Mr. Sharif was born on 10 April 1932, as Michel Demetri Chalhoub in Alexandria, Epypt to a Melkite Greek Catholic family of Syrian-Lebanese descent. He had dark, brooding good looks of indistinct variety, making it possible for him to play characters of various ethic backgrounds throughout his long career. His was the Ottomon ruler Sharif Ali in "Lawrence," a Russian in "Doctor Zhivago," the Mongol Ghenghis Khan in the movie of the same name, the Argentine rebel Che Guevera in "Che!" and an American in the film version of the musical "Funny Girl" and its sequel, "Funny Lady."
The last-named films provide his link to Broadway. He played the charismatic cad Nicky Arnstein, who seduces and marries comedienne Fanny Brice (Barbra Streisand), then breaks her heart over his crooked business schemes. In the first film, they sing the duet "You Are Woman" from the Broadway score.
Sharif began his acting career in his native Egypt, appearing in several films in the ‘50s and early ‘60s. "Lawrence" was his first English-language film and it made him famous. Director David Lean turned to him again when he was casting "Doctor Zhivago." He was nominated for a Golden Globe for both pictures, and an Oscar for the first. He won the Golden Globe for both "Lawrence" and "Zhivago."
Other films included "Behold a Pale Horse," "The Yellow Rolls-Royce," "Marco the Magnificent," "The Poppy Is Also a Flower," "The Night of the Generals," "More Than a Miracle," "Mayerling," "Mackenna’s Gold," "The Last Valley," and "Ashanti." He was quite busy throughout the ‘60s but the quality of the roles he was offered fell off sharply in the 1970s.
Added to the exotic, international air of a celebrity, Mr. Sharif had a second career as an expert Bridge player. At one point, he was ranked among the world’s 50 best bridge players, and wrote a syndicated column about the card game for the Chicago Tribune. He also wrote several books on the game. An avid gambler, he was a regular figure in the casinos of France. He is survived by his son Tarek Sharif.