The favorite slave girl of a tyrannical sheik falls in love with a cloth merchant, which puts her life in terrible danger. Luckily, she is beloved of the rest of the harem, which conspires to bring the true lovers together, while distracting the prying eyes of the eunuchs who serve as palace guards. Meanwhile, a traveling dancer is eager to become part of the harem, much to the despair of the hunchback clown who is in love with her. Written by
The richness of Max Reinhardt's stage direction of Friedrich Feska's play, THE ARABIAN NIGHTS, is transferred and adapted to the screen by Reinhardt's protege Ernst Lubitsch who, in his final acting performance, as the hunchback clown Buckliger, heads a sterling internationally flavored cast which he directs with his customary vigor in this German production, one of the last films made by Lubitsch in Europe. Upon the stage a masque, SUMURUN is remedied by Lubitsch of its static quality as he prescribes a non-stop folly of exuberance which the polyglot players are quite capable of providing, in particular Paul Wegener (Germany), Pola Negri (Poland), Aud Egede Nissen (Norway) and Jenny Hasselqvist (Sweden), each of whom performs strongly and adds lagniappes of interpretation to the scenario of Hans Kraly. Lubitsch, a veteran of the Yiddish stage, generally as Meyer the Jew, is a clear guide to his actors in this melodramatic tale of a sheikh (Wegener) who desires to add an itinerant dancing girl (Negri) to his harem because of his dissatisfaction with his principal houri (Hasselqvist) who in turn desires a young wandering merchant with whom she shares a strong physical attraction. Buckliger is in love with the gypsy dancer, but the mulatta role portrayed by the diminuitive Negri is one who has learned to trust only the adornments of wealth and is therefore most willing to become a harem resident, a prospect which she finds most cordial although, of course, many complications come about involving, among others, the son of the sheikh. Lubitsch's unique style, which incorