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Perspective: Joel Hodson on The Movie

Excerpt from “Who Wrote Lawrence of Arabia?: Sam Spiegel and David Lean’s Denial of Credit to a Blacklisted Screenwriter,” Joel Hodson, Cineaste, 1994.

“Today, with three of the four principals now dead, and Robert Bolt not inclined to answer any questions about [Michael] Wilson’s contribution to the film, any attempt to sort out the conflicting claims or discern the personal motivations involved in this dispute would be largely conjecture. Did David Lean, perhaps because he felt ‘betrayed’ by Michael Wilson’s walking off the picture, continue to hold a personal grudge against the screenwriter? Did Sam Spiegel believe he was contractually justified in denying Michael Wilson a screen credit or was he simply taking advantage of a blacklisted screenwriter? Had Robert Bolt gone through so many rewrites for David Lean that he honestly felt the final shooting script was entirely his own creation? Was Michael Wilson correct in his suspicion that he was denied screen credit not simply because of David Lean’s dissatisfaction but because of Sam Spiegel’s discomfort with his HUAC “unfriendly witness” status and his refusal to “clear” himself?

What is beyond debate is that Michael Wilson was denied a screen credit he clearly deserved.”

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NOTE: In 1995, the Writers Guild of America formally recognized Michael Wilson’s contribution to the screenplay for the film “Lawrence of Arabia” and reprinted the above article in abridged version in their March 1995 magazine, “The Journal.” Wilson was subsequently credited by the Academy Board of Directors with an Academy Award nomination as co-writer of “Lawrence of Arabia.” The Writers Guild of Great Britain also credited Wilson as a winner of the Award for Best British Dramatic Screenplay.
—Joel Hodson, April 2011