Lean who created this masterpiece. With movies like Lawrence of Arabia (of course), Great Expectations The Bridge on the River Kwai, Doctor Zhivago and Brief Encounter, he is considered to be one of England’s best filmmakers. So, that’s not without any reason that Maddy from Maddy Loves Her Classic Films has decided to host a blogathon in his honour. And I agree, it was about time! Lawrence of Arabia is without any doubt my favourite Lean film. So, why not take the occasion to visit the many wonders that compose this epic historical drama?


Released in 1962, Lawrence of Arabia is based on the life of Lieutenant T.E Lawrence (Peter O’Toole) and tells his exploits in the Arabian territory during the First World War. His first mission is to find Prince Faisal and take note of the situation of the revolt against the Turks. Lawrence, who wants to help the Prince and the Arab people take the lead of an expedition to Aqaba, a Turkish territory. His plan is to do a surprise attack by passing by the Nefud Desert. The Turkish guns in Aqaba are facing the water because they don’t expect anybody to be able to cross the desert. But for Lawrence of Arabia, nothing is impossible.


Of course, in this almost four hours movie, a lot more happens but it would be too long to tell. But keep in mind that Lawrence of Arabia is a man who doesn’t give up, or almost not. That expedition to Aqaba is not the only one, but perhaps the most impressive one in the film.


Where do we start with Lawrence of Arabia? You see, this film was brilliantly directed by David Lean and everything about it is sensational. No wonder it won seven Oscars and was nominated for three others.


  • Best Picture (Sam Spiegel)
  • Best Director (David Lean)
  • Best Original Score (Maurice Jarre)
  • Best Cinematography (Frederick A. Young)
  • Best Art Direction (John Box, John Stoll and Dario Simoni)
  • Best Film Editing (Anne V. Coates)
  • Best Sound (John Cox)


  • Best Actor (Peter O’Toole)
  • Best Supporting Actor (Omar Sharif)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay (Robert Bolt and Michael Wilson)
David Lean with his Oscar

Lawrence of Arabia was based on the autobiographical book Seven Pillars of Wisdom written by Thomas Edward Lawrence and published in December 1926. Despite being based on a true story, the film takes some liberties and some events or characters depicted are fictionalized. For example, Sherif Ali played by Omar Sharif is a combination of various Arab leaders. American Journalist Jackson Bentley played by Arthur Kennedy was based on American journalist Lowell Thomas who built fame around Lawrence of Arabia. Some scenes in the film are highly fictionnalized as well, such as the Battle of Aqaba.



But, this didn’t prevent the film to mark history.



Since I went to England, Lawrence of Arabia has taken even more significance for me. First, in Oxford, I visited the beautiful Magdalene College that the British Lieutenant attended between 1910 and 1914. Also, during my trip, I was reading the first volume of Peter O’Toole’s autobiography. I also felt as if I was in the movie when I visited Seville in Spain last year. Scenes from the film were shot there, including at the majestic Plaza de España and at the Alfonso XIII hotel. That hotel is probably one of my most favourite places ever in the world. I went there, an ordinary tourist, in this very chic place just to have a coffee and read. The waiters were so nice and NOT SNUBBISH AT ALL. Ah, Spain…

Magdalene (Oxford)



Hotel Alfonso XIII (Seville)



Plaza de España (Seville)



The film was also shot in other places in Spain (Playa del Algarrobico, Cabo de Gata, Desierto de Tabernas, Genovese Beach in San José, Tabernas, Almería, and Carboneras), in Morroco (Ait Benhaddou and Desert South of Ouarzazate), in Jordan (Wadi Rum, Al Jafr, Jebel Tubeiq, and Ma’an), in UK (Chobham Common in Surrey, Merthyr Mawr, St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, Englan, and Shepperton Studios), and in the USA (Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area in California).

With a lot of on-location shooting, David Lean’s film is one that makes you travel a lot. Well, after all, the characters are constantly moving from one place to another. What an adventure! We guess it was a long shooting, especially for Peter O’Toole who appears in almost all the scenes!

An image worths a thousand words:

This is something David Lean understood perfectly. Despite being a long film, Lawrence of Arabia doesn’t contain a ton of unnecessary dialogues. It’s a movie of contemplation. The director, along with his editor and cinematographer, perfectly knew how to use the power of editing or create very strong images to let us know what’s happening. For example, one of my favourite moment is when, at the beginning of the film, Lawrence blows a match and it cuts to a desert scene. It’s just one of my most favourite transitions ever.


