Monday, January 18, 2010

Rudolph Valentino "Son of the Sheik" (1926)

"The Son of the Sheik" (1926) is a silent romantic drama starring the legendary Rudolph Valentino and Vilma Banky. Directed by George Fitzmaurice and adapted from the novel by Edith Maude Hull, this film is a sequel to "The Sheik" (1921), and it casts Valentino in the dual role of the now older Sheik and his son Ahmed. The latter falls in love with dancing girl Yasmin, played by Vilma Banky, the daughter of Andre, a renegade Frenchman and leader of a group of thieves. After meeting with Yasmin secretely one night, Ahmed is captured by her father's group of thieves and held for ransom and tortured for not revealing the name of his father and other information. After being freed by his men, Ahmed, believing that Yasmin has betrayed him, carries her away to his desert tent, and rapes her (not shown, but suggested by wide-eyed close ups). His father Sheik Ahmed Ben Hassan orders him to release the girl. Ahmed begins feeling pangs of remorse for his treatment of Yasmin, especially when he learns she is innocent of all wrongdoing. Ahmed tries to win back Yasmin, but she now wants nothing to do with him.
"The Son of the Sheik" might seem ridiculous to modern audiences, and in many ways it is. However, this film has something, and this something could be described as romanticism. Even though it deals with torture, lying, betrayal, rape, revenge and murder, it absorbs these harsh terms like it has created its own world. "The Son of the Sheik" is less a woman's fantasy or cheap romantic fiction than "The Sheik." It is an action adventure film with romance. It gave Valentino more to do than just look exotic in costumes and makeup. In addition to stirring chases and nocturnal rides across the moonlit desert, there are fights with swords, knives, and fists. Valentino is alive and moving. The film also features many lingering shots and close-ups of Valentino and Banky kissing, nuzzling, and murmuring to each other. Both lovers are attractive and enjoyable to watch. Banky shows great chemistry with Valentino and dances magnificently. Valentino gives a solid performance in his dual role as the hero and as his father. While the film was being made, Valentino was in his prime. No one associated with the film, including its star, could have possibly thought of "The Son of the Sheik" as his swan song. "The Son of the Sheik" was very good entertainment with wide audience appeal. The premiere at Grauman's Million Dollar Theatre was one of Hollywood's most glamorous affairs. A month after the opening of "The Son of the Sheik" in New York City, Valentino died. Thirty thousand of his adoring fans tried to view the body at Broadway and 66th Street. On August 23, 1926, the day of the funeral, there were 100,000 in the streets. Over eighty years after his death, Valentino is still a magic name. As with Marilyn Monroe and James Dean after him, early death ensured his legend. Valentino was not the only Latin Lover of his time-he was simply the most loved.

1 comment:

  1. Silent, I can not believe he died so young. Awesome, review!!


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