SUMURUN (ONE ARABIAN NIGHT) (director/writer: Ernst Lubitsch; screenwriters: Hans Kraly/based on a pantomime by Friedrich Freksa/from the book by Richard Rieß; cinematographer: Theodor Sparkuhi; cast: Pola Negri (Yannaia – a Dancer), Jenny Hasselqvist (Sumurun), Paul Wegener (the old sheik), Ernst Lubitsch (Yeggar – the Hunchback), Aud Egede-Nissen (Haidee), Harry Liedtke (Nur-Al Din), Carl Clewing (the young sheik), Margarete Kupfer (Alte Frau), Jakob Tiedke (Head Eunuch), Paul Biensfeldt (Achmed, the Slave Trader); Runtime: 103; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: ; Kino International; 1920-silent-Germany)
“Just the madcap facial expressions of the hard-working head eunuch, (Jakob Tiedke), the guardian of the harem, makes it worth watching this classic silent from the old country.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The restoration film by the F.W. Murnau Foundation was directed by a young Ernst Lubitsch (“To Be or Not To Be”/”Cluny Brown”/”Heaven Can Wait”) in Berlin. It’s based on the six act pantomime by Friedrich Freksa (which was originally produced by Lubitsch mentor Max Reinhardt) and adapted to the screen by Hans Kraly. It’s a loose and coarse comical farce of the Arabian Nights tales, that features a few romances, a colorful peek inside a sheik’s harem and a climax involving corpses dumped in a clothes bin so the film mixes melodrama with comedy. The risque drama, whose plot is built around sexual attractions, had elaborate sets, a cast of hundreds, exotic Oriental spectacles and high production values. In the U.S. it was released under the title One Arabian Night, and drew big crowds. As a result, the young director was invited by Mary Pickford to work in Hollywood, an invitation he later gladly accepted. The film sets the tone for the kind of breakthrough comedies Lubitsch became known for and his celebrated light artistic touch was a style that greatly influenced American cinema.
The film is set at no known location or time, as it opens with a traveling carnival and a love-sick hunchbacked clown Yeggar, played in slapstick comedy by Lubitsch, who is madly in love with the playful gypsy carnival dancer Yannaia (Pola Negri, Polish actress) despite her rejection of him. The dancer is drawn to the harem of the old mean-spirited despotic sheik (Paul Wegener, noted German director-actor), to be near the young son of the sheik (Carl Clewing). The smitten hunchback follows his love to the harem, brought to the harem by the slave trader (Paul Biensfeldt), and is besides himself when the old sheik kills the unfaithful dancer. The star in the harem is the rebellious Sumurun (Jenny Hasselqvist), the old sheik’s favorite. But she’s in great trouble when she rejects the old sheik to fall in love with a a young charmer traveling clothes merchant (Harry Liedtke).
Just the madcap facial expressions of the hard-working head eunuch, (Jakob Tiedke), the guardian of the harem, makes it worth watching this classic silent from the old country, though some might complain of the outdated clumsy staging and hammy acting.
REVIEWED ON 1/10/2013 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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