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Omar Sharif, Lawrence of Arabia actor, dead at 83

Legendary Lawrence of Arabia actor Omar Sharif has died at age 83.

Sharif suffered a heart attack in Cairo on Friday, according to his agent, Steve Kenis.

In May, Sharif’s son Tarek and his agent confirmed that the former Hollywood heartthrob had Alzheimer’s disease.

“I would like to thank Canada and the entire world for the outpouring of support and prayers that my family has been receiving,” Sharif’s grandson, Montreal-born actor and activist Omar Sharif Jr., told CBC News in a statement.

Omar Sharif dead at 833:14

Already a star of Egyptian cinema, Sharif made his English-language debut in David Lean’s sprawling 1962 epic Lawrence of Arabia, opposite Peter O’Toole. The role earned him a best supporting actor Oscar nomination and instantly shot him to international fame.

Smouldering, debonair and intense, Sharif was almost immediately granted leading-man status. He followed that breakthrough performance and reteamed with Lean in 1965, taking the romantic title role in Doctor Zhivago, co-starring Julie Christie. He also played Fanny Brice’s husband, Nicky Arnstein, in Funny Girl alongside Barbra Streisand.

Other credits from his incredibly versatile, six-decade career included:

  • Behold a Pale Horse (1964).
  • Genghis Khan (1965).
  • Che! (1969).
  • Funny Girl sequel (1975).
  • Monsieur Ibrahim and the Flowers of the Koran (2003).
  • Hidalgo (2004).

Bridge star

When quality film offers stalled, he fell back on another of his great passions: Sharif was a world-class bridge player, and penned a syndicated column and several books about the game, which he helped promote internationally.

Born Michel Emitri Shalhoub in Alexandria, he graduated with a degree in mathematics and physics from Cairo University, but had long been interested in acting.

After he began his acting career, he converted to Islam (and changed his name to Omar al-Sharif) to marry actress Faten Hamama, whom he met on the set of his first Egyptian movie.

The couple had their son Tarek in 1957. The two divorced in 1974 and Sharif never remarried. Hamama died in January.

Sharif published The Eternal Male, an autobiography, in 1977 and his last completed feature film credits were in 2013.

He is survived by his son and his two grandsons.

CBC | Arts News

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