Omar Sharif (Arabic: عمر الشريف, Egyptian Arabic pronunciation: born Michel Demitri Chalhoub April 10, 1932 -July 10, 2015) is an Egyptian actor. The assumed surname Sharif means “noble” in Arabic. His films include Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Doctor Zhivago (1965) and Funny Girl (1968). He has been nominated for an Academy Award and has won three Golden Globe Awards.Omar Sharif is battling Alzheimer’s disease, his son, Tarek Sharif, revealed the diagnosis in an interview with Spanish newspaper El Mundo on May 23.
Omar Sharif was born Michel Demetri Chalhoub in Alexandria, Egypt, to a Melkite Catholic family ofLebanese descent. His father, Joseph Chalhoub, was a precious-wood merchant originally from Zahle,Lebanon, who settled in Egypt in the early 20th century. His mother, Claire Saada, was of Syrian and Lebanese heritage. In his youth, Sharif studied at Victoria College, where he became active in sports and developed interest in theater and acting. His classmates included Youssef Chahine and Edward Said. In 1955, Sharif converted to Islam to marry Egyptian actress Faten Hamama.
After obtaining a degree in mathematics and physics at the University of Cairo, he worked for five years in the business of precious wood of his father, before studying acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London.
With Geraldine Chaplin in Doctor Zhivago (1965)
In 1953, Sharif began his acting career with a role
in Sira` Fi al-Wadi. He quickly rose to stardom, appearing in over 20 Egyptian productions, including Ayyamna el helwa with singer Abdel Halim Hafez, La anam in 1958, Sayedat el kasr in 1959 and the Anna Karenina adaptation Nahr el hub in 1961. He also starred with his wife, Egyptian actress Faten Hamama, in several movies as romantic leads.
Sharif’s first English-language film was in the role of Sharif Ali in David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia in 1962.
Sharif in Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
This performance earned him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture. Following this breakthrough role, Sharif played a variety of characters, including a Spanish priest in Behold a Pale Horse (1964) and the Mongolian conqueror in Genghis Khan (1965). In the same year, Sharif reunited with Lean to play the title role in Doctor Zhivago, an adaptation of Boris Pasternak’s novel.
Over the next few years, Sharif starred as a German military officer in The Night of the Generals, as Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria in Mayerling and as Che Guevara in Che!. Sharif was also acclaimed for his portrayal of Nicky Arnstein, husband to Fanny Brice in Funny Girl, though some thought he was miscast as a New York Jewish gambler. His decision to work with costar Barbra Streisand angered Egypt’s government at the time due to Streisand’s support for the state of Israel. Streisand herself responded with “You think Cairo was upset? You should’ve seen the letter I got from my Aunt Rose!” Sharif reprised the role in the film’s sequel, Funny Lady in 1975.
In 2003, he received acclaim for his role in the French-language film adaptation of the novel Monsieur Ibrahim et les fleurs du Coran, as a Muslim Turkish merchant who becomes a father figure for a Jewish boy.
Contract bridge career
Sharif once ranked among the world’s best-known contract bridge players, forming the “Omar Sharif Bridge Circus” in 1967 which toured the world, competing against such powerhouse teams as Blue Team and Dallas Aces, at a time when barnstorming bridge teams were very popular. With Charles Goren, Sharif co-wrote a syndicated newspaper bridge column for the Chicago Tribune for several years, but has mostly turned over the writing of the column to Tannah Hirsch, whose name appears on the byline with Sharif to this day. He is also both author and co-author of several books on bridge and has licensed his name to a bridge video game; initially released in a MS-DOS version and Amiga version in 1992, Omar Sharif on Bridge is still sold in Windows and “mobile platform” versions. Computer Gaming World in 1992 described the game as “easy to get into, challenging to play and well-designed”, and named it one of the year’s best strategy games.
In 1993 the magazine stated that “it does not play a very good game of bridge”, however, and criticized it for inadequate documentation and forcing players to conform to its bidding style. The magazine recommended two other bridge games instead. For a number of years his partner at international tournaments was Egyptian contract bridge superstar Maged Elewa.
Sharif has been a regular in casinos in France.