There are some scenes with no lines that are quite long, but so mesmerizing. I can think of the scene where Lawrence rescues Gasim. The various transition between the sun shining, Gasim walking, Daud (one of Lawrence’s servants) waiting, and Lawrence looking for Daud make us realise that there’s no time to lose.



At university, I had a class called Landscape Paintings and Films and, for my final essay, I wrote about desert landscapes and discuss Lawrence of Arabia and The Ten Commandments (interestingly, at one point in the film, Lawrence compares himself to Moses). I compared both the films to the landscape paintings of Charles-Théodore Frère (for Lawrence of Arabia) and Frederick Goodall (for The Ten Commandments). Even if David Lean’s true inspiration for the cinematography of his film was John Ford’s The Searchers (1956) it was still interesting to make the comparison.

Paintings by Charles-Théodore Frère



Scenes from Lawrence of Arabia



Scenes from The Searchers (John Ford, 1956)



I had the chance, I think it was last year, to see the film on the big screen. And this was one of my best cinematic experiences ever. For the beauty of its landscapes, the film is meant to be seen on big screen. I was in awe during the whole viewing. The majestic scenes become even more majestic, Peter O’Toole blue eyes and Omar Sharif’s dark eyes were even more beautiful, and everything became more powerful. If you ever have the chance to see this film in a movie theatre, don’t hesitate a second.


Marlon Brando, Albert Finney, Anthony Perkins and Montgomery Clift were all choices for the role of T.E Lawrence. But, with all due respect (as they are all brilliant performers), I honestly think they would have been all wrong for the role. Finally, it’s the one and only Katharine Hepburn who insisted on producer Sam Spiegel to cast Peter O’Toole for the role. And she was so right! Peter O’Toole’s performance in this film is one of my favourite ever. I am always amazed by it. The way he talks, the way he moves, the way he delivers his lines are the work of a true genius. A relatively unknown actor at the time (having no major films to his credits), Peter O’Toole found his most iconic role with Lawrence of Arabia. He was 30 when the film was released.

Peter O’Toole as Thomas Edward Lawrence



The real Thomas Edward Lawrence

Fun fact: You know that I’m a fan of David Bowie. Well, his character, Jack Celliers, in Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence (Nagisa Oshima, 1983) shares resemblance to T. E Lawrence according to Nick Nobel of the Austin Film Society. And we agree! Interestingly, the film that takes place in a Japanese POW camp during the Second World War was compared to David Lean’s The Bridge on the River Kwai.



For the role of Prince Faisal, Laurence Olivier was the original choice, but the part went to Alec Guinness instead. This was not his first film under the direction of David Lean, nor his last. He also appeared in The Bridge on the River Kwai, Great Expectations, Oliver Twist, Doctor Zhivago, and A Passage to India. Guinness plays the role with a beautiful humbleness. His chemistry with some of the actors such as Peter O’Toole and Arthur Kennedy make his scenes some of the best. While he was not Arab like the real Prince Faisal, he reminded convincing for the roles and, during the shooting, he was even mistaken for the real prince by locals in Jordan!



Egyptian actor Omar Sharif had already several movies to his credits in the Egyptian movie industry, but it’s with Lawrence of Arabia that he made his big break to Hollywood. In the fictional role of Sherif Ali, he creates an amazing contrast with Peter O’Toole’s portrayal of Lawrence of Arabia. With an Oscar nomination, he was immediately noticed. He became a close friend of Peter O’Toole. His entrance in the film is pretty unforgettable. [SPOILER] ok, he kind of kills Lawrence’s Bedu guide [END OF SPOILER], but what will be the film without him? His role is considered to be one of the most difficult supporting roles in movie history. Is it due to the fact that Sherif Ali is a very ambiguous character?


Mexican actor Anthony Quinn had already an established career in Hollywood when he made Lawrence of Arabia. His character, Auda Abu Tayi is one we don’t forget! A dynamic role that was played with a lot of cleverness.


Arthur Kennedy was one of the rare American actors to appear in this film. His very down to Earth role (journalist Jackson Bentley) adds a lot to the film. Faithful to his amazing talent, he doesn’t need to do too much to be convincing. According to IMDB, Edmond O’Brien was initially supposed to play the role (this could have been interesting) but suffered from a heart attack. It’s Anthony Quinn who suggested to cast Kennedy in the role. As he is my favourite character actor, I obviously always wait with impatience for the Kennedy scenes in Lawrence of Arabia.


