On July 23, 1960, Syrian Television was inaugurated in Damascus, during the years of the Syrian-Egyptian Union. Duraid Lahham was among the earliest actors in Syrian Television, hired by its first director, Dr Sabah Qabbani, to act alongside Nihad Qali, a famous name from Syrian theatre, in a mini-series called Sahret Dimashq (Damascus Evening). In it, Lahham played the role of Carlos Miranda, a Spanish clown living in Old Damascus. Lahham played Carlos in this show, and another called al-Ijaza al-Sa'ida (The Happy Holiday). Carlos was a funny character, but failed to achieve for Lahham the popularity he desired, and he abandoned it early on to play Ghawar al-Tawsheh, a local clown from Damascus, in a comedy series called Maqalib Ghawar (Ghawar's Pranks) in 1965. Lahham and Qali created an Arabic version of Laurel and Hardy, and performed in three television shows that became instant classics throughout the Arab world. He played the role of Ghawar, a slapstick clown, rascal, and prankster who resorts to ludicrous pranks in order to attain his desires in life: a woman he loves, a job, money, and a chance to sing at a local café, and much more. His aspirations are always hampered by Qali, who plays the role of Husni al-Burazan, a decent and peaceful man who is kindhearted and who always puts up with the madness of Ghawar, often resulting in physical, financial, and moral suffering. “Doreid & Nihad” as they were known, were the stars of a TV series Sah al-Nawm (Good Morning) in 1971, in which Ghawar tries in vain to win the heart of a woman that is in love with Burazan. A heartbroken Ghawar tries to kill Burazan, implicate him in robbery, and bankrupt him. When all else fails, he gives his beloved a dose of special medicine that makes her lose her memory and stop loving Burazan (Qali). The show was so popular that Lahham produced a sequel in 1973, and made a movie carrying the same title. The evil yet lovable Ghawar quickly became a household name in Syria and throughout the Arab world. Ghawar the prankster continued to appear on television until 1981, when Lahham replaced him with Ghawar the good citizen, who is often overpowered by strong and powerful men in society, and almost always, defeated. In a sense, the new Ghawar took on the characteristics of Husni al-Burazan, and appeared as such in Kasak Ya Watan (Cheers to the Homeland) in 1978, and Wadi al-Misk (The Misk Valley) in 1981. The last time the good Ghawar appeared on TV was in 1998, in a long series called Awdet Ghawar (The Return of Ghawar) that was a combination of drama and comedy. In 1987, Lahham created the character of Wadud, a replica of the good Ghawar only under a different name, for the film al-Hudud (The Border). Wadud appeared again in Kafroun in 1990, and is currently being played by Lahham in his new movie al-Aba'e al-Sighar (The Small Fathers), which is due for filming in 2005. The humble, kind, and defeated Ghawar, or Wadud, was a reflection of the humble, kind, and defeated Arab citizen, who is overpowered by regional and international circumstances, and is unable, and unwilling, to say no to his fate, accepting it rather sluggishly. Ghawar in the cinema only assumed serious and political traits when in 1981, Lahham made Imbaratoriyyat Ghawar (The Empire of Ghawar). In it, Ghawar plays the role of a man who saves a neighborhood, symbolically representing a state, from the rivalries of two men quarrelling for power. He defeats them both, claiming to want equality and freedom for all, but no sooner are they toppled than he sets himself up as a dictator instead, imposing his will on everyone, with force, and employing an army of henchmen who steal, kill, and terrorize the people to maintain his "regime."

