Friday, July 10, 2015

Omar Sharif Passes On

Legendary actor Omar Sharif died today at the age 83. The cause was a heart attack.

Omar Sharif was born Michel Demitri Chalhoub on April 10 1932 in Alexandria, Egypt. His family was Lebanese in descent, his father having originated in Zahlé, Lebanon. Young Mr. Sharif attended  Victoria College in Alexandria. It was while he was in school that he developed an interest in acting. He attended Cairo University where he earned a degree in mathematics and physics. He went on to study acting at the he Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London.

Omar Sharif made his film debut in Siraa Fil-Wadi (1954), a film produced in Egypt. In the Fifties he appeared in such films as Shaytan al-Sahra (1954), Siraa Fil-Mina (1956), La châtelaine du Liban (1956), Ard el salam (1957), Goha (1958), Sayedat el kas (1959), and Lawet el hub (1960).

Omar Sharif was already an established star in Egypt when first role in an English speaking film,  Sherif Ali in Lawrence of Arabia (1962), made him a star in the English speaking world. Mr. Sharif received a nomination for the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for the role. It would only be a few years later that Mr. Sharif appeared in what may be his best known role, that of Yuri in Doctor Zhivago (1965). In the Sixties Omar Sharif also appeared in such films as The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964), Behold a Pale Horse (1964), El mamalik (1965), Genghis Khan (1965), La fabuleuse aventure de Marco Polo (1965), Poppies Are Also Flowers (1966), The Night of the Generals (1967), Funny Girl (1968), Mackenna's Gold (1969), and Che! (1969).

In the Seventies Omar Sharif appeared in such films as The Last Valley (1971), Le casse (1971), The Tamarind Seed (1974), Juggernaut (1974), Funny Lady (1975), Ace Up My Sleeve (1975), The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976), Bloodline (1979), S+H+E: Security Hazards Expert (1980), and Oh, Heavenly Dog (1980). He played Captain Nemo in the TV mini-series L'île mystérieuse (literally The Mysterious Island).

In the Eighties Mr. Sharif appeared in such films as Green Ice (1981), Ayoub (1983), Top Secret! (1984), Grand Larceny (1987), Keys to Freedom (1988), Les possédés (1988), Mountains of the Moon (1990), and The Rainbow Thief (1990). He appeared on television in the mini-series The Far Pavilions and Peter the Great.

In the Nineties Omar Sharif appeared in such films as 588 rue Paradis (1992), Beyond Justice (1992), Ça-Va? (1996), Heaven Before I Die (1997), and The 13th Warrior (1999). He appeared on television in Catherine the Great and Gulliver's Travels. In the Naughts Omar Sharif appeared in the TV series Petits mythes urbains, the mini-series The Last Templar, and the TV movie Shaka Zulu: The Citadel. He appeared in such films as The Parole Officer (2001), Monsieur Ibrahim (2003), Hidalgo (2004), One Night with the King (2006), and J'ai oublié de te dire (2009). In the Teens he appeared in the films Un château en Italie (2013) and Rock the Casbah (2013).

In addition to acting, Omar Sharif was also one of the top 50 contract bridge players in the world. He  co-wrote a syndicated newspaper column about bridge for the Chicago Tribune, and also co-wrote several books on the game.

If Omar Sharif is a legend among actors, it is not simply because he appeared in two of the biggest films of the Sixties (Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago), but rather because he was incredibly talented. Indeed, there could be no two more different roles than his two most famous:  Sherif Ali in Lawrence of Arabia and Yuri in Doctor Zhivago. Mr. Sharif's other famous roles would also be very different from those two: the German military officer Major Grau in Night of the Generals;  con artist, gambler, and Fanny Brice's husband Nicky Arnstein in Funny Girl and Funny Lady;  and Che Guevara in Che!. Although best known for his work in drama, Mr. Sharif was also gifted when it came to comedy. He had a particularly funny role in the spy spoof Top Secret! in addition to appearing in Funny Girl and Funny Lady. Omar Sharif was a legend not simply because he appeared in two incredibly successful epic films of the Sixties, but because he played a wide array of roles throughout his career and did all of them well.

1 comment:

Toby O'B said...

I'm bringing my DVD of 'Gulliver's Travels' along on vacation next week. Wanted to introduce my 10 year old nephew to the story, but this is an added incentive....