SON OF THE SHEIK, THE (director: George Fitzmaurice; screenwriters: novel by Edith Maude Hull/Frances Marion/Fred de Gresac; cinematographer: George Barnes; cast: Rudolph Valentino (Ahmed/The Sheik), Vilma Banky (Yasmin), John Fawcett (Andre), Montague Love (Ghabah), Karl Dane (Ramadan), Agnes Ayres (Diana); Runtime: 68; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: John W. Considine, Jr.; United Artist; 1926-silent)
“It dated badly, but is worth seeing as an historical curio that shows how far we have come and far we must still go to overcome our stereotyped conceptions of Arabs.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Rudolph Valentino died suddenly of an appendicitis at the age of 31 just before the film was released.This was Valentino’s last film. It was considered by many his best because of the solid action scenes and Valentino was less stiff than usual. But it’s still a vulgar romantic adventure pic, that promotes a love story that’s too ridiculous to fall in love with.
George Fitzmaurice (“Suzy”/”Raffles”/”Lilac Time”)directs this sequel to The Sheik, which was made five years earlier and was the pulp film that propelled Valentino to legendary stardom as the Latin Lover. Writers Frances Marion and Fred de Gresac adapt it from the novel by Edith Maude Hull. When viewed today, it seems to be mind-boggling to see what made it so popular. It’s filled with racist attitudes and Valentino playing a sheik who is only Hollywood real. Because of its incorrect take on Arabs, its absurd storyline and its hammy acting, it’s not an intelligent film; yet many viewers found it entertaining as a tongue-in-cheek satire on romance and on life in the desert. It’s entertaining as escapist fare. It was the biggest hit of Valentino’s career. The Latin Lover has a dual role as the stern sheik father (English born, Sahara bred) and as his headstrong romantic son Ahmed.
The desert scenes were filmed on location in the deserts of Yuma, Arizona.
The son of the powerful local sheik, Ahmed (Rudolph Valentino), falls in love with a bejeweled Arab dancing girl named Yasmin (Vilma Banky), the daughter of a French thief (John Fawcett) living in the desert south of Algiers, who partners with a more ruthless thief named Ghabah (Montagu Love)–a boorish Moor who Yasmin’s father arranged for her to marry.
While necking with Yasmin in the desert ruins, Ghabah’s minions abduct Ahmed and torture him while holding him for ransom. Ahmed escapes and wants revenge, believing Yasmin betrayed him to Ghabah’s gang by acting as bait. Ahmed returns to Touggourt, the gambling hall where Yasmin dances, and kidnaps Yasmin, taking her to his desert camp. When Ahmed’s father discovers Yasmin as a captive in his son’s camp, he insists his son do the right thing by freeing her before he ravages her. On the way home, Ghabah overtakes her escort Ramadan (Karl Dane). The loyal servant of Ahmed overhears Ghabah tell Yasmin that he poisoned Ahmed’s mind by telling him she was a betrayer who worked with the gang to lure rich sheiks, because he loves her and was jealous that she fell in love with another. The exciting climax has Ahmed go to Touggourt to rescue Yasmin from the abusive den of thieves and is later joined by his father, as father and son win a swashbuckling fight with too many Arabs to count.
It dated badly, but is worth seeing as an historical curio that shows how far we have come and far we must still go to overcome our stereotyped conceptions of Arabs.
REVIEWED ON 7/26/2011 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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