As for Ghawar, he continued to be an all-time favorite in all of Lahham's works, and is considered today the most popular fictional character in the 20th century throughout the Arab World. In the cinema, Lahham played Ghawar in comedies like al-Muzayafun (The Imposters), Ghawar James Bond, and Ghawar La'eb al-Kura (Ghawar the Football Player). In the 1960s, he played a more civil and modern Ghawar in classics with prominent Egyptian actors like Maryam Fakhr al-Din in al-Sa'alik (The Crooks), Najla' Fathi and Najwa Fou'ad in al-Sadikan (The two Friends), Kamal al-Shinnawi in al-Rajul al-Munasib (The Appropriate Man), Nelli in al-Luss al-Zarif (The Nice Thief), Shadia in Khayyat lil Sayyidat (Seamstress for Women), and Nabila Obeid in Misk wa Anbar (Misk & Anbar) and al-Nassaben al-Thalatha (The Three Crooks), where they played alongside Farid Shawki. Misk wa Anbar, which also stars the famous Egyptian actress Nahid Sharif, was an adaptation of the 1969 Hollywood classic Hello Dolly, staring Barbara Streisand. He acted with the famed Lebanese singer Sabah in Funduk al-Ahlam (The Dream Hotel), al-Millionara (The Millionaire) and Uqd al-Lulu (The Pearl Necklace), which also included the Syrian singer Fahd Ballan. In the 1990s, Lahham negotiated making a movie with Adil Imam, the giant of Egyptian comedy, called Watan fi al-Alali (A Homeland Up High), but the idea never materialized. He also made numerous movies with prominent Syrian actors, including Wahid za'ed wahid (One plus one) with Talhat Hamdi, Gharam fi Istanbul (Love in Istanbul) with Rafiq Sibayi, Imra'a Taskun wahdiha (A Woman Lives on Her Own) with Anwar al-Baba, and Indama Taghib al-Zawjat, with Abd al-Latiff Fathi, his co-star from the TV series, Sah al-Nawm. His most memorable movies are al-Hudud (The Border), al-Takrir (The Report), and Kafroun. The first, produced in 1987, starred Lahham and the Egypt-based Syrian actress Raghda. It told the story of an Arab voyager, who loses his passport between two Arab countries, and is forced to camp on the borderline, where neither country agrees to let him in. The movie, written by political playwright Mohammad al-Maghout, was a sharp criticism of the current Arab regimes, that preach Arab unity, yet are far from achieving it when a passport forbids an Arab citizen from moving about freely in the Arab World, causing him in fact, to lose his own country and identity as well. At a film festival in Egypt, the movie was so popular that movie-goers coined Lahham "the Arabic Charlie Chaplin." The second film al-Takrir, also starring Raghdad, is about an honest civil servant who refuses to be bribed, and is forced out of office by his corrupt seniors. He refuses to give in, and rather, decides to present a report about all the wrongs taking place in the Arab world, to his leaders. When he goes to confront them at a football match, he intrudes on the players, is caught between both teams, and stomped to death. His prized report is destroyed, and its papers scattered on the soccer field, unread. The last film was a touching comedy-drama, called Kafroun starring Lahham and a group of children, made in 1990.
 

Following the Arab defeat in the Arab-Israeli War of 1967, Lahham moved into theater and applied constructive criticism and political satire to his work, abandoning the traditional comedies he had made in the 1960s and early 1970s. He joined Mohammad al-Maghout, a political playwright, and began performing plays that criticized Arab inefficiency, weaknesses, corruption, and poverty. Lahham’s first show was called Masrah al-Shawq (Theater of Thorns) and it consisted of naive, primitive political comedy, but was greatly welcomed by Arab audiences. Authorities in Syria wanted to arrest Lahham for his “hidden meanings,” however the then-Defense Minister Hafez al-Asad refused, claiming that Lahham must be allowed to speak as he pleased. Lahham, Qali, and Maghout created an excellent team, dividing the plot, dialogue, and acting among themselves, while making the famed TV director Khaldun al-Maleh the director of all of their plays. The plays of Duraid Lahham became the only outlet for marginal political criticism and relief in the Middle East throughout the 1970s and 1980s. His popularity soared, not only in Syrian but in many other Arab countries as well. He toured the Arab world with four plays Day’at Tishreen (October Village), dealing with the Arab-Israeli War of 1973; Ghorba (Alienation), dealing with Arab immigration to the West; and Kasak ya Watan (Cheers to the Homeland), which was performed in 1979. The last play shows Ghawar as an Arab citizen who has great pride in the Arab people and who is forced to abandon his nationalist emotions because he is humiliated in his country. In Lahham’s own words, “it is a play about the death of relations between citizens and their country.” In it, the protagonist’s daughter dies due to poor health services and negligence on the behalf of public service doctors. Moreover, he is forced to sell his remaining male children to earn a living. Eventually, he is arrested on false charges by his country’s intelligence service and, when released, sells the medals of his father, a war-hero who was killed in battle against Israel, to purchase alcohol. He resorts to drinking heavily, saying that this is the best way for him to forget that he is an Arab living in miserable conditions. Lahham’s next work was Shaka’ik al-Nu’man (Anemones), a sequel to the 1974 Day’at Tishreen, was his last collaboration with Maghout. In it, Lahham demonstrates that Arabs, just like anemones, die if they are uprooted from their homeland. He calls on Arabs living abroad to return in order to build a better future for Arab generations. The play is interesting since it portrays the confused Arab world Lahham was living in, where the past is mixed with the present, and where the dead talk, interact, and work, with the living. Leaders throughout the Arab world received Lahham when performing each show. He even toured the Americas, performing to the large Arab émigré communities. In 1992, Lahham made his final two plays, al-Usfura al-Sa'ida (The Happy Bird), a children's show with the ballerina Bernadette Hudayb, and Sani' al-Matar (The Rainmaker), an Arabic version of The Rainmaker by Richard Nash. Both were written and directed by Lahham. In his 60s, Lahham would perform two shows every day, one in the early afternoon for children, and one in the evening for adults. He finally retired from stage acting in 1993, claiming that “the big issues have collapsed” and that Arab audiences were not eager to listen to the issues he dealt with in the 1970s. He continues to act on television, however, and in the cinema.

