‘Lawrence of Arabia’ actor Omar Sharif dead at 83

Actor Omar Sharif as Sherif Ali in Lawrence of Arabia. Photo courtesy: MGN

Omar Sharif, the Egyptian actor best known for his roles in “Lawrence of Arabia,” “Doctor Zhivago” and “Funny Girl,” has died. He was 83.

The actor died of a heart attack Friday at a hospital in Cairo, his agent confirmed to CBS News.

A popular figure in Egyptian cinema, he gained international fame for his role as Sherif Ali in “Lawrence of Arabia” marked his first English-language film. The 1962 epic adventure movie, which co-starred Peter O’Toole, Alec Guinness and Anthony Quinn, garnered Sharif two Golden Globe wins and an Oscar nomination.

Prior to acting, Sharif received a degree in mathematics and physics from the University of Cairo and worked in his father’s timber business for several years. He studied acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. By 1953, Sharif landed a role in “Sira Fi al-Wadi,” which led to many more Egyptian productions.

Sharif played a variety of nationalities throughout his career, including a Spanish priest in “Behold a Pale Horse” (1964), a Yugoslav wartime patriot in “The Yellow Rolls-Royce” (1964), and the Mongolian conqueror in “Genghis Khan” (1965). In 1965, he played the title character in David Lean’s “Doctor Zhivago.”

He also starred opposite Barbra Streisand in the 1968 romantic musical “Funny Girl.” (Images of the Egyptian actor kissing the Jewish actress caused a stir in some quarters on the heels of the 1967 Six-Day War.)

He had a busy acting career through the years, with roles in “The Tamarind Seed” (1974), “Funny Lady (a 1975 sequel to “Funny Girl”), “The Pink Panther Strikes Again” (1976), “Top Secret!” (1984), “Heaven Before I Die” (1997) and “Hidalgo” (2004). Sharif also took on television roles with “The Far Pavilion” (1984) and “Gulliver’s Travels” (1996).

He received critical acclaim in 2003 for playing the title role of a Muslim shopkeeper in the French film, “Monsieur Ibrahim.” The performance won Sharif a best actor award at the Venice Film Festival.

Aside from acting, Sharif was a major bridge player, ranking among the world’s best. In 2004, he published the book “Omar Sharif Talks Bridge.” He also licensed his name to a computer game called “Omar Sharif Bridge.”

“I’d rather be playing bridge than making a bad movie,” he was once quoted as saying.

He married Egyptian actress Faten Hamama, his co-star in “The Blazing Sun,” in 1955. They had one son together, Tarek, before divorcing in 1974.

In May, the Los Angeles Times reported that Sharif had Alzheimer’s disease.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s