Ratib starred in almost 100 films, both Arabic and French, as well as 'Lawrence of Arabia'
Egyptian-French actor Gamil Ratib dies aged 91
Award-winning Egyptian-French actor Gamil Ratib has passed away at the age of 91. The actor died on Wednesday morning in Cairo’s Anglo-American Hospital following a long battle with illness, his agent confirmed in a statement.
Born in Cairo in 1926, Ratib’s love of performing initially came from French theatre, which he encountered while studying Law and Economy at the University of France, and he embarked on a brief stage while in Paris. His first official film role was an uncredited part in Henri DeCoin’s 1947 Cannes entry Les Amants du Pont Saint-Jean, a tale of forbidden love in a provincial French city. Ratib had previously appeared in an Arabic film version of The Three Musketeers, before moving to France to study, but his parents objected and his scenes were removed.
Ratib was still performing on stage as a member of the Comedie Francais when his big break came – US director Carol Reed cast him alongside Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis in 1956’s box office hit Trapeze, and the actor’s career took off from there.
Ratib went on to appear in almost 100 films, both Arabic and French, in a career that spanned eight decades. Ironically, Ratib is probably best known to many for his role as Majid in David Lean’s 1962, English-language classic Lawrence of Arabia, although his voice was actually dubbed over in that film as his English was considered "not good enough" for the final cut.
Among his most popular Arabic work was Youssef Chahine’s 1985 Wadaan Bonaparte and Sherif Arafa’s 1988 Al-Darga Al-Thalitha. Ratib’s extensive work in the French cinema, in films such as 1957’s L’Aventurier des Champs Elysee and 1967's Peau d’Espion, meanwhile, led to him being awarded the Legion d’Honneur de Grade de Chevalier. He was also awarded a lifetime achievement award at Dubai International Film Festival in 2011, where experimental film maker Gerard Courant, director of 2009's 201-hour Cinematon shot the cinematon-esque tribute above.
Leading names in the Arabic entertainment industry took to social media to pay respects to the screen veteran.
“My sincere condolences to the Egyptian and Arab people for the death of the great artist Gamil Ratib,” said Lebanese pop star Nancy Ajram. “His artistic skills were great and his work can be considered a school of acting.”
Tunisian actress Hend Sabry recalled working with him on the 2008 film The Aquarium. She praised his craft for its "sophistication, simplicity, discipline and culture."
Egyptian actress Zeina Reda also expressed her sorrow on Twitter: "May God have mercy on him."
The Dubai International Film Festival praised Ratib's contribution to Arabic culture: "He was a great artist who gave a lot to Egyptian and Arabic art. He gave to cinema and drama works that will remain in the memory of the Arab viewers wherever they are."
Ratib’s final appearance was in this year’s Hier from Balint Kenyeres. A funeral was held for the actor on Wedesday afternoon at Cairo’s Al-Azhar Mosque.