Complete filmography

 

- Cinema

  • 1.Ghawar La'eb al-Kura (Ghawar the Football Player): Doreid & Nihad, Tarub.

  • 2. Ukd al-Lulu (The Pearl Necklace): Doreid & Nihad, Sabah, Fahd Ballan.

  • 3. Al-Lus al-Zarif (The Nice Thief): Doreid & Nihad, Nelli, Muna Wasif.

  • 4. Al-Sa'alik (The Crooks): Doreid & Nihad, Maryam Fakhr al-Din.

  • 5. Al-Sadikan (The Two Friends): Doreid & Nihad, Najla' Fathi, Samir Ghanem, Najwa Fou'ad.

  • 6. Al-Sheridan (The Two Homeless Men): Doreid & Nihad.

  • 7. Al-Millionera (The Millionaire): Doreid & Nihad, Sabah.

  • 8. Gharam fi Istanbul (Love in Istanbul): Doreid & Nihad, Rafiq Sibayi.

  • 9. Maqlab min al-Maksik (A Prank from Mexico): Doreid & Nihad, Hala Shawkat.

  • 10. Lika' fi Tadmur (Rendezvous in Palmyra): Doreid & Nihad.

  • 11. Al-Rajul al-Munasib (The Right Man): Doreid,  Nihad, Kamal al-Shinnawi & Nadia Lutfi.

  • 12. Fundok al-Ahlam (The Dream Hotel): Doreid & Nihad, Sabah.

  • 13. Wahid Za'ed Wahid (One plus One): Doreid & Nihad, Talhat Hamdi, Suhayr al-Murshidi.

  • 14. Al-Nassaben al-Thalatha (The Three Crooks): Doreid & Nihad, Nabila Obeid, Farid Shawki.

  • 15. Khayyat lil Sayyidat (A Seamstress for Women): Doreid & Nihad, Shadia.

  • 16. Misk wa Anbar (Misk & Anbar): Doreid & Nihad, Ahmad Ramzi, Nabila Obeid, Nahid Sharif.

  • 17. Al-Muzayafun (The Imposters): Doreid & Nihad, Sabah Jaza'iri.

  • 18. Al-Tha'lab (The Fox): Doreid & Nihad, Nawal Abu al-Futuh.

  • 19. Zawjati min al-Hippez (My Hippie Wife): Doreid & Nihad, Huwayda.

  • 20. Ana Antar (I am Antar): Doreid & Nihad.

  • 21. Imra'a Taskun Wahdiha (A Women Lives on Her Own): Doreid & Nihad.

  • 22. Sah al-Nawm (Good Morning): Doreid & Nihad, Abd al-Latiff Fathi.

