For the older generation who witnessed the 1950s, actor Omar El-Sherif is one of his generation’s most famous international actor, the girl’s first crush in their teenage years, and a sweet memory of days of old.
El-Sherif has recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, his son revealed in an interview to Spanish newspaper El Mundo.
“My father has Alzheimer’s,” Tarek El-Sherif said. “It’s difficult to determine what stage it’s at. It’s obvious he’ll never improve and it will get worse.”
The 83-year-old actor, who played parts in such classics as “Doctor Zhivago” and “Lawrence of Arabia”, is struggling to recognise other people and even his own films.
“He knows who he is, but not necessarily the reason people greet him,” El-Sherif told the Spanish paper. “When someone sees him in the street and approaches him, he often thinks it’s someone he used to know whose name and face he’s forgotten, when most of the time, it’s just a fan.”
The actor was born as Michel Chalhob into a conservative Catholic family of Lebanese descent in Alexandria. His family was known to be close to the elite back then. In 1955, after deeply falling in love with famous actress Faten Hamama, El-Sherif converted to Islam to marry her. Their love story was known to be the Romeo and Juliet of the Arab world.
The couple had one son, Tarek. Yet they got divorced at 1974. El-Sherif never remarried after their break up, and he admitted that he never fell in love with another woman.
In terms of his professional career, El-Sherif’s first international film was “Lawrence of Arabia”. This performance earned him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture. In 1975, when he took the decision of acting with Barbara Streisand in the film “Funny Lady”, he never imagined the mass anger he would cause to Egyptians due to the support she showed for Israel.
After returning back to Egypt to permanently live with his grandchildren, El-Sherif took part in the film “Hassan and Morqous!”. The film featured the relationship between Muslims and Copts in Egypt, and the way both partners deal with each other in the simplest events of life.
The actor won three Golden Globe Awards for his participation in several films.