Anthony Quayle thought his character, Colonel Harry Brighton, was a stupid one. Yes, he kind of is (well, he’s not a very optimistic one) but, being used to military roles, Quayle gave a convincing performance.


Puerto Rican actor José Ferrer appears in a very short but unforgettable scene of the film. His acting is very calculated (in the good sense) and Peter O’Toole claimed he learned a lot from it. Ferrer wasn’t too happy his part was so small but he later recognized it was one of his best performances and said: “If I was to be judged by any one film performance, it would be my five minutes in Lawrence.”


Claude Rains well, is Claude Rains. He can do anything, it will always be great. Just like Peter O’Toole, he had this amazing voice, very smooth and comforting. Mr. Dryden was among his last roles.


Finally, we cannot talk about Lawrence of Arabia‘s cast without discussing the duo formed by British actor Michael Ray and John Dimech who play Farraj and Daud, Lawrence’s servants. The young friendly duo works wonder and both are among the best characters of the film. [SPOILER] Their loss create a big emptiness in the film [END OF SPOILER]


Nothing is written…

If Lawrence of Arabia is a very visual movie, this didn’t prevent screenwriters Robert Bold and Michael Wilson to write some of the best lines of movie history. Those accentuate the film’s majesty and give us perfectly the essence of each character. Peter O’Toole’s Lawrence of Arabia is a man who speaks only if he has great things to say.

Here are some examples of my favourite lines and dialogues:

1- [Lawrence has just extinguished a match between his thumb and forefinger. William Potter surreptitiously attempts the same]

William Potter : Ooh! It damn well ‘urts!

T. E. Lawrence: Certainly it hurts.

Officer: What’s the trick then?

T.E. Lawrence: The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts.

2- Sherif Ali: Truly, for some men nothing is written unless THEY write it.

3- Sherif Ali: Have you no fear, English?

T. E. Lawrence: My fear is my concern

4- T.E. Lawrence: Nothing is written

Sherif Ali: You will not be at Aqaba, English. Go back, blasphemer… but you will not be in Aqaba.

T. E. Lawrence: I shall be at Aqaba. That, IS written.

5- Jackson Bentley [To Sherif Ali]: You answered without saying anything. That’s politics.

6- Auda abu Tayi: I am a river to my people!

7- Colone Brighton: Are you badly hurt?

T.E. Lawrence: I’m not hurt at all. Didn’t you know? They can only kill me with a golden bullet.

8- Sherif Ali: What is your name?

T.E. Lawrence: My name is for my friends. None of my friends is a murderer!

9- Mr. Dryden: Lawrence, only two kinds of creature get fun in the desert: Bedouins and gods, and you’re neither. Take it from me, for ordinary men, it’s a burning, fiery furnace.

T.E. Lawrence: No, Dryden, it’s going to be fun.

Mr. Dryden: It is recognized that you have a funny sense of fun.

10- Jackson Bentley: Never saw a man killed with a sword before.

T.E. Lawrence: [contemptuously] Why don’t you take a picture?

Jackson Bentley: Wish I had.

11- T.E. Lawrence: I know I’m not ordinary.

General Allenby: That’s not what I’m saying…

T.E. Lawrence: All right! I’m extraordinary! What of it?

12- Jackson Bentley: Ow, you rotten man… here, let me take your rotten bloody picture… for the rotten bloody newspapers.

13- T.E. Lawrence : No prisoners! No prisoners!

14- Jackson Bentley [on his interest in Lawrence and the Arab Revolt] I’m looking for a hero.

Prince Faisal: Indeed, you do not seem a romantic man.

Jackson Bentley: Oh, no! But certain influential men back home believe the time has come for America to lend her weight to the patriotic struggle against Germany… and Turkey. Now, I’ve been sent to find material that makes this war seem more…

Prince Faisal: Enjoyable?

Jackson Bentley: Oh, hardly THAT, sir. But to show it in its more… adventurous aspects.

Prince Faisal: You are looking for a figure that will draw your country towards war?

Jackson Bentley: All right, yes.

Prince Faisal: Lawrence is your man.

15- Prince Faisal: What I ow you is beyond evaluation.

16- Jackson Bentley [taking a picture of T.E. Lawrence] Yes sir, that’s my baby!

Ok, the last one sounds less “poetic”, but I personally love it!


“I walk through a desert song” (David Bowie, The Secret Life of Arabia)

We cannot talk about Lawrence of Arabia without mentioning Maurice Jarre’s spellbinding score. The Oscar-winning music is a melody that is familiar to all. I remember, the first time I watched the film and heard it, I said: “Ah! That’s where it comes from!” The glorious notes reflect both the magic and dangerous atmosphere of the desert, of its obstacles, of T.E Lawrence’s quests, and of history itself. When images of the large desert are shown to us, the music that accompanies them is the perfect description.


