The Sheik (1921)
as Sheik Ahmed Ben Hassan
as Diana Mayo
as Raoul de Saint Hubert
as Sir Aubrey Mayo
as Sir Aubrey Mayo
as Mustapha Ali
as Arab Child
Critic Reviews for The Sheik
The film, directed by George Melford, has it both ways as it plays on the western fantasies of exoticism and romanticizes sexual slavery, but presents the Sheik as something of a prankster who treats the whole thing as a joke ...
Landmark film that was never all that hot with a solution so jaw-droppingly racist that it's hard to believe.
Audience Reviews for The Sheik
Dark and swarthy, Valentino (the reputation larger than my experience with his films), playing an Arab, stands over a lily white British woman that he's kidnapped, leering at her quite literally like a maniac. "What do you want," she asks, obviously terrified. "Aren't you woman enough to know," he gloats. And there's the great and mighty reputation in a nutshell. An dark Italian, playing an dark Arab, threatening to rape a white Brit lady. Racist and sexist in equal amounts. He doesn't. Not in the film (he does in the book). He waits until she wants it, but he won't let her go until she does. I was only saddened. No wonder Valentino himself hated the cliché stereotype that made his fortune, imprinted him on the cultural consciousness as the first real movie male sex god. They rioted when he died. Sad. Oh, and the film? Eh.
Agnes Ayres as Diana Mayo was introduced as an adventurous Englishwoman, but in reality she spends most of the time cowering in cliched leading lady fashion. She thinks Rudolph Valentino's Sheik Ahmed is a savage as well as the whole Middle Eastern culture, and she is terrified of hoards of Arabians on horses. Not really up for trying new things. Ahmed may be handsome and have a Paris education (with a French butler and best friend who is a French novelist), but the fact remains that he does kidnap Diana, hold her against her will, and almost rapes her. St. Hubert (Menjou), the novelist, helps to awake Ahmed's conscience. A bandit is introduced who equally wants to take the Englishwoman as property, but who is presented as more brutal and therefore the worse of the two options. Through a bit of romantic fantasy and psychological delusion, Diana begins to fall in love with her captor. Despite the lavish sand dunes, set decorations, and costumes, it really is a racist kind of story with a romance that shouldn't happen. In the end, we find out The Sheik's surprise background and this is supposed to ease further objections. Sorry.
A predictable romance drama, with some adventure. It's pretty good, but the ending was bad if you ask me, I didn't care for it, it was silly.
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