Egyptian-born film legend OMAR SHARIF, captivated audiences for more than half a century, but will always be remembered as the eponymous DOCTOR ZHIVAGO.
Born Michel Demitri Shalhoub on the 10th of April, 1932 in Alexandria to parents of Syrian and Lebanese extraction, he was raised a Catholic. He had a degree in Mathematics and Physics from Cairo University.
He joined his father’s lumber business, but the acting bug had taken hold while he was studying, and in 1954 he made his silver screen debut in the Egyptian film SIRAA FIL-WADI ( The Blazing Sun). The movie’s romantic intrigue was echoed off-screen as he married the leading lady, renowned actress —- FATEN HAMAMA, converting to Islam and renaming himself —— OMAR SHARIF.
Known for his debonair style, raffish good looks and often mischievous “joie de vivre”, Sharif also gained worldwide fame as a bridge player. He began acting in the 1950s and his most high-profile roles were in the 1960s when he won an Oscar nomination for “Lawrence of Arabia” and Golden Globes for the same film and for Dr. Zhivago.
Sharif played the hero in the epic adaptation of Boris Pasternak’s novel of tortured passions during the Russian Revolution, with his real-life son, Tarek, playing his younger self. The actor was fluent in Arabic, English, French, Greek, Italian and Spanish. He went on to star in many films and television productions, including alongside Barbra Streisand in 1968’s FUNNY GIRL. But he never again scaled the heights of critical acclaim as in his work with David Lean. Sharif kept working over the following decades, often in television movies, and in later years became equally renowned for his prowess as a ridge player and owner of thoroughbred horses. He co-wrote a syndicated bridge newspaper column in the 1970s and 1980s, and wrote several books and licensed his name to the computer game OMAR SHARIF BRIDGE.
Sharif made something of a comeback in 2003 in the title role of the French film MONSIEUR IBRAHIM, playing an elderly Muslim shopkeeper. The performance won him a best actor award at the Venice Film Festival, and the best actor CESAR, France’s equivalent of an Oscar.
Here’s a list of some of his movies : Mackenna’s Gold (1969) ; The Appointment (1969) ; The Last Valley ( 1970); The Tamarind Seed (1974) ; the Horsemen (1971) ; The Baltimore Bullet ( 1980) ; Top Secret (1984) ; Heaven Before I Die (1997) and One Night With The King (2006) ; Behold A Pale Horse (1964). In his later years he continued making movies and television films, including “I Forgot To Tell You ” (2009) and “Rock The Casbah” (2013).
Truly a wonderful, wonderful actor. Rest In Peace.