Thomas was a man ahead of his time: the first roving newscaster,
a film maker through the 1920s, a radio presenter in the 1930s,
an adventurer who wrote more than 50 books, he was heralded as
the father of 'Cinerama'.
Born in 1892, Lowell Thomas started out as a reporter for the Chicago Evening Journal. He had a flair for making ordinary stories exciting.
Inspired by the growing art of documentary film, Thomas dreamed of filming the war in Europe. He raised $50,000 from Chicago businessmen and headed for France accompanied by his wife and a talented cameraman, Harry Chase.
Depressed by the brutality of the war on the Western Front Thomas and Chase set off for the Middle East. They arrived
in time to film General Allenby's historic entry in to Jerusalem. While in Jerusalem they met the man who was to make
them famous, a diminutive British officer in a borrowed uniform called Captain Lawrence.
Lawrence was allegedly introduced to Thomas as the 'Uncrowned King of Arabia'. Thomas and Chase were invited to Feisal's desert camp where they
shot moving and still pictures of Lawrence with the Arabs.
Later both men were to dispute how long the filming had taken, Thomas claiming it was a few weeks, Lawrence said it was only days. Lawrence later claimed he had been "tricked" into being filmed and
photographed; Thomas said he had been a willing model.
Nonetheless, the images of Lawrence in Arabia captivated a public exhausted by the horrors of the 'war to end all wars'.
The romantic and adventurous tales of this "mysterious blue eyed Arab in the garb of a prince wandering the streets" were an
instant hit. Lowell Thomas' screen show showed to packed audiences in New York and then London.
Thomas' planned London run of two weeks was extended and ran for six months. There was even a Royal Command Performance. Allenby turned up to a standing ovation and Thomas later
claimed that even Lawrence had sneaked in for a viewing.
The show went on to Australia, New Zealand, South-East Asia, India and Canada. Over four million people saw it, making Thomas
millions of dollars and turning Lawrence into a movie star. Lawrence at once loved and hated fame and never forgave Thomas for exploiting his image, calling him a 'vulgar man'.
When asked about Lawrence's aversion to celebrity Lowell Thomas quoted an old Turkish saying, "He had a genius for backing into the limelight".
Thomas went on to live an adventurous life, making many more films and radio broadcasts. He was also the first man to film the
Dalai Lama in Tibet.
Thomas died in 1981 in New York at the age of 89.
T.E.Lawrence | Prince
Feisal | General Allenby | King
Hussein | Dahoum | Winston
Churchill | Lowell Thomas | Auda Abu
||Lowell Thomas in the desert circa 1918