Son of the Sheik, The (1926)

“Like all youths, he loved a dancing girl. Like all dancing girls, she tricked him.”

Synopsis:
The son (Rudolph Valentino) of an Arabian sheik (also Valentino) falls in love with a dancer (Vilma Banky) whose father (George Fawcett) and his cronies are thieves. When young Ahmed (Valentino) is mistakenly led to believe Banky seduced him as a front for her father’s gang, he feels terribly betrayed, and kidnaps her in revenge.

Genres:

Review:
The Son of the Sheik — notable as one of Hollywood’s first sequels — was released just two weeks after Rudolph Valentino’s premature death from appendicitis at the age of 31, and was one of his biggest hits with audiences; it’s now widely considered by critics to be his best film. Indeed, it shows clear evidence of how far Valentino’s acting range had evolved since his laughably one-dimensional performance in The Sheik (1921) (which consisted of little more then leers and melodramatic eyebrow-raising); here, playing both the Sheik and his son, his expressions are much subtler — it’s not just the elder Sheik’s graying hair that allows us to differentiate between father and son. Meanwhile, the original film’s disturbing premise of love borne from captivity has been replaced by a refreshingly mutual attraction between young Valentino and Banky; their sexual chemistry together is palpable, and makes for enjoyable eye candy. With all that said, The Son of the Sheik is ultimately little more than escapist fare; the fact that it’s more palatable than its awful predecessor isn’t saying a whole lot. However, I am recommending it as a “must see” title to film fanatics, simply to see Valentino in his final role.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Rudolph Valentino in dual roles as the Sheik and his son

  • Plenty of sexual chemistry between Valentino and Banky
  • Fine cinematography

Must See?
Yes, simply to see Valentino in his last — and arguably his best — role(s).

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One Response to “Son of the Sheik, The (1926)”

  1. A once-must: FFs probably need to see Valentino in *something*, and it might as well be this.

    First viewing, and rather in agreement with the assessment. The bottom line about the film itself is that it’s not much. However…I was unaware that Valentino doubled as sheik and sheik’s father. It’s to his credit that he pulls that off as well as he does. Valentino is a bit less impressive (to me) as the son – though, midway, he takes on a certain unexpected fierceness. In fact, the most shocking moment (for its time) comes when Banky tells the son that she hates him; he slowly moves towards her, notices tears that seem to protest too much (?), and pulls her into his arms for lustful abandon. (In the next scene, we’re to believe he has just practically raped her, I suppose – but that’s stopped short of anything but suggestion.)

    Personally, I was still rather bored with the film. And I admit defeat regarding Valentino’s ‘It’ quality – unless, at that time, there simply wasn’t another actor with his particular kind of charisma. It’s just a little lost on this ff.

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