Sunday, July 28, 2013

Silent Sundays: Desert Nights (1929)


“Play the game with me - diamonds and youth. The world is ours.”

            I am fascinated with Ancient Egypt, I have been ever since I was little. As I grew up I always wondered how the Egyptians were able to live out in the desert with scorching temperatures. Even in films that take place in a desert I cannot understand why the characters would want to be somewhere in the desert or how they survive. I get thirsty just watching the characters trying to make it in through sand and heat. Desert Nights is a silent where three people get stuck in the desert after their guides abandon them and they have to try to get to water before they die of heat and thirst.  
            Hugh Rand (John Gilbert) is down in Africa mining diamonds with a large company. He receives a note that a named Lord Stonehill and his daughter Diana are coming to visit the mine from England. Hugh and the men think Diana will be hideous. Lord Stonehill and Diana arrive. She is wearing a veil. When Diana removes her veil Hugh sees she is a beautiful young woman. She is the first woman he has seen in three years. At dinner that night Lord Stonehill is talking but neither Diana nor Hugh are listening to him they are looking and talking to each other. When they are done with dinner Lord Stonehill plays the piano while Hugh and Diana are outside dancing.
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            The next day Hugh takes Stonehill and Diana to see some diamonds in the rough. He puts the diamonds on his desk and he turns his back for a moment to look at a cable. For the moment his back is turned Stonehill and Diana pack the diamonds on their persons. The cable Hugh reads is to notifying him that Lord Stonehill and his daughter have been delayed. Hugh tries to get help but the man claiming to be Stonehill holds him up and tells him he will be coming with them so he cannot talk.
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            The party is out in the desert. Some of the men cannot stand being in the desert and taking orders. They get their cut of the diamonds and leave. They also take the barrel of water. Hugh has been tied to the inside of a caravan by his hands and feet lying flat on his stomach. He sees and hears that Diana and Stonehill have given the men glass pieces while they have the real diamonds. Even the African men who were the guides through the desert have left them. Hugh manages to get out of his ropes. He is their only chance to make it out of the desert alive. Steve, the imposter thief’s real name, makes Diana get Hugh’s help. Hugh plays to Diana by telling her they can take the diamonds and runaway together.
            One of Steve’s men comes back. He says the watering hole has been poisoned and that two others have already died. Steve confesses he poisoned the watering hole so there would be no pursuit. Hugh and Steve make a truce that they will work together until the next watering hole. After hours of walking in the intense heat they come to a watering hole. Unfortunately the water is salt water. Vultures are flying over head. Diana panics. That night she begs Hugh for water but he tells her her charm and beauty that captivated him at first is now gone. The oxen pulling the caravan drank the salt water and die. Now they have to walk through the scorching desert by foot.
            Diana faints from the extreme heat and thirst. Hugh and Steve are about to give up when they see a group of trees meaning there is water. There is a water fall and small pool. Steve and Diana want to drink as much as they can but Hugh stops them because if they drink too much at once they will get sick and die. Feeling better, Diana suggest to Steve that whenever they make it back they should surrender themselves. Steve holds a gun to Diana and Hugh and walks away. Hugh shows Diana that he has the diamonds and that he also has one prisoner.
            Steve comes upon what he first thinks is a fort when two men bring him to the gate. He sees the sign on the gate is the sign of the diamond mine where everything began. Hugh is there waiting for him along with the real Stonehill and his daughter. The real Stonehill tells Hugh he can decide Diana’s fate. Hugh sets her free but wants her to marry him.
            I liked John Gilbert in this film. He did not play the outrageous romantic character he played in his previous films. He played a normal man. Gilbert looked amazing in the desert scenes. He had a beard, his hair was a mess, and he was all sweaty and dirty. I could not stop looking at him in those scenes!

            I have no idea why this film is called Desert Nights when only one scene of the film takes place at night but it does not take away from the plot. The story was a bit different and it was not overly dramatic and romantic. The scenes in the desert are tense. You feel so worried for the characters even though Diana and Steve are the bad guys. You want them to make it out alive. I have to admit I was getting thirsty watching them walking around in the heat and sand! Desert Nights is not available to view on Youtube but it is available on DVD through the Warner Archives collection.