The story of Egyptian actor Omar Sharif, star of epics including Lawrence Of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago, is perhaps the saddest, loneliest tale in all of movie history.
After a life filled with losses, at the weekend his son Tareq announced the latest tragedy: that his 83-year-old father has Alzheimer’s disease.
But it has also been a life overflowing with wealth, adoration and affairs with the world’s most desirable women.
Sharif squandered his good fortune — with divorce from the only woman he ever truly loved, an illegitimate child he refused to acknowledge, millions lost at the gaming tables, a glittering career abandoned and outbursts of violence.
The harshest irony of all is that, to the public, it always appeared as if he had the most enviable existence. After decades spent living alone in luxury hotels in Paris or London, staying up till 5am every night at the casino or the bar, the actor has now returned to Egypt.
But this is no homecoming: he still lives in a hotel, at a Red Sea tourist resort. His life, it seems, is as rootless and lonely as ever.
Sharif was born Michel Chalhoub in Alexandria, in 1932. His father Joseph was a rich timber merchant, but it was his glamorous mother who would set the course of his life.
Claire Chalhoub was a flamboyant gambler, notorious as the only woman who could match Egypt’s billionaire King Farouk for high stakes.
She was far from maternal: aged ten, Sharif was sent to boarding school, Cairo’s snobbish Victoria College, where Claire hoped the harsh regime and basic diet would make him lose his puppy fat.
It was the school’s theatre that would prove his inspiration. He played the title character in his first production, The Invisible Duke, concealed in a box on stage for most of the play. The thrill when he surprised the audience by bursting out had him addicted from the start.
Joseph Chalhoub was aghast to hear that his son wanted to be an actor. When he forbade it, the teenager staged a suicide bid — slashing his wrists, though later he was adamant he had not really intended to kill himself.
By now, the would-be star was already a ladies’ man, selling his possessions if he couldn’t cadge money from his parents to take girlfriends to dinner.
Sad yet human.
Those eyes wow, he was so beautiful when he was young
A long-time friend of mine developed Alzheimers and two years ago entered a care facility.
I see him occasionally and he appears to have forgotten his former life. He seems happy.
Isn't that a universal story that money doesn't cure everything?
Omar Sharif has died aged 83