Patching Up "Lawrence of Arabia" Pg1
Hollywood Lost and Found
Patching up "Lawrence of Arabia"

An Interview with Supervising Sound Editor Richard Anderson

By David E. Stone

(Originally published in Moviesound Newsletter, Vol. I, #1, March 1989, and Vol. I, #2, April 1989.)

When "Lawrence of Arabia" was released in 1962, Richard Anderson was 11 years old. Since being impressed by the first run of "Lawrence," Richard grew up to become Supervising Sound Editor on many top films, including "The Color Purple," "Beetlejuice," "Harry and the Hendersons," and "2010." We can't list his whole resume, but he worked on "Poltergeist," "48 Hrs," "Gremlins," and "Star Trek: The Motion Picture." He has an Oscar for "Raiders of the Lost Ark," and other awards including Golden Reels (the Sound Editor's Guild Award) for "Predator" and the B-17 episode of Steven Spielberg's "Amazing Stories" called "The Mission."

In 1989 he completed work restoring the soundtrack for missing pieces Sir David Lean has replaced in a re-release of "Lawrence." Following are excerpts from an informal conversation with Richard for Moviesound Newsletter when he had concluded work on that restoration.

MOVIESOUND NEWSLETTER: Have you always had an ear for films?

RICHARD ANDERSON: My earliest recollection of seeing any movie was in stereo. There was an English marching band playing military music. As they marched by, the instruments panned by separately. They were either recorded or mixed that way. I member being impressed with the realism of that effect. Just like you were there. That was "Around the World in 80 Days."

MSNL: Did you notice the soundtrack more than the photography?

RA: As a kid, I remembered the visual things more. Now that I'm in the business, I'm aware of the sound portions. I remember a scene (in "Lawrence of Arabia") in which Lawrence meets Omar Sharif for the first time. He's with an Arab guide in hostile territory. The guide reacts to an infinitesimal speck of dust on the horizon. Slowly this tiny spot comes in closer until you realize it's a man on some beast, then it gets closer and you see he's a man on a camel, silhouetted in the heat waves. He comes in from infinity, and the guide runs for his camel and a shot rings out. Bam! He's shot through the head. Lawrence doesn't know what to do. The guy comes closer and you see he's riding a camel and you hear this sort of... camel feet! He eventually rides in and unwraps the cloth from his face and we see it's Omar Sharif. What an entrance! There're a lot of very wide shots of the desert where, on a small neighborhood screen or on a TV, you wouldn't see this little speak riding in but on a big downtown theater screen you would. Another thing they did was to paint diagonal lines in the sand, very subtle, but pointing toward infinity, to lead your eye to where Sharif is coming in.

MSNL: Rich, how did this job begin for you?

RA: I got a call from Bob Harris who was producing the re-cut in late '87. He said he was restoring "Lawrence of Arabia" to its long version. My first thought was "Boy, it's already a long movie." The movie was initially shown at 220 minutes, and it was screened at the Academy at that length. (The original producer) Sam Spiegel or someone said it had to be cut. "Lawrence" only played a few days in the major cities in the long version, then they came up with a version about 202 minutes. They pulled the long prints and this medium version took over. Some years later (1970), it was re-released with another 10 or 15 minutes taken out, and that's the length you generally see on television.

Now, Sir David wanted to re-cut it with Anne V. Coates, the original editor. So last year Bob Harris was trying to find Anne Coates. He was on the phone with Jon Davison (producer of "RoboCop") and he was saying, "By the way, where can I find Anne Coates?" not knowing whether she was still around the business, was in England, or whatever. And Jon said "I don't know where she is this minute, but her cutting room is right next door." This was a longshot!

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