In 2006, Sharif declared both pastimes as ended when he was asked if he still played bridge: “I’ve stopped altogether. I decided I didn’t want to be a slave to any passion any more except for my work. I had too many passions, bridge, horses, gambling. I want to live a different kind of life, be with my family more because I didn’t give them enough time.”
Sharif in January 2013
Family and personal relationships
Sharif lived in his native Egypt from birth in 1932 until he moved to Europe in 1965. He recounts that, in 1932, his father “wasn’t a wealthy man”, but “earned quite a bit of money”. Before the Egyptian Revolution of 1952, King Farouk frequented Sharif’s family’s house, and became a friend and card game partner of Sharif’s mother. His mother was an elegant and charming hostess who was all too delighted with the association because it gave her the privilege of “consorting only with the elite” of Egyptian society. Sharif also recounts that his father’s timber business was very successful during that time, in ways that Sharif describes as dishonest or immoral.
By contrast, after 1952, Sharif states that wealth changed hands in Egypt, under Nasser’s nationalisation policies. His father’s business “took a beating”. Travel restrictions in the form of “exit visas” were required of Egyptians, and his own travel to take part in international films was sometimes impeded, which he could not tolerate. The Nasser government’s travel restrictions influenced Sharif’s decision to remain in Europe between his film shoots,
a decision that cost him his marriage to Egyptian film legend Faten Hamama, though they remained friends. It was a major crossroad in Sharif’s life and changed him from an established family man to a lifelong bachelor living in European hotels. When commenting about his fame and life in Hollywood, Sharif said, “It gave me glory, but it gave me loneliness also. And a lot of missing my own land, my own people and my own country.” Due to the state of war between Egypt and Israel, Sharif’s Egyptian citizenship was almost withdrawn by the Egyptian Government
when his affair with Barbra Streisand was made public in the Egyptian press due to Streisand’s vocal support of Israel.
Sharif with Cyrine Abdelnour at the Venice Film Festival in 2009
In 1954 acclaimed actress Faten Hamama accepted young Sharif as her co-star in the film Struggle in the Valley and shockingly accepted a scene involving a kiss with him, a first her career. The two fell in love, and Sharif converted to Islam and married her. The couple had one son, Tarek El-Sharif, born 1957 in Egypt, who appeared in Doctor Zhivago as Yuri at the age of eight. They separated in 1966 and the marriage ended in 1974. Sharif never remarried; he stated that since his divorce, he never fell in love with another woman, although he lived abroad for years. Hamama died in 2015.
Sharif became friends with Peter O’Toole during the making of Lawrence of Arabia. They appeared in several other films together and remained close friends. He is also good friends with Egyptologist Zahi Hawass. Actor and friend Tom Courtenay revealed in an interview for the July 19, 2008, edition of BBC Radio’s Test Match Special that Sharif supported Hull City Association Football Club and in the 1970s would telephone their automated scoreline from his home in Paris for score updates. Sharif was given an honorary degree by the University of Hull in 2010 and used the occasion to meet up with Hull City football player Ken Wagstaff.
At present, Sharif resides mostly in Cairo with his family.
In addition to his son, he has two grandsons, Omar (born 1983 in Montreal) and Karim. Omar Sharif, Jr. is also an actor. He is most recently known for playfully tussling on stage at the 83rd Academy Awards ceremony with actor Kirk Douglas, who was presenting the award for Best Supporting Actress that evening. Sharif Jr. also generated buzz for coming out as both gay and half-Jewish during the aftermath of the 2011 Egyptian revolution, saying he fears for his safety after Islamist parties’ triumph in parliamentary elections.
In May 2015 it was reported that Sharif was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and gets confused when remembering some of the biggest films of his career, his son has claimed. Tarek El-Sharif, the only child of the star’s marriage to ex-wife Faten Hamama, said his 83-year-old father mixes up the names of his best-known films
‘Doctor Zhivago’ and ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, often forgetting where they were filmed.
In August 2003, Sharif received a one-month suspended prison sentence for striking a police officer in a suburban Parisian casino the previous month. He was fined the equivalent of US$1,700. On February 13, 2007, Sharif was “found guilty of assaulting a Beverly Hills parking lot attendant and breaking his nose”.
