A once-over-lightly look at the man, the movie and director David Lean, “Once Upon a Time … Lawrence of Arabia” is strictly for general auds only. Hour-long docu would make an OK curtainraiser for airings of the movie or as a preface to Lean events. But there’s almost nothing here that’s fresh to the already detailed documentation, in books and on DVD, of the “Lawrence” phenom.
Most entertaining, and occasionally perceptive, about the movie and Lean himself is Omar Sharif, who relates the story of the helmer asking his cast each day for ideas on how to shoot a scene. Lean’s widow, Sandra, who didn’t know him then, is better on the man himself, pointing out how he subconsciously identified with Lawrence. Much of the tortuous production history is filled in by U.K. film journalist Kevin Jackson — concisely, rather than in any depth — while editor Anne V. Coates (misspelled “Ann” in her caption) adds flavor rather than anything new. Lean himself is shown in interviews ranging from ’59 to ’84. O’Toole, not featured, is also seen in an enthusiastic on-set B&W interview from the time. Clip quality is good.