The Balcony Scene

The Lawrence of Arabia “balcony scene,” in which Jack Hawkins (Gen. Alllenby) emotionally manipulates Major Lawrence (Peter O’Toole), will be included as an extra on the forthcoming Lawrence Bluray. I’ve pasted the scene’s pages, taken from Robert Bolt‘s screenplay, after the jump. The following excerpt from a 2000 interview with original Lawrence restoration director Robert Harris, conducted by Geoff McNeal, offers some background:

Harris: “When we were completing the cut, we attempted to put together a balcony scene in reel 11B, in which Allenby works to get Lawrence to go back to Arabia. The scene had been hacked in the shorter version. David [Lean] wanted it in. [Screenwriter Robert] Bolt felt it was the finest scene he had ever written, which is saying a great deal. David directed the looping of dialogue in London with Peter and, lending his voice to the Jack Hawkins character, Charles Gray. We had requested that the studio check the voices on a few actors and select the best for the roll. They simply took the first on the list, which was Gray — a fine actor [who] sounded nothing like Hawkins.*

“When we put together the scene, it was obvious that Gray’s voice didn’t work. At precisely this time, David had to leave for the Cannes Film Festival, [and Columbia chief] Dawn Steel wanted to see the film before he left and we went about recutting the scene once again for a special screening. It was a horrific decision and something that I should have fought at the time, but didn’t. David wanted the Allenby lines revoiced and put back at some time in the future. [But] the cutting room was shut down and it never happened. I’ve been trying to get the extended scene reinstated ever since. It adds layers to the film which are unbelievably rich. Their feeling, and one cannot find ultimate fault with their position, is that David allowed the film to be screened in 1989 without the additional footage, thereby accepting it as ‘his’ cut.”

…and you all know the rest. Hawkins/Allenby says “that’s a feeble thing to say” and so on.

  • Jeffrey Wells

    Apologies to anyone whose comment I may have accidentally erased. I just did a span cleanout….oops.

  • Chris Willman

    Wow. There is so obviously a hole in the film at that point. If only Sony had had the nerve to embrace Lean’s intent and put this in the body of the 2012 release.

  • Mr. F.

    Damn spammers! (Yes, my comment was cut)

    It was along the lines of:

    It’s amazing that even now there’s new material — interesting new material, at that — to be uncovered for the BluRay release.

    Still, with seamless branching capabilities, I wonder why they couldn’t give viewers the option of watching the movie with the scene included. Lean wanted it; Bolt wanted it; Harris wanted it. It seems a little crazy they wouldn’t consider putting it back in, as Chris says above.

  • opinion

    They should include the scene only and only because Robert Bolt’s dialogue here and in Zhivago has to be the gold standard of screenwriting in all of human history, period. And we’re doing a disservice to art and filmmaking if we keep even a word out of his delicious dialog relegated to the dustbin of history. This and Zhivago’s script have so many precious gem of a line and yet none of them an adornment and very practical that it is almost like a black magic trick. And yet this last bit, which is already in the movie, is the most powerful and concisely reflects the conflict of the scene, which goes to show efficiency works even applied to the great Robert Bolt.

  • Bob Hightower

    Let’s not forget that Michael Wilson also gets
    screenplay credit on LAWRENCE. He was denied credit for a long time because he was blacklisted, and because Lean continued to oppose his rightful credit long after the studios’ blacklist ended, but the WGA finally prevailed and managed to get Wilson’s name put on the film.

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    BEN LYONS SAYS…

    Golly, I don’t know why my comment was wiped, but here goes again…

    Does everyone here think watching LAWRENCE OF ARABIA is worth it? I’ve never seen it. I’ve been told it’s good, but who has that kinda time?

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