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Who was Omar Sharif? Lawrence of Arabia actor’s 86th birthday celebrated with Google doodle

Omar Sharif has been honoured with today’s Google doodle, marking what would have been his 86th birthday.

The actor is probably best known for playing the title role in 1965 romance Doctor Zhivago and alongside Peter O’Toole in the 1962 epic Lawrence of Arabia.

But he had a huge and varied career that saw him net three Golden Globes and a nomination for an Academy Award.

Many might not know that as well as being an actor, Sharif was an international bridge player and even wrote a syndicated column about the card game that appeared in the Chicago Tribune.

Who was Omar Sharif?

Who was Omar Sharif? Lawrence of Arabia actor's 86th birthday celebrated with Google doodle

Egyptian actor Omar Sharif

Who was Omar Sharif? Lawrence of Arabia actor's 86th birthday celebrated with Google doodle

Born Michel Demitri Shalhoub in Alexandria, Egypt in 1932, Sharif worked for his father’s lumber company before pursuing a movie career.

Taking the name Omar El-Sharif, he starred in Egyptian hits including his first film in 1954, Struggle in the Valley in which he co-starred with his future wife, actress Faten Hamama.

With Lawrence of Arabia, Sharif expanded his orbit from Egyptian matinee idol to international heartthrob.

What were his famous films?

Who was Omar Sharif? Lawrence of Arabia actor's 86th birthday celebrated with Google doodle

Peter O’Toole (L) and Egyptian-born actor Omar Sharif in a still from the film, ‘Lawrence of Arabia,’ directed by David Lean, 1962

During the 1960s, the charismatic, multilingual actor played, among other roles, a king of Armenia in The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964), a Mongol leader in Genghis Khan (1965), a Russian doctor in Doctor Zhivago (1965) and a big-time gambler in Funny Girl (1968).

“Today’s animated Doodle shows Sharif in true dashing form,” said the team at Google.

In 1963 he picked up an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Lawrence of Arabia.

Omar Sharif with Princess Margeret at the premier of MacKennas Gold

Omar Sharif with Princess Margeret at the premier of MacKennas Gold

Omar Sharif’s love life

Dark-eyed heartthrob Sharif won the hearts of women all over the world after appearing on the big screen.

He stepped out with some of the world’s most glamorous women and admitted to falling in love with co-stars Ingrid Bergman and Ava Gardner.

According to Omar’s grandson, Lawrence of Arabia director David Lean would fly beauties in for Sharif and Peter O’Toole.

The two stars became firm friends and after wrapping scenes they would disappear into the drinking dens of Beirut – or retire to hotel rooms where their bathtubs were filled with champagne and women.

Omar Sharif and Julie Christie in Doctor Zhivago

Omar Sharif starred with Julie Christie in Doctor Zhivago

Omar Junior said: “Peter O’Toole and my grandfather remained very close friends. They were always sharing stories and reminiscing. And Peter told me all about what trouble they got in out there.

However, he denied his reputation as a womaniser.

Who was Omar Sharif? Lawrence of Arabia actor's 86th birthday celebrated with Google doodle

Julie Christie laying in a wheat field with her eyes closed as Omar Sharif leans in to kiss her in a scene from the film ‘Doctor Zhivago’, 1965

He married only once, to fellow Egyptian film legend Faten Hamama in 1955, converting from Christianity to Islam so they could marry a year after they starred together in the film Struggle in the Valley.

The couple had one son and two grandsons together. They separated in 1966 and divorced in 1974.

What did he do in later life?

When his heyday seemed to be behind him and the big roles started drying up, Sharif passed his days drinking with Peter O’Toole and other Hollywood hedonists.

Who was Omar Sharif? Lawrence of Arabia actor's 86th birthday celebrated with Google doodle

Omar Sharif (left), as Sherif Ali ibn el Kharish, and Peter O’Toole as T. E. Lawrence, in ‘Lawrence Of Arabia’

A regular in casinos, he is said to have lost £4million on the Spanish island of Lanzarote during a bridge game in the 1970s.

He also famously gave up playing roulette after he lost £750,000 in one night.

To fund his extravagant lifestyle, he wrote a column on card games for the Chicago Tribune and accepted roles as the “foreign gentleman” in a string of mediocre films.

Sharif started turning down acting offers in the 1990s after his grandchildren reportedly began mocking him for the roles he had accepted.

Who was Omar Sharif? Lawrence of Arabia actor's 86th birthday celebrated with Google doodle

Actor Omar Sharif attends the Closing Ceremony at the Sala Grande during the 66th Venice Film Festival on September 12, 2009 in Venice, Italy.

Sharif’s surprising love of British football team

You wouldn’t expect many A-list stars at the KCOM Stadium, but Sharif was a lifelong Hull City fan.

He was introduced to the club by his friend Tom Courtenay during the 1960s and even flew in to watch the team in their FA Cup final against Arsenal in 2014.

Omar, then 82, was invited to the match by fellow Egyptian and Tigers owner Assem Allam and recorded a reading of William Blake’s poem, The Tyger, for BT Sport in tribute to the club.

Who was Omar Sharif? Lawrence of Arabia actor's 86th birthday celebrated with Google doodle
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He said: “Tom kept telling me about Hull City, so I began to idolise the team.”

Omar’s Hull link was recognised in 2010, when he got an honorary degree from Hull University and met his all-time top Tigers player Ken Wagstaff.

Health problems and death

Who was Omar Sharif? Lawrence of Arabia actor's 86th birthday celebrated with Google doodle

Back in 1992, Sharif had a triple heart bypass which caused him to quit smoking. Before that he was smoking up to 100 cigarettes a day.

Omar Sharif died in Cairo, Egypt on 10 July, 2015 from a heart attack after it was reported in May 2015 that he was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

He was laid to rest at a packed-out funeral ceremony in Cairo the following week.

People attend the funeral ceremony of Omar Sharif at the Mushir Tantawi mosque in Cairo

People attend the funeral ceremony of Omar Sharif at the Mushir Tantawi mosque in Cairo, Egypt on July 12, 2015 The casket was carried in covered in the Egyptian flag and a black shroud, as mourners gathered to say a final farewell.

Among those attending were actor Hussein Fahmy and former Egyptian Antiquities Minister Zahi Hawas.

Fahmy reportedly described Sharif as “a man who loved Egypt and represented the Egyptian art in its best form.”

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