Dressed like a prince

Lastly (but there would be many other things to discuss), what also makes the beauty of this film (aside from the cinematography, Peter O’Toole’s blue eyes, and the music) are the costumes designed by Phyllis Dalton (Island in the Sun, The World of Suzie Wong, Doctor Zhivago) and John Wilson-Apperson. The only reason why their creations weren’t nominated for an Oscar is simply because We forgot to submit their names for the competition… Silly as that. The creativity of the costumes doesn’t reside in the British officers’ uniforms but in the clothes worn by the Arabs and Lawrence in the desert. Peter O’Toole’s looks created with the white silk gown became an iconic look. The way the costumes are designed perfectly highlights the characters’ features and make this movie even richer visually. Peter O’Toole’s eyes have never been bluer and Omar Sharif’s dark iris doesn’t lack deepness, thanks to this majestic black robe.





Despite being criticized for some inaccuracies and banned in some Arab countries, Lawrence of Arabia received an important critical and financial success. And with no surprise. Interestingly, to avoid the movie to be banned in Egypt, Omar Sharif showed it to President Gamal Abdel Nasser so he could realize there was nothing wrong with it. All ended well as the president loved the film and it became a huge success in Sarif’s native country.

Peter O’Toole and Omar Sharif dancing at the premiere of the film!


A few pictures on the set of the film because I just love them!




Lawrence of Arabia is a complex film, both for its history, it’s creation, and the impact it created. We could talk about it for hours, but there’s nothing better than watching it to really understand its meaning.

I want to thank Maddy for hosting this awesome blogathon honouring the great David Lean! It was a pleasure to participate and FINALLY write about this iconic film.

Make sure to read the other entries here!

See you!



Being a Teenager in the 50s: “Rebel Without a Cause” (Nicholas Ray, 1955)


Rebel Without a Cause was among the first films I watched when I was in full discovery of classic films. This first viewing seems forever ago but I remember it as if it was yesterday. I rent the DVD at a video store that unfortunately doesn’t exist anymore. They had a lot of choices, so that’s why I liked this place. I watched the movie in the living room which, at the time, was where my sister’s bedroom is now! I think I was 15 when I first saw this film. So, it was 8 years ago! Of course, any people discovering classic films come across James Dean one day or another. But why starting with Rebel Without a Cause? Well, this is the one that will most likely appeal to a teenager. Right? I loved the film. And now I’ve seen it countless times. But now, as a young adult, I see things that my teenage spirit could not detect at the time. Because Rebel Without a Cause is more than just a movie about rebels, more than a teen movie. It is probably one of the most impactful movies that Nicholas Ray has made.

The 50s were the decade belonging to teenagers. That’s when they’re tendencies were expended and when the concept itself of adolescence became a thing, with the qualities and flaws that come with it. They had their own fashion, their own tastes, their own ideals. That’s why the 50s were marked by movies such as Blackboard Jungle, The Wild One, A Summer Place, Gidget, King Creole and, of course, Rebel Without a Cause.


Why did I take so long to talk about this film on my blog? Well, no reason really. There are just so many great movies to review. But, I thought Samantha’s Natalie Wood Blogathon that she is hosting on her blog Musings of A Classic Film Addict would be the perfect occasion to discuss it. Because yes, Natalie Wood was another big star who was in this movie.


Rebel Without a Cause was released in 1955. The story starts in a police station in Los Angeles. Jim Stark (James Dean) has been arrested for drunkenness (he is underage). Two other teens are seen: Judy (Natalie Wood) who ran away from home due to her difficult relationship with her father, and John Crawford (Sal Mineo), said Plato, for shooting puppies. Jim’s parents soon arrive accompanied by grandmother (Virginia Brissac). We then understand that Jim has difficulty tolerating them: his mother (Ann Doran) is too controlling and his father (Jim Backus) is not strong enough. After a good discussion with Inspector Ray Fremick (Edward Platt), Jim returns home with his parents and grandmother.


