Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Lowell Thomas, acclaimed journalist, was writer who hyped the Life of Lawrence: his book called With Lawrence In Arabia
He received both a B.A. and an M.A. from the University of Denver and began work for the Chicago Journal, writing for it until 1914. While in Chicago, he was a professor at the Chicago-Kent College of Law, teaching oratory. He then went to New Jersey, where he studied for a master's at Princeton University (he received the degree in 1916) and again taught oratory at the university.
When the United States entered World War I, he was part of an official party sent by President Wilson, former president of Princeton, to "compile a history of the conflict." In reality the mission was not academic. The war was not popular in the United States, and Thomas was sent to find material that would encourage the American people to support it. Thomas did not want to merely write about the war, he wanted to film it. He estimated that $75,000 would be needed for filming, which the U.S. government thought too expensive, and so he turned to a group of 18 Chicago meat packers. (He had done them a favor by exposing someone who was blackmailing them, without the damaging material becoming public.)
He and a cameraman, Harry Chase, first went to the Western Front, but the trenches had little to inspire the American public. They then went to Italy, where he heard of General Allenby's campaign against the Ottoman Empire in Palestine. With the permission of the British Foreign Office, as an accredited war-correspondent, Thomas met T. E. Lawrence, a captain in the British Army in Jerusalem. Lawrence was spending £200,000 a month encouraging the inhabitants of Palestine to revolt against the Turks. Thomas and Chase spent several weeks with Lawrence in the desert, though Lawrence said "several days."
Thomas shot dramatic footage of Lawrence and, after the war, toured the world, narrating his film, With Allenby in Palestine and Lawrence in Arabia, making Lawrence—and himself—household names. The performances were highly dramatic. At the opening of Thomas's six-month London run, there were incense braziers, exotically dressed women danced before images of the Pyramids, and the band of the Welsh Guards played to provide the accompaniment.
Lawrence saw the show several times, and though he later claimed to dislike it, it generated valuable publicity for his own book.
About four million people saw the show around the world, and it made Thomas $1.5 million. Thomas would also later write a book, With Lawrence in Arabia (1924), about his time in the desert and Lawrence's exploits during the war.