Main navigation:

Crafting a Story

By the time Thomas returned to America the war was over, and the original purpose of his expedition — building support for the war — was gone. But he had wonderful materials and decided to use them to narrate stories from the podium in sync with slides and film in highly original multimedia productions. In fact, Thomas’ choreographed multimedia productions may qualify as the first narrated documentaries. The public, however, was sick of the war. All of Thomas’ productions failed — with one exception: an account of his experiences in the Middle East that featured a section called “With Lawrence in Arabia.” The Show ended up playing to three million people in America, Britain and other English-speaking countries, and more than four million people in all. At the same time Thomas published magazine articles about the blue-eyed Oxford graduate who had donned Arab robes and heroically led an Arab revolt. Thomas’ show and writing made Lawrence the most enduring hero of World War I and arguably the first international media superstar.

Thomas took the show on a round-the-world tour, and filmed the Prince of Wales traveling through India. In 1923 he and his cameraman, Harry Chase, were the first authorized journalists officially permitted into Afghanistan. In 1924 Thomas followed up his shows with the first of more than 50 books he would write, With Lawrence in Arabia. This book, with more than 100 editions, is still in print today.


Clip 2

From Berlin, Thomas reflects on Lawrence and his show’s world tour.