Matinee idol Omar Sharif dies at 83
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Egyptian screen star and matinee idol Omar Sharif has died at the age of 83. Sharif was a screen heartthrob in his native land when producer Sam Spiegel cast him as Sherif Ali in 1962's "Lawrence of Arabia." Able to hold his own against lead Peter O'Toole, Sharif seized an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actor - and the rest, as they say, was history.
Omar Sharif's son Tarek revealed earlier this year that his father had been suffering from Alzheimer's. He had stopped eating and drinking the three days before his death.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Sharif's son Tarek revealed earlier this year that his father had been suffering from Alzheimer's. He had stopped eating and drinking the three days before his death.
After "Lawrence of Arabia," Sharif demonstrated his versatility, playing the leading role of a doctor-poet in Dr. Zhivago." The film at first met a chilly reception until director David Lean re-edited it. Re-released to box office success, Sharif was not impressed with the results, disliking the film's legendary music score.
He remained a sought-after actor for many years, due to his proficiency at playing different nationalities.
Among his many roles was as the Argentine-born revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara in "Che!", Italian Marco Polo in "Marco the Magnificent" and Mongol leader Genghis Khan in "Genghis Khan." He was a German officer in "The Night of the Generals," an Austrian prince in "Mayerling" and a Mexican outlaw in "Mackenna's Gold."
One of his more controversial roles was playing "Jewish gambler Nick Arnstein opposite Barbra Streisand's Fanny Brice in 'Funny Girl.' The 1968 film was banned in his native Egypt as Sharif was cast as a Jew," according to AP.
Prestige roles stopped coming as Sharif approached middle age. He was quick to dismiss his later parts in such turkeys as "The Pink Panther Strikes Again," "Oh Heavenly Dog!," "The Baltimore Bullet" as "rubbish."
"I lost my self-respect and dignity," he said in an interview in 2004. "Even my grandchildren were making fun of me. 'Grandpa, that was really bad. And this one? It's worse.'"
"Born Michael Shalhoub in Egypt's Mediterranean coastal city of Alexandria, Sharif was the son of Christian Syrian-Lebanese parents," according to AP. He appeared in nearly two dozen Egyptian films under the name Omar el Sharif.
Marrying Egyptian movie queen Faten Hamama in 1955, Sharif converted to Islam to marry her, and they had a son, Tarek. They divorced in 1974, and Sharif never remarried.
Sharif later said his success with "Lawrence of Arabia" "separated me from my wife, from my family . We didn't see each other anymore and that was it, the end of our wedding," he said. "I might have been happier having stayed an Egyptian film star."
An excellent bridge player, Sharif wrote a newspaper column on bridge. He quit the game when he gave up gambling. He reportedly at one time won a million dollars at an Italian casino.
He later admitted to fathering a son out of wedlock in a one-night stand with an interviewer.
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