We have to know that the family has just arrived in  Los Angeles and this is not the first time Jim’s getting into troubles (and not the last either). Each time something goes wrong, the family moves to another city in hope that Jim will make new friends. This might not be the best solution. On his first day of school, Jim is optimistic. Unfortunately, things won’t turn as expected and the whole day will pretty much be a mess. On his way to Dawson High, Jim sees Judy and tries to talk to her, but she prefers hanging with “the kids” and her boyfriend Buzz (Corey Allen), the leader of the gang. Arrived at school, Jim is noticed by Plato and they eventually become friends. The students are having a class at the Griffith Observatory. Buzz, who obviously likes to cause troubles, provokes Jim in a knives fight. But Jim has to do more if he wants to prove he’s not a “chicken”: Buzz challenges him to a “Chickie run”. The appointment for the dangerous challenge is at 8. The gang and Judy are here to support Buzz, and Plato is here to support Jim. During a discussion with Plato, Judy shows her better side.


This, however, doesn’t turn has expected [SPOILER]: Buzz is killed in the race when his car falls in a cliff. [END OF SPOILER] From now on, things won’t be the same. Judy, who obviously didn’t have any real friends in “the gang” and who is better than they are, befriend Plato and falls in love with Jim. They all have to face the consequences of what happened, the frustration of Buzz’s friends, the police, and their own parents.



Rebel Without a Cause is a film of tragedy. Many connections between it and real life are actually pretty sad. We all know that James Dean died at the terribly young age of 24. This was on September 30, 1955, or a month before the movie was released. Ironically, it’s in a car accident that James Dean lost his life, just like Buzz in the movie (but James’s character was obviously also taking enormous risks).


Actually, the three main actors: James Dean, Natalie Wood, and Sal Mineo formed an unlucky trio as they all died prematurely in tragic circumstances. Natalie Wood drowned at the age of 43. Investigations on this case are still being made. Sal Mineo was murdered in 1976 at the age of 37. John Lennon even offered a reward to the person would find the murderer. His assassin, Lionel Ray Williams, was arrested in 1979.


But this isn’t all: actor Edward Platt put an end to his life at the age of 58 (he suffered from depression), William Hopper (son of columnist Hedda Hopper) who plays Natalie Wood father in the film died of pneumonia at 55; Rochelle Hudson who plays Natalie Wood’s mother also died at 55 from a heart attack, and Nick Adams who plays Chick, one of the members of the gang, died from a drug overdose at 36.




There are, of course, many more interesting things to discuss about Rebel Without a Cause apart from the numerous premature deaths.

One of the main things about Rebel Without a Cause is that it’s not only a movie about teens, it’s a movie that was MADE for them. It shows an empathy towards them and, even if various tragic events happen, these are here to make us realize the injustices they are victims of. The camera shows a lot of empathy towards the characters: how can we not have a tight throat as we watch Natalie Wood in tears saying to the inspector that her father doesn’t love her? How can we not feel sorry for Plato who has been abandoned by both his mother and father? How can we not be disappointed for Jim when he doesn’t succeed so much to make friends. However, as he becomes good friend with Plato and Judy, we understand that quality wins over quantity. It’s better to have a few good friends than many friends who aren’t really friends after all. The trio can really support each other because their parents are obviously not doing their best to give them a decent life. In one night, they mature a lot.


Apart from the difficulty of growing up, teenage delinquency,, and tragic deaths, Rebel Without a Cause deals with a pretty taboo subject (for the time): homosexuality. Today more and more films using this subject are made but, at the time (during the Production Code era), it was a pretty risqué subject. Of course, none of it is mentioned explicitly, but it’s pretty obvious. The idea of it is embodied by Sal Mineo character, Plato. It is not said that he is homosexual or bisexual, but many clues are given to us. In his article “Dangerous Talents” written for Vanity Fair, Sam Kashner writes how Sal Mineo portrayed what could be considered the first gay teenager in a Hollywood movie. According to the author, Nicholas Ray knew about Sal Mineo’s bisexuality and recommend him to use it in some scenes. To help him in this task, James Dean suggested to Sal Mineo to look at him the way Jim looks at Judy. And this worked wonder but remained subtle. Other clues are given to us, such as Alan Ladd photos in Plato’s locker at school and even the name Plato itself (many agree that the Greek philosopher was himself homosexual). I’m not sure if this is true, but according to IMDB, the film was initially supposed to have a kissing scene between James Dean and Sal Mineo but it wasn’t done. Too bad it didn’t happen, because this could have been truly revolutionary. Anyway, we understand it wouldn’t have been approved by the code of censor. Fortunately, times have changed, but kudos to Nicholas Ray and the actors for trying something.


Sal Mineo, an underrated actor, after all, received an Oscar nomination for his poignant performance as John Crawford.


