More Than a Miracle (1967)

The first Omar Sharif film I remember watching was Mackenna’s Gold. As the bandit John Colorado, Sharif made a very young me (I was a child) feel that, my goodness, how could someone be so cruel and nasty and not at all nice? Then, a couple of years later, I saw The Night of the Generals and refused to believe that the upright Major Grau could be played by the same man who played the evil Colorado.

In the many years since my teens, I have seen many more of Omar Sharif’s films. I’ve seen him play everyone from a Mongol warrior (Genghis Khan) to a Russian doctor (Dr Zhivago), an Armenian king (The Fall of the Roman Empire), a German officer (The Night of the Generals), an Arab tribal leader (Lawrence of Arabia)… and a Spanish prince.

Omar Sharif as Prince Rodrigo in More Than a Miracle

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I Soliti Ignoti (1958)

When I think of I Soliti Ignoti (literally, The Usual Unknown Thieves, though the English title of the film is Big Deal on Madonna Street), this is one of the scenes that comes to mind: one evening, a pawnshop is about to close for the day. A thief’s decided to hold up the pawnshop and steal all the jewellery in the safe. He arrives at the shop with a pistol in his hand, a newspaper draped over it.

When the last customer at the counter has gone, the thief steps up to the counter, points the gun at the man behind the counter and says, “Do you know it?”—indicating the gun.
The man behind the counter reaches over, grabs the gun, and has a quick look at it before saying, “Sure I know it. It’s a small calibre Beretta, in very poor condition. One thousand lira.”
When the thief stands there, gaping, the man adds, impatiently: “Well?!”
The thief snatches his gun back and leaves the pawnshop, too disgruntled to bother holding it up.

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