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Rare 1919 Lawrence of Arabia Documentary Ready to be Rescued

Lawerence in Arabia

National Film Preservation Foundation also awards grants to save John Ford home movies, performance by Duke Ellington and Mahalia Jackson.

The National Film Preservation Foundation has awarded grants to save 64 films, including a crowd-pleasing silent-era documentary about the real-life Lawrence of Arabia and home movies from Grapes of Wrath director John Ford, it was announced Wednesday.

For With Allenby in Palestine and Lawrence in Arabia (1919), writer, broadcaster and world traveler Lowell Thomas and cameraman Harry Chase shot dramatic footage of T.E. Lawrence, a captain in the British Army who led a Palestinian revolt against the Turks. Thomas then toured the world with the film, narrating it for audiences and turning Lawrence into a household name long before Peter O’Toole played him in the 1962 David Lean masterpiece.

The Ford home movies were shot from 1941-48 and include a look at filming of My Darling Clementine (1946), location scouting for 3 Godfathers (1948) and a fishing trip in Mexico with John Wayne.

Among other works pegged for preservation are filmed performances by Duke Ellington and Mahalia Jackson at the inaugural New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in the 1970; a George Wallace 1968 presidential campaign film created for the California primary; the 1971 TV documentary Fidel! by Saul Landau; and Operation Breadbasket (1969), the story of a Southern Christian Leadership Conference job training program produced by actor Robert Culp.

Among the 36 institutions receiving funds are the UCLA Film & Television Archive, George Eastman House, the New York Public Library and such universities as Johns Hopkins, SMU and Marist College, which will handle the Lawrence of Arabia documentary.

“The NFPF grants, which are funded through the Library of Congress, are a winning strategy for keeping our history alive," said Alfre Woodard, who serves on the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities and the NFPF board. “The educational benefits from the initiative will be enjoyed for decades to come.”

The nonprofit NFPF has received $530,000 in federal funds yearly from the Library of Congress since 2006 for grants and repatriation efforts. This spring, it awarded $322,660 in cash and services, with more grants to be awarded in late summer. NFPF program management costs (salaries, rent, etc.) are raised from other sources.

The NFPF grants target newsreels, silent-era films, documentaries, culturally important home movies, avant-garde films and endangered independent productions that fall under the radar of commercial preservation programs.

Films saved are made available to the public for research and for screenings, exhibits, DVDs, television broadcasts and the Internet. The next the NFPF DVD series, out in September, is Treasures 5: The West, 1898-1938, a 10-hour box set to be distributed by Image Entertainment.

Since created by Congress in 1996, the NFPF has provided preservation support to 232 institutions and rescued more than 1,800 films.