Natalie Wood was also just a teen when she starred in this film, but this one was far from being her first movie as she already had a career in films as a child actress. However, always according to Kashner’s article, Rebel Without a Cause was the occasion for her to break into more mature roles. The young Natalie is at the time lovely and heartbreaking. She starts the film in force with this scene at the police station I previously discussed, and shows many facets as the story goes by. She might be one of the characters who learn the most from what happens during that uncommon day. Her chemistry with James Dean gives place to a beautiful teenage romance. This one is just as good with Sal Mineo and makes us believe in an honest new friendship. Natalie Wood would later be seen in other poignant teenager roles, such as Maria in West Side Story (Robert Wise, 1961), and Wilma in Splendor in the Grass (Elia Kazan, 1961). Just like Sal Mineo, she received an Oscar nomination for her strong and unforgettable performance in this 50s classic.

Fullscreen capture 6192010 12055 PM

James Dean had a short but memorable career. Already with his first credited role (East of Eden), he received an Oscar nomination. I used to feel a bit indifferent toward his performance in Rebel Without a Cause, but now I understand how true it is. Was it due to method acting? Well, this certainly helped, but we also feel James Dean had a special maturity in his acting. The method acting probably helped him to remind natural and truly feel the strong emotions. James Dean was a symbol of rebellion and was perfect for the role. The only thing we can reproach is the fact that he was in fact 24 when he played a 16 years old teenager. But hey, everybody looked older than they were in these days anyway.

james dean

If I could mention one last actor, it would be Dennis Hopper. Rebel Without a Cause was his first role and, even if he doesn’t talk much, we notice him. I thought he had a pretty interesting presence even at the time when I didn’t know who Dennis Hopper was. And who thought he would later direct THE counter-culture movie by excellence: Easy Rider (1969) and play the creepy Frank Booth in Blue Velvet (David Lynch, 1986)?



The evolution of Dennis Hopper


Apart from the two nominations for Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress (Sal Mineo/Natalie Wood), Rebel Without a Cause was also nominated for Best Writing, Motion Picture Story (Nicholas Ray). The film indeed presents a perfectly structured story that shows a great evolution of the characters and respects the main thematic. It also contains some memorable lines:

1- Jim Stark: You’re tearing me apart! (certainly the most famous quote of the film)

2- Jim Stark: Nobody talks to children.

   Judy: No, they just tell them. ( I think this one reflects perfectly the atmosphere of the film)

3- Jim Stark: If I had one day when I didn’t have to be all confused and I didn’t have to

feel that I was ashamed of everything. If I felt that I belonged someplace. You know?

4- Judy: I love somebody. All the time I’ve been… I’ve been looking for someone to

loveme. And now I love somebody. And it’s so easy. Why is it easy now?

Jim Stark: I don’t know; it is for me, too.

Judy: I love you, Jim. I really mean it.

Jim Stark: Well, I’m glad.

5- Jim Stark: [sitting down, hugging his father’s legs helplessly] Help me!

Frank Stark : Look, Jim. You can depend on me. Trust me. Whatever comes, we’ll, we’ll fix it together. I swear it. Now Jim, stand up. I’ll stand up with you. I’ll try and be as strong as you want me to be. Come on.

6- Plato: Do you think the end of the world will come at nighttime?

Jim Stark: Uh-uh, at dawn.


7- Crawford Family Maid: You talk nice to the man, John, he’s going to help you.

 Plato: Nobody can help me.

And so on. Rebel Without a Cause is a movie that has a lot to say. That’s why you have to watch it as a teenager and then as an adult because you will understand different things.



 On it’s released, Rebel Without a Cause was praised for the actors’ performances.
However, the film was banned 1955 in New-Zealand under the pretext that it would provoke teenage delinquency. The ban stopped the next year, but scenes were cut. In the UK, the film was X rated and scenes were cut as well. Well, I guess they couldn’t face the truth.
Rebel Without a Cause is a film that marked the American movie history and that has many reasons to still be seen today. It’s a film that doesn’t lose its meaning. It also reminds memorable for its powerful trio formed of Sal Mineo, James Dean and, of course, Natalie Wood.
A big thanks to Samantha for hosting this blogathon!
Make sure to take a look at the other entries here.
See you!

– “Rebel Without a Cause – Trivia.” IMDB. nd. Accessed Jul 11, 2018.
– “Rebel Without a Cause.” Wikipedia. 8 July 2018. Accessed Jul 11, 2018.
– Kashner, Sam “Dangerous Talents.” Vanity Fair. 10 October 2010. Accessed Jul 11, 2018.

