Omar Sharif passes away…
Omar Sharif, the Egyptian actor who rode out of the sands of the Sahara in the 1962 screen epic “Lawrence of Arabia” into a glamorous, if brief, reign as an international star in films like “Dr. Zhivago” and “The Night of the Generals,” has died in a Cairo hospital. He was 83.
The cause was a heart attack, his agent, Steve Kenis, said.
The darkly handsome Mr. Sharif was a commanding presence on screen. He was multilingual as well, and comfortable in almost any role or cultural setting. “My philosophy of life is that I’m living every moment intensely, as if it were the last moment,” he said in an interview with The New York Times in 2003. “I don’t think of what I did before or what I’m going to do. I think of what I’m doing right now.”
Mr. Sharif had acted in a number of Egyptian films before he was added to the cast of “Lawrence of Arabia” by the director David Lean. A freewheeling depiction of the real-life exploits of the British adventurer T.E. Lawrence, who led Arab fighters in a series of battles against Turkish occupiers, the film starred Peter O’Toole in the title role. Mr. Sharif played the Arab warrior Sherif Ali, who joins forces with Lawrence, and the scene depicting his arrival is widely regarded as a classic piece of cinematic art. He appears as a tiny speck slowly approaching across the sun-baked desert and gradually materializez into a figure riding a camel. Mr. Sharif’s performance, in his first English-language film, brought him an Oscar nomination as best supporting actor.
The 1960s proved to be Mr. Sharif’s best, busiest and most visible decade in Hollywood. In quick succession, he appeared in “The Fall of the Roman Empire” (1964), as a king of ancient Armenia; “Behold a Pale Horse” (1964), as a priest during the Spanish Civil War; “The Yellow Rolls-Royce” (1965), as a Yugoslav patriot intent on saving his country from the Nazis; “Genghis Khan” (1965), as the conquering Mongol leader; “Dr. Zhivago” (1965), as a Russian physician-poet whose world is torn apart by war; “The Night of the Generals” (1967), as a German intelligence officer; “Funny Girl” (1968), as a shifty gambler, and “Che” (1969), as the Cuban revolutionary Ernesto Che Guevara opposite Jack Palance as Fidel Castro.
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There were more films to come, but it was Mr. Sharif’s performance in “Dr. Zhivago” that is widely regarded as the high point of his career. Adapted from the novel by Boris Pasternak, the film was a sweeping portrait of war and rebellion in Czarist Russia. Mr. Sharif, in the title role of Zhivago, the sensitive, brooding physician, plunges into a doomed love affair with another man’s wife, played by Julie Christie, as violence engulfs their lives.
World War II was the setting for “The Night of the Generals,” a drama about the Nazi high command in Warsaw that reunited Mr. Sharif and Mr. O’Toole. Mr. Sharif played a junior officer assigned to investigate a trio of generals, one of whom (Mr. O’Toole) has been killing prostitutes.
It was a long way from strife-torn Europe to the world of show business in New York, but Mr. Sharif made the leap when he played a dashing card sharp in the musical “Funny Girl.” Barbra Streisand, in her screen debut, starred as the singer and comedian Fanny Brice; Mr. Sharif played Nicky Arnstein, the gambler she falls in love with. The involvement, both on and off screen, of Mr. Sharif, an Egyptian Muslim, and Ms. Streisand, a Jewish actress and a visible supporter of Israel, got him in trouble with the Egyptian authorities. Nevertheless, Mr. Sharif also appeared with Ms. Streisand in a sequel, “Funny Lady,” in 1975, although James Caan, as the showman Billy Rose, was the romantic lead.