When US movie audiences first laid eyes Omar Sharif, he was a shimmering apparition, galloping out of a desert mirage on the back of a camel toward Peter O’Toole in the 1962 epic Lawrence of Arabia.
The Egyptian actor’s journey would take him to leading roles in such films as Doctor Zhivago, Funny Girl and The Night of the Generals. Google celebrated the iconic actor’s birthday on Tuesday with a dashingly handsome animated doodle.
Sharif was born Michel Demitri Shalhoub in Alexandria, Egypt, on April 10, 1932. He earned a degree in mathematics and physics from the University of Cairo and worked in his family’s lumber business before making his way abroad to study acting at London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.
Before Lawrence of Arabia, Sharif starred in such Egyptian hits as 1954’s The Blazing Sun (which co-starred his future wife, actress Faten Hamama), 1960’s A Rumor of Love, and 1961’s There is a Man in Our House.
But it was in Lawrence of Arabia that Sharif rode from the Egyptian cinema to international stardom. Portraying the Arab warrior Sherif Ali, Sharif was nominated for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar and won two Golden Globe awards. He won a third Golden Globe in 1966 for his titular role in Doctor Zhivago.
He went on to other critically acclaimed performances as a Yugoslav patriot trying to save his country from the Nazis in 1965’s The Yellow Rolls-Royce, as a German intelligence officer in 1967’s The Night of the Generals, and as shifty gambler in 1968’s Funny Girl.
For his contributions to world film and cultural diversity, Sharif was awarded the inaugural UNESCO Sergei Einstein Medal in 2005.
At one time, he ranked among the world’s top contract bridge players and co-wrote a syndicated column on the game for the Chicago Tribune.
Sharif died in 2015 at the age of 83.
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