A Challenge for All: ‘Lifeboat’ (Alfred Hitchcock, 1944)


After a non-movie related post on The Doors, I’m back to my old habits with good old Hitchcock. Yes, we discussed his films a lot on this blog and this isn’t going to stop! The occasion, today, is Maddy’s Second Annual Hitchcock Blogathon that she’s hosting on her blog Maddy Loves Her Classic Films. And Lifeboat (1944) is the film I chose. It might make Maddy seasick when she’s watching it, but it’s a pretty good one!


A whole film that takes place in a lifeboat in the middle of the see…. This sounds like a challenge: it has to be interesting and also visually credible. Well, Hitchcock accepted that challenge and did it with brio.

Lifeboat was released during the war and that’s what the movie is about. After a boat is torpedoed by a German U-boat (that also sinks), the surviving passengers find themselves in a lifeboat. A German man from the U-boat is pulled aboard by the American and British passengers. They all have their different opinions on what to do with him as he is the enemy. He claims he was just a member of the crew following orders but, later, they learn he was the captain. The passengers have to deal with a cunning rival as well as with their own surviving.



Lifeboat presents different characters that all have their word to say. I think that’s one of the first aspects that make this movie so worth-watching. Everyone participates and each actor has the occasion to share his acting skills. This is also the perfect kind of movie to observe how actors can work together as a team.

The first passenger to be seen on the lifeboat is the classy columnist Connie Porter. Actress Tallulah Bankhead is the one portraying her and that, with an impressive tact. In the line of Bette Davis or Marlene Dietrich, she’s one of these actresses who appears very sure of herself on screen. She flashes and is the center of attention, but only for good reasons. It is reported on IMDB that, in his book “The Dark Side of Genius”, Donald Spoto wrote that the actress often received an ovation from the crew. Interestingly, the last time Tallulah Bankhead appeared in a film before making Lifeboat was in 1932 (if we don’t include her cameo in Stage Door Canteen). Fresh as a rose when she’s first seen on the boat, Connie Porter wears her fur coat and her diamond bracelet. She still has her journalist material with her: a typewriter and a camera. Unfortunately, she will lose many of her possessions due to the agitated sea and careless passengers. Her own safety remains more important! Connie is constantly criticized by Kovak, an engine room crewman.


Kovak is played by John Hodiak who was 29 at the time the film was released and he couldn’t look sexier. Lifeboat was among his first films. His teamwork with Tallulah Bankhead is incredible and the tension (as well as the passion) between the two characters adds a lot to the action of the film. His character, Kovak his the second one to access the boat. He’s a real man’s man who isn’t afraid to speak his mind. But, even if he’s rough and tough, he’s able to be nice when the occasion is presented.


Not long after, they are joined by radioman Stanley who was played by Canadian-American actor Hume Cronyn. He’s one of my favourite characters in the film. This wasn’t Cronyn’s first collaboration with Alfred Hitchcock, as he appeared the year before in Shadow of a Doubt (his first film) as Herbie, Mr. Newton’s friend. His role in Lifeboat is surely very different, which proves an appreciate versatility.

Stanley is in love with Army nurse Alice (Mary Anderson). The actress was seen before in one of the most important films in movie history: Gone With the Wind, in the very small role of Maybelle Merriwether. Of course, Lifeboat is a much better way for us to judge her acting. Alice is sweet but she’s among the ones who lose their temper rapidly. Her acting is nuanced. She and Hume Cronyn have a beautiful chemistry and their two characters are simply lovely together. They definitely form one of my favourite couples in a Hitchcock film. They remind simple and there’s no pretention.


William Bendix plays the German-American Gus Smith who is in pretty bad shape has his leg was injured. This eventually gives place to one of the most shocking scenes of the film: a leg amputation. We don’t see anything, but we KNOW it’s happening. Oh yes, it’s surely an adventure…

William Bendix Lifeboat

Henry Hull plays the wealthy industrialist Rittenhouse and is one of the most sympathetic characters of the lot. However, he’s one who ABSOLUTELY wants to respects law and always wants to make sure things are done in a fair way (to the annoyance of some other passengers). Henry Hull interacts with an impressive ease with the rest of the cast and  manages perfectly to make his character likable (despite everything).


