A lot of people learn to act, some act to learn while some others were born to act. Omar Sharif is undoubtedly a super star in the third category; he has been tried, tested and proven.
He is the extremely talented Franco-Arabic actor best known for his outstanding role of Sharif Ali in David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia in 1962, a performance that earned him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor- Motion picture. This movie star was born Michel Demitri Shalhoub on April 10, 1932 in Alexandria, Egypt. He attended Victoria College in Alexandria and then proceeded to Cairo University where he took a degree in mathematics and physics.
Sharif began his acting career in a most interesting way with a role in Sira Fi al- Wadi, (The blazing sun) in 1953, with the renowned Egyptian actress Faten Hamama whom he later married in 1955. Soon after, the born actor rose to international prominence and featured in more than 20 movies at the time, including ‘Ayamma el helwa’, a movie he acted with singer Abdel Halim Hafez. In 1958 he appeared in ‘La anam’ and then in 1959 he appeared in ‘Savedat el Kasr’ and also in Anna Karenina adaptation ‘Nahr el hub’ in 1961.
His later films include Doctor Zhivago in 1965, funny girl (1968), the Tamarind Seed (1974), Return to Eden (1982), The Mirror has two Faces (1996), and then the popular One Night with the King in 2005. He also appeared in the 1996 television production of Gulliver’s Travels.
Besides acting, Sharif had an uncommon love for contract bridge, he once ranked among the world’s best-known contract bridge players; this deep love for contract bridge propelled him to form the “Omar Sharif Bridge Circus” in 1967 which toured the world, competing against such powerhouse teams as Blue Team and Dallas Aces, at a time when barnstorming bridge teams were very popular. This gifted actor sure has a finger in several pies; his name fits into several professions and disciplines. He is also known to be a good writer and publisher; he co-wrote a syndicated newspaper bridge column for the Chicago Tribune with Charles Goren for several years, but later turned over the writing of the column to Tannah Hirsch, whose name appears on the byline with Sharif to this day. He is also both author and co-author of several books on bridge and has licensed his name to a bridge video game; initially released in a MS-DOS version and Amiga version in 1992. Omar Sharif Bridge is still sold in Windows and “mobile platform” versions. For several years his partner at the International Tournaments was Egyptian contract bridge superstar Maged Elewa.
The movie star is the recipient of several awards. In November 2005, he was given the Sergei Eisenstein Medal by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in recognition of his outstanding contributions to world film and cultural diversity. The medal, which is handed out very infrequently, is named after Russian director Sergei Eisenstein. In 2009, he was the only one of six performers to have won a Golden Globe Award as Best Lead Actor/Actress in a Motion Picture Drama without being nominated for an Oscar for the same role. He is also a recipient of the Venice Film Festival’s Golden Lion Award. He has also published an autobiography, The Eternal Male (1977). Interestingly, Sharif is multilingual; he is very fluent in English, French, Spanish, Italian, Arabic and Greek.
At present, Sharif resides mostly in Cairo with his family; his two sons and two grandsons.
© 2013, Lovelyn Okafor. All rights reserved.