Having already honored Omar Sharif's passing through a Hollywood lens, please welcome new contributor Murtada Elfadl with a look at Sharif's relationship to Egyptian cinema and his leading lady there - Editor.
The first thought I had when I heard of Omar Sharif’s passing last week was “Oh, he’s joining Faten!”. Faten Hamama was arguably the biggest female movie star in the Arab World and enjoyed a 50+ year career. She was also Sharif’s leading lady in the 1950s and 1960s. It was through the prism of his relationship with Hamama that I came to know and love Sharif. By the time I was growing up in Sudan in the 1980s her output had shrunk to only a movie every few years but at our house we spent many a night watching her old movies on TV. And watching Faten meant watching Omar.
Sharif’s relationship with Hamama defined his early roles. He was plucked from obscurity and chosen to star with her - the biggest Arab movie star and #1 box office draw - in 1954’s Struggle in the Valley. Their chemistry was combustible on and off screen. It was quite a scandal of the time as Hamama was a married woman and it was the 1950s in a conservative Eastern society. They were of different religions, she’s Muslim, he was Christian. Their love affair had all the ingredients of a soap opera. She got divorced! He converted! They were the Taylor / Burton of Egypt or the Angelina / Brad of the 1950s Middle East. It speaks to their popularity that they were not shunned by the public and the industry a la Ingrid Bergman whose own love affair / scandal happened just a few years before theirs. [More...]