Rudolph Valentino. You would think that I would get tired of talking about him and yet here he is again. This time I am covering the two most defining films in his filmography: The Sheik and the Son of the Sheik (you have to wait for the nail-biting sequel to this review for a whole week. How will you survive?). The Sheik made Valentino a bonified star and established his reputation as a smiling exotic man. The Son of the Sheik was the last film he made before he died at the age of 31 (sob). The beginning and the end… how poetic.
The Sheik centers around a young uppity girl who wants to take her immense wealth and explore the Sahara all on her own with only natives guiding her (gasp!). Her brother staunchly against this adventure implores her not to undertake such a manly pursuit, but instead she ignores his advice. She sets off and gets kidnapped within minutes of her camel reaching the desert. But she is kidnapped by the hunkiest man alive, The Sheik. He takes her to his luxurious tent and keeps her in order to tame her. But damn it she is being uppity again. She tries to escape, she tries to fight back, but she just can’t escape his burly arms, his charming smile and his ability to stop sand storms. Other things happen that complicate things, she learns that he is half English (which makes him okay to fall in love with.), and she falls madly in love with him. Thus she is tamed and her life is complete.
Now I have many times taken films to task for having overtly sexist tones to it, and I am sure that you are tired of hearing about it. I am going to take this film as an artifact from a very different time and move on from the normal chiding. Plenty of people have written about these themes and they do a much better job at it, so I suggest you seek them out on your own.
It is easy to see why so many women fell in love with Valentino while watching this film. There is a scene in his tent right after he kidnaps her for the first time that is quite sexy. He also exhibited such finesse in his many action sequences that I wanted to be rescued by him. However this film does show its age quite clearly. Everything was done on a set and feels quite stagey, despite Valentino’s great efforts to transcend the sets. The morals of the film are also quite questionable. (Really the best way to woo a woman is to kidnap her?) But it was still effective in its storytelling and quipped along at a fast pace.
Stay tuned to next week when I reveal what I think about the Son of the Sheik. It will be quite scandalous!