TCM’s Silent Sundays gives us access to a plethora of great silent films.
The Sheik was the film that propelled Rudolph Valentino into super stardom as the first sex god of the screen. Watching it the other evening, I was reminded by how much was not shown in these old films. Sure, you get some scandalous stuff in early films bearing see through shirts and underwater scenes with a well placed branch… but what you get in The Sheik is a drawn curtain, and an assumption. The assumption of rape.
A no holds barred storyline has the Sheik holding an English beauty Lady Diana( Agnes Ayres) captive, and pretty much doing whatever he wants with her. We’re only given glimpses of the relationship through some horrific close-ups of Valentino’s eyes, and the dismay felt by the close friend of the Sheik’s (Adolphe Menjou) when he sees the savagery the Sheik has succumbed to. Every thing else is behind the scenes. So behind the scenes in fact that we’re hardly given the idea that Lady Diana is indeed falling in love with her captor, and as all good Classic Hollywood films go the truth is finally revealed at the end.
Valentino died at 31, his last film The Son of the Sheik had him in dual roles as son and father. His death caused riots and suicides. If you want to see what the commotion of Valentino was all about make sure to catch him on TCM this month.