  • 23. Ghawar James Bond: Doreid & Nihad, Naji Jabr, Sabah Jaza'iri.    

  • 24. Indama Taghib al-Zawjat (When Wives are Absent): Doreid & Nihad, Liz Sarkisian.

  • 25. Samak bala Hasak (Fish with no Skeleton): Doreid, Walid Tawfiq, Sabah Jaza'iri.

  • 26. Imbaratoriyyat Ghawar (The Empire of Ghawar): Doreid, Naji Jabr, Hani al-Rumani.

  • 27. Al-Hudud (The Border): Doreid & Raghda, Hani al-Rumani.

  • 28. Al-Takrir (The Report): Doreid & Raghda, Muna Wasif.

  • 29. Kafroun (Kafroun): Doreid, Madeline Tabr.

- Theatre

  • 1. Ukd al-Lulu (The Pearl Necklace) (1966): Doreid & Nihad.

  • 2. Masrah al-Shawk (The Thorn Theatre) (1968): Doreid & Nihad, Rafiq Sibayi, Omar Hajjo.

  • 3. Qadiyyah wa Haramiyya (A Cause and Thieves) (1972): Doreid & Nihad, Falimon Wahbe.

  • 4. Day'at Tishreen (October Village) (1974): Doreid & Nihad, Yasser al-Azma, Usama al-Rumani, Malak Sukkar, Sabah Jaza'iri.

  • 5. Ghorba (Alienation) (1976): Doreid & Nihad, Yasser al-Azma, Samia & Sabah Jaza'iri.

  • 6. Kasak ya Watan (Cheers to the Homeland) (1978): Doreid & Sabah Jaza'iri.

  • 7. Shaka'ik al-Nu'man (Anemones) (1987): Doreid, Yusuf Hanna, Salma al-Masri.

  • 8. Sani' al-Matar (The Rainmaker) (1992): Doreid & Bernadette Hudayb.

  • 9. Al-Asfura al-Sa'ida (The Happy Bird) (1992): Doreid & Bernadette Hudayb.

- T.V

  • 1. Al-Ijaza al-Sa'ida (The Happy Holiday) (1960): Doreid & Nihad.

  • 2. Sahret Dimashq: (Damascus Evening) (1960): Doreid & Nihad.

  • 3. Maqalib Ghawar (Ghawar's Pranks) (1966): Doreid & Nihad, Rafiq Sibayi.

  • 4. Hammam al-Hana (Pleasant Bath) (1968): Doreid & Nihad, Rafiq Sibayi.

  • 5. Sah al-Nawm (Good Morning) (1971): Doried & Nihad, Naji Jabr, Najah Hafeez, Yassen Bakkush, Abd al-Latif Fathi.

  • 6. Sah al-Nawm (part 2) (1972): Doreid & Nihad, Naji Jabr, Yassen Bakkush, Abd al-Latif Fathi, Sabah Jaza'iri.

  • 7. Melh wa Sukkar (Salt & Sugar) (1972): Doreid & Nihad, Naji Jabr, Yassen Bakkush, Abd al-Latif Fathi, Sabah Jaza'iri.

  • 8. Wayn al-Ghalat (Where is the Error?) (1980): Doreid, Naji Jabr, Yassen Bakkush, Samia al-Jaza'iri, Omar Hajjo.

  • 9. Wadi al-Misk (Misk Valley) (1982): Doreid, Naji Jabr, Rafiq Sibayi, Muna Wassif, Omar Hajjo.

  • 10: Al-Doghri (The Doghri) (1991): Doreid, Jeyana Eid, Jamal Sulayman, Marah Jabr, Yusuf Hanna, Khalid Taja.

  • 11. Ahlam Abu al-Hana (The Dreams of Abu al-Hana) (1994): Doreid & Faris al-Helu.

  • 12. Awdet Ghawar (The Return of Ghawar) (1999): Doreid, Naji Jabr.

  • 13. A'ilati wa Ana (My Family and I) (2001): Doreid & Salma al-Masri.

  • 14. Ala Mas'uliyati (On My Responsibility) (2002)

  • 15. Alam Doreid (Doreid's World).

  • 16. Doreid haza al-Mas'a (Doreid this Evening).