Actor and civil rights activist Canada Lee is the only African American actor in the film. Interestingly, he was the first one to be cast and was allowed to write his own line (I don’t know if that’s something Hitchcock often allowed!). Unfortunately, his character is victim of some stereotypes that were due to the racism of the time (liberal John Steinbeck who wrote the story wasn’t too happy about it and pointed-out Hitchcock’s racism). His character, Joe Spencer, Connie’s steward, his noticeable for his patience and good manners. Luckily, the fact that Canada Lee was able to modify his lines probably allowed him not to fall too much into the stereotypes that were associated with African Americans.


The third woman of the film was played by British-American actress Heather Angel. She’s Mrs. Higley, a young British woman who’s baby child has died during the sinking. Drove into madness, she breaks our heart and [SPOILER] her death by suicide could have been pretty daring at the time. [END OF SPOILER]. Heather Angel had to play a role that could easily become wrongly too theatrical but she managed to keep it convincing and fittable for a movie. It’s a small part, but probably one of those we’ll remember the best.


FINALLY, the German U-boat captain was played by Austrian-born actor Walter Slezak. This character is always very calm but an awful manipulator! He certainly can give you chills. He’s a brilliant and subtle villain! As the movie progresses, it’s easier to have an opinion about the captain (because he’s first very ambiguous, until he commits something unforgivable).



As mentioned before, the story of Lifeboat was written by notorious American author John Steinbeck under the request of Alfred Hitchcock himself. The story was adapted into a script by screenwriter Jo Swerling. Lifeboat is a story that gives a perfect place to development, both of the actions and the characters. We follow their journey in the boat and the various misadventures make us wonder: what will happen next?? That’s how the “Hitchcock suspense” is installed.


Lifeboat was, of course, not filmed in the middle of the sea. This wasn’t something possible in 1944 (and still today…) but the final result reminds pretty convincing. The scenes were shot in a big water tank and to that, some background footages were added to depict the width of the Atlantic sea. The contrast between the background image and what was filmed isn’t too sharp so the illusion of them really being in the middle of the ocean works. Hitchcock also preferred to focus on the boat itself and not showing too many large shots, which is a good way to create a credible visual. Artificial waves, fog, and wind were created in the tank in order to give even more realism to the scenes. We rarely see the boat completely immobile. Interestingly, Hitchcock actually used four different boats so he could obtain the desired camera angles.


If most of the action takes place in the lifeboat, there are two scenes that involve more and that leave me speechless:

1- The beginning, where we see the boat sinking in the ocean. Actually, pretty much the whole boat has already sunk, but what we see is one of the chimneys disappearing into the agitated ocean. It’s very chaotic and, then, a dead silence is installed. Note that Hitchcock didn’t use any music in the film (except for the flute played by Joe). For the director, it wouldn’t be realistic to hear music on a lifeboat has we couldn’t determine where it comes from. He was right and, once again, it was a good way to keep things as realistic as possible.


2- [SPOILER] Toward the end, the lifeboat reaches a German ration boat. The massive boat eventually advances towards them and the contrast between it and the small lifeboat is terrifying. A low angle shot and a very dark cinematography make it appear like a cold monster. As he’s getting closer and closer, the panic is more and more present and a delightful tension keeps us at the edge of our seats! [END OF SPOILER]

The actors often got wet during the shooting and this one wasn’t easy. Cases of pneumonia were reported, Hume Cronyn had two ribs cracked and almost drowned during the filming of a challenging scene. Due to these many incidents, the production had to stop twice so the cast could recover. But, they luckily survived!



For such a thrilling film, it is surprising that the Lifeboat wasn’t a financial success at the time. It actually lost money. It also provoked certain controversies, but it didn’t prevent critics to recognize the good acting, good story, and good filming. Lifeboat was nominated for three Oscars: Best Director (Alfred Hitchcock), Best Story (John Steinbeck) and Best Cinematography (Glen MacWilliams). It is probably not Hitchcock most well-known films, but it remains among his most worthy.

I’ve already seen A LOT of Alfred Hitchcock films, but, interestingly, that’s one of the last I ever saw. When I watched it for this blogathon, it was actually only my third viewing! (Note to myself: buy the DVD). I’m glad I chose it as a subject as it is a revealing movie, one that has many interesting aspects to discuss and, let’s say the true words: it’s a perfect entertainment!

Let me thank the lovely Maddy for hosting this much-appreciated blogathon! Don’t forget to take a look at the other articles here!

See you (hopefully, not on a lifeboat)!



“Lifeboat, Trivia.” IMDB, nd. Consulted on Jul 6, 2018.

“Lifeboat (film).” Wikipedia. 29 Jun 2018. Consulted  on Jul 6 2018.