Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Son of The Sheik

Dir: George Fitzmaurice - 1926
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 23rd February, 2001
Live piano accompaniment was supplied by Jonathon Hill
“A charming adventure comedy of playful sex and violence” “An eye feast of virile action with colorful settings and glowing climaxes”. “The very picture for which the world’s wife, mother and daughter have been waiting” - The quotes are from contemporary reviews of the smash hit of 1926. The plot concerns the son of the Sheik of the title who is in love with a half French dancer.... but that trivial detail had little to do with the frenzy - this was the latest and greatest appearance of the first international male sex symbol in the form of Rudolph Valentino. Valentino plays both the Sheik and the Son.
Born as Rodolfo Alfonzo Raffaelo Pierre Filibert Guglielmi di Valentina d'Antonguolla in Castellaneta, Italy, the young Rudolph had worked as landscape gardener, dishwasher, waiter, gigolo and exotic dancer. He was spotted by screen writer June Mathis and shot to stardom in “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” in 1921. “The Sheik” (one of the five pictures he made in 1921) established his image as an erotic lover and this follow up, five years later, was the peak of a career that seemed to be set to run and run. Sadly, on 23rd August 1926 Valentino died of a perforated ulcer. He was as successful in death as he had been alive - 80,000 mourners caused a near riot at his New York funeral so a second funeral was staged in California.
Valentino's co-star was the Hungarian Vilma Bánky. She had starred in a series of Hungarian and German films until Samuel Goldwyn brought her to Hollywood. Ms Bánky spoke no English so Goldwyn taught her a phrase to use whenever she spoke to reporters - “Lamp chops and pineapple”. We have no record of her reaction when she found out the deception but she was known as a “strong character”. She made her last film in 1931 but continued to play a mean round of golf until her death at the age of 93 in 1991.

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