Sunday, November 3, 2013

Silent Sundays: The Sheik (1921)


“Marriage is captivity- the end of independence. I am content with my life as it is.”

            Marriage is not something I think about. Hell, I do not even have a boyfriend why on earth would I even want to think of marriage! I guess because I have never really been in a serious relationship I kind of feel the same the character who spoke the quote above. But the poor character actually became a captive in a “marriage” she could and would never see herself wanting to or even seeing herself live through. She was taken away by The Sheik.
            The Sheik Ahmed Ben Hassan (Rudolph Valentino), the leader of a desert tribe, can have his pick of any woman his heart desires. He was unlucky in a latest parade of women. The one he desired was already deeply in love with another man who pleaded with the Sheik to let him have his love. Ahmed did not want to see any of them unhappy so he let the couple stay together.
            Lady Diana Mays is a reckless young Englishwoman. She is holding a farewell party for her friends before she is to head off into the desert with only Arab guides with her. Her solo adventure is all anyone can gossip about in the city. Ahmed comes into the city to entertain Arabs only at the casino. Diana is told that Ahmed is a wealthy tribal prince. She wants to meet him so she has her mad get her a dancer’s costume and sneaks into the party. Ahmed figures Diana out at the party and uncovers her from veil. She tells him she wanted to see the savage who bans her from the casino. He leads her to the door. At the door one of Ahmed’s men tells him that he is to take Diana out into the desert the following day.
            During the nigh Ahmed sneaks into Diana’s room and looks at her things. Diana wakes up feeling a presence in her room. She walks to the balcony that Ahmed has just climbed down and not knowing Ahmed is the one singing listens to him.
            While out in the desert Ahmed and his army storm Diana. He chases her and puts her on his horse when he catches up to her. He takes her back to his tribe. Both Sheik and lady are used to getting what they want and neither are giving into the other’s demands. Ahmed wants to marry her while she wants to go back to the city. That night Diana tries to runaway in a ferocious sand storm. Ahmed manages to catch her and tells her that she would not last an hour out in the storm. Diana replies that she would rather die than stay with him.
            Diana has been with Ahmed for a week when he tells her he is having his old school friend from Paris come to visit him. She is embarrassed that she is to meet someone from her class in the Arab clothes Ahmed has her dressed in and begs for her own clothes. Raoul (Adolphe Menjou), Ahmed’s friend, is upset with him for treating a white woman the way he has been as if he were a savage. Raoul is on Diana’s side and wants to try to help her get back to the city to her people. Ahmed becomes worried about spies from another tribe who may want to steal Diana. He agrees with Raoul that Diana must return to her people so harm will come to her. Diana and Raoul are sitting in the desert waiting to leave. She writes in the sand “Ahmed, I love you.” A shot rings out and Raoul is hit. Omar, the man from the other tribe, has sent his bandit to bring Diana to him.
            Ahmed was walking in the direction of where Diana and Raoul had been. He sees Diana’s message and then looks to the side to see his friend. Ahmed gets some of his men together and heads to Omar’s tribe. He gets there just in time as Omar is struggling to have his way with Diana. In the fight Ahmed is hurt. Back at his tent, Ahmed is asleep with Raoul and Diana watching over him. Raoul tells Diana that Ahmed is the son of an English father and a Spanish mother. They had been lost in the desert when their guide abandoned them. The older Sheik took the family in and had Ahmed take his place when he died. This new bit of information now makes it officially alright for Diana to love The Sheik.

            The Sheik was a very slow moving story. The acting was not that bad. In some scenes the actors definitely hammed it up. If you can get passed those hammy scenes the actors were alright. I can definitely why women in the 1920s were crazy about Valentino he was so handsome as an exotic middle eastern man. I was a little on edge with Diana being held captive beyond her will. At least she was a little tough and stood her ground for a bit until she fell in love with Ahmed. The Sheik is one of those silent films that everyone hears about most likely just because Valentino is in it. I say watch the film only if you really like watching silent/classic films or Valentino. It is definitely not mandatory viewing.