I read the other day that Ridley Scott wants to make a biopic of Gertrude Bell. Fantastic! Can’t wait to see it. Who the heck is Gertrude Bell, you ask? I first learned about her from reading a biography by Janet Wallach called, The Desert Queen (1996,2005). A spinster from an upper-class British family, she lived an extraordinary life (1868-1926) as a brilliant student, a cartographer of the Arabian Desert, friend to Lawrence of Arabia and advisor to Sir Winston Churchill.
By 1915, she was hired as the only female officer of British intelligence called “Major Miss Bell”. Her political savvy helped create Iraq as we know it today. Here’s a more recent biography of Gertrude by Georgina Howell (2007).
As an adventurer and explorer, her pre-war 1914 travels and documentation of Arabia gained strategic significance by World War I. What is it about her that’s remarkable? That she learned Arabic? That she criss-crossed the Arabian desert at the turn of the twentieth century with only her devoted servant? That she lived in tents, rode camels, communicated with the nomadic Turks and sheiks? That they respected her opinion and thought of her as a nobility? That she thrived in a male world when she could have been serving tea in an English parlor? Her intelligence and fearlessness inspires me.
If you are curious about this military strategist and British scholar, check out the following PBS website devoted to T.E. Lawrence.
Remember Peter O’Toole as Lawrence of Arabia? The 1962 film won seven Oscars including Best Picture. No wonder Ridley Scott is licking his chops to feature Gertrude Bell. Before Scott comes out with the film, I recommend reading one of the biographies. Hmm. Who would play the role of Gertrude? Can’t wait to find out.