said, perhaps in jest, that he pursued his dramatic career in order to finance
his bridge habit. A familiarity with the works of Edith Wharton might make one
more inclined to consider this a statement of literal truth. As his family's
fortunes were buffeted by regime change, he exploited his good looks and his
affinity for languages to secure himself a place in perhaps the only profession
that would allow him to keep his place in the Game.
of a fierce, almost sinister, beauty, he began his cinema career in the
Egyptian film Shaytan al-Sahra
in 1954. In that same year, he was chosen by the Egyptian star
Faten Hamama to be her co-star in the film Struggle in the Valley. Notoriously chaste in her
film personae, Hamama caused quite a stir by agreeing to an on-screen kiss.
This proved to be a sign of things to come: she and Sharif were married a year
later. The couple went on to make several more films together in Egypt before
Sharif left to further his fortunes in Europe and Hollywood.
English-speaking role was in David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia, and his final film credit was
for 2015's 1001 Inventions and
the World of Ibn Al-Haytham. Once he had embarked on an
international career, Sharif faced travel restrictions that all but forced him
into a life of exile. He spent most of this period living as a bachelor in a
series of European hotels. Missing his family, and having amicably divorced his
wife, who chose to remain in Egypt, he spent his downtime in Europe's casinos
be left with the impression of a solely sybaritic life of economic privilege, I
will end with a small anecdote suggesting that he was also a gracious man who
gave freely of his time. A friend tells about meeting Mr. Sharif 40 or so years
ago, when he came to workshop with students at Portland State University's
Middle Eastern Studies Center. He made an impression as he arrived without an
entourage, genuinely engaged with the students who came to see him, and stayed
far longer than was required. A class act all the way.
--Goddess of Hellfyre