Son of the Sheik

Valentino's 1921 The Sheik was, even for its time, dated, somewhat crude; but it was a film that aroused the public, in more ways than one (“and quite incidentally...introduce(d) the word ‘sheik' into the modern romantic slang of the Twenties....” --W.K.E.). In 1926, Valentino, free from contractual obligations and dissatisfied with the films that had made him the screen idol of the decade, intended to make the film he wanted, and chose a sequel to his earlier Sheik. “Son of the Sheik was everything that...The Sheik should have been and wasn't. It was lush, exciting, genuinely erotic, and direct in the key confrontations....played partially tongue-in-cheek and for larger-than-life fun.... (This) superb example of the finest in escapist Hollywood romanticism...contain(s) many moments of laughter - and yet, contemporary audiences tend to regard these laughs as signs of dating. They seem unable to realize that, just as the outstanding craftsmanship in set design, photography, and action was intentional, so were the moments of laughter....” --William K. Everson, “American Silent Film.”
Son of the Sheik, Valentino's last film (he died at the age of 31 soon after it was released), is generally acknowledged to be his best. In it he plays two roles: the sheik, and the son of the sheik. Agnes Ayres, heroine of The Sheik, here plays the mother, and the new heroine is Vilma Banky, the Samuel Goldwyn “discovery” PFA audiences saw last month in The Winning of Barbara Worth (1926). (JB)

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