The Sheik – 1921 Silent Movie
The Sheik is considered one of the epic films of the silent movie era. The story is based on a bestselling romantic novel of the same name written by Edith Hull. The film was produced by Famous Players-Lasky Corporation and directed by George Melford. In the movie, Rudolph Valentino stars as Sheik Ahmed Ben Hassan, and Agnes Ayres is Lady Diana Mayo. The other actors are Ruth Miller, George Waggner, Frank Butler, Charles Brinley, Lucien Littlefield, Adolphe Menjou, and Walter Long.
The movie starts with Lady Diana Mayo refusing a proposal of marriage, as she wants to be independent. She secretly plans to travel to the desert unescorted, for a month. When Diana visits a local casino, she is no permitted entry as a sheik is holding a party. She is annoyed but is also curious at the same time, and disguises herself as a dancer to gain entrance. To her dismay, she finds inside that Arabs are gambling to win wives, and she is chosen as one of the prizes. In the commotion that ensues, Sheik Hassan intervenes, finds the dancer to be a white woman, and is quite amused. He was in fact hired to escort her the next day into the desert. The Sheik is intrigued by Diana, and without her knowing enters her room and removes the bullets from her revolver.
Next day Diana rides out alone into the desert and the Sheik and his men kidnap her, and bring her to their encampment where she is ordered around by the Sheik. He makes her follow the Arab customs and does not allow her to be dressed as a westerner. Diana attempts to escape, and is nearly killed, but the Sheik manages to save her, and wants her to love him. During this time, the Sheik is visited by his doctor friend from Paris, Raoul Hubert. Diana is shocked to be before a westerner in Arab clothing, and Raoul reprimands the Sheik for his callous treatment of Diana, which makes him return her western clothing. Later when a man is injured, Diana is concerned that it might be the Sheik, and hearing this Sheik is happy, returns her revolver, and allows her to enter the desert.
Diana tries another escape and tries to join a caravan, which is actually belonging to Omair, who is a bandit. However, the Sheik again rescues her, and tells his friend Raoul that he is love with her. Omair then captures Diana and tries to force himself on her, but is saved by the Sheik again. However, in the fight, the Sheik is seriously injured, and Diana starts to take care of him. She also comes to know that Hassan is not an Arab by birth, but was born to western parents. When the Sheik recovers, Diana confesses that she loves him.
The Sheik was made on a grand scale in the actual desert with numerous cast members riding on camels. The presence of Rudolph Valentino made it even more appealing, as he was a heartthrob of the times and the movie was a huge success. Even though the storyline is typical of the silent movie era, it is still appreciated by movie buffs.