Sean Connery as a Gypsy Grifter

What’s your favorite Sean Connery role before he became famous as James Bond. This question might stump the average movie-goer but film buffs would probably choose one of his menacing villain roles in either Hell Drivers (1957) or Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure (1959) or possibly his dashing romantic hero opposite Janet Munro in Walt Disney’s Darby O’Gill and the Little People (1959), where he actually gets to sing. The latter is easily my favorite with the Irish mythology of leprechauns, pookas and banshees giving it the edge but there is something quite appealing about Connery trying his hand at comedy in the lesser-known British B-movie Operation Snafu (1961), which was released in the U.K. as On the Fiddle (It was also known as Operation War Head).  

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Omar Sharif: The Youssef Chahine Years, 1954-1956

Omar Sharif stars in Dark Waters (1956) as a sailor who has been away at sea for 3 years and comes home to find his world has changed in this melodrama directed by Youssef Chahine.

Long before Omar Sharif was discovered and made internationally famous by director David Lean in Lawrence of Arabia in 1962, he was already a major star and matinee idol in his native country of Egypt. The director who truly deserves the credit for launching Sharif’s career is Youssef Chahine, easily the most famous and renowned Egyptian filmmaker of all time. Chahine discovered Sharif on a street in Alexandria, cast him as the lead in his sixth feature film, The Blazing Sun aka Struggle in the Valley (Siraa Fil-Wadi, 1954), and changed his name from Michel Chalhoub to Omar Cherif. Cast opposite Fetah Hamamah, one of Egypt’s reigning film actresses since the early 1940s, Cherif quickly established himself as a major star and female heartthrob. More importantly, he fell in love with Hamamah and they married in 1954, going on to make several movies together and becoming Egypt’s most popular romantic screen team. Continue reading