Doha Tribeca Film Festival
Omar Sharif in Doha Tribeca Film Festival
On October 27, 2011, Sharif became irritated with a woman who was queuing up to have her photo taken with him on the red carpet at the Doha Tribeca Film Festival. He struck her, but after a moment he turned and leaned in to pose for a picture with her.
In November 2005, Sharif was awarded the inaugural Sergei Eisenstein Medal by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in recognition of his significant contributions to world film and cultural diversity.
The medal, which is handed out very infrequently, is named after Russian director Sergei Eisenstein. Only 25 have been struck, as determined by the agreement between UNESCO, Russia’s Mosfilm and the Vivat Foundation.
1954 Shaytan al-Sahra
1954 Sira` Fi al-Wadi
1955 Ayyamna al-Holwa (Our Best Days)
1956 Siraa Fil-Mina
1957 Ard al-Salam
1957 The Lebanese Mission
1958 La anam
1959 Fadiha fil-zamalek
1959 Sayedat el kasr
1959 Seraa fil Nil
1960 Bidaya wa nihaya
1960 Hobi al-wahid
1960 Esha’a hob
1960 Nahr al-Hob
1961 A Man in our House
1962 Lawrence of Arabia
1964 The Fall of the Roman Empire
Behold a Pale Horse
The Yellow Rolls-Royce
1965 Genghis Khan
Marco the Magnificent
1966 The Poppy Is Also a Flower
1967 The Night of the Generals
1969 Mackenna’s Gold
1970 The Last Valley
1971 The Horsemen
1972 Le Droit d’aimer (fr)
1973 The Mysterious Island
1974 The Tamarind Seed
1975 Funny Lady
1976 Ace Up My Sleeve
The Pink Panther Strikes Again
1979 Ashanti: Land of No Mercy
The Baltimore Bullet
Oh Heavenly Dog
1981 Green Ice
1984 The Far Pavilions
1985 Edge of the Wind
1986 Peter the Great
Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna
1987 Grand Larceny
1988 The Possessed
Les Pyramides bleues (fr)
1990 The Opium Connection
1990 The Rainbow Thief
1991 Memories of Midnight
1991 Mowaten masri
1992 Beyond Justice
1992 Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris
1992 588 rue paradis
1993 Dehk we le’b we gad we hob
1994 Lie Down With Lions
1995 Catherine the Great
1996 Gulliver’s Travels
1997 Heaven Before I Die
1998 Mysteries of Egypt
1999 The 13th Warrior
2001 The Parole Officer
2003 Monsieur Ibrahim et les fleurs du Coran
2005 Imperium: Saint Peter
2005 Fuoco su di me
2005 Shaka Zulu: The Last Great Warrior
2006 One Night with the King
2006 The Crown Prince (de)
2007 Hanan W Haneen
2007 The Ten Commandments
2008 The Last Templar
2008 Hassan & Marcus
2008 10,000 BC
2009 J’ai oublié de te dire
2009 La Traversée du désir
2013 Rock the Casbah
• The Eternal Male, with Marie-Thérèse Guinchard, transl. Martin Sokolinsky (Doubleday, 1977); orig. French, Éternel masculin (Paris: Stock, 1976)
• Goren’s Bridge Complete, Charles Goren with Omar Sharif (Doubleday, 1980) – one of several later editions of Goren
• Omar Sharif’s Life in Bridge, with Anne Segalen and Patrick Sussel, transl. and adapted by Terence Reese (Faber, 1983); orig. French, Ma vie au bridge (Paris: Fayard, 1982)
• Omar Sharif Talks Bridge (2004)
• Bridge Deluxe II Play with Omar Sharif (instruction manual)
Doctor Zhivago star Omar Sharif has died aged 83, his agent confirmed today.
The Hollywood star is understood to have died of a heart attack at a hospital in Cairo, where he was resting after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
In May it emerged that the Egyptian born Hollywood actor had been suffering with the illness and was struggling to remember anything about his hugely successful career.
In a frank interview with Spanish media, Tarek El-Sharif, the only child of the star’s marriage to ex-wife Faten Hamama, revealed that his father had started mixing up the names of his best-known films – Doctor Zhivago and Lawrence of Arabia – and often forgot where they were filmed.