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Perspective: John E. Mack on The Show

Excerpt from John E. Mack’s Prince of Our Disorder: Life of T.E. Lawrence, 1976, pages 274-5

“The wave of popularity in the United states for exotic sun-and-sand commercial films of ‘Arabia,’ especially those featuring the Italian born American actor Rudolph Valentino (“The Sheik,” 1921; “The Son of the Sheik,” 1926), may well have been inspired by Lowell Thomas’s reportage of the Palestinian campaigns and of the deeds of Lawrence, whom he filmed in flowing Arab costume…

On the last night of the show in New York, Percy Burton, the English impresario who had manage Sarah Bernhardt, came to see it and wished to book it in England…

And about the time that Lawrence was returning from Paris in August of 1919, Thomas was beginning to popularize the Lawrence Legend in a nightly film and lecture shows at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden…

Unquestionably, Thomas captured the public imagination and was instrumental in making Lawrence a popular hero…

Lawrence’s relationship with Thomas, and his attitude towards the elaborate and fanciful romanticization of his exploits, brought out a central conflict in his character, one which cannot be dismissed with catch phrases of paradox, such as ‘false modesty’ or ‘backing into the limelight’. Thomas has made it clear in his writings - and I questioned him carefully about this - that Lawrence cooperated with him in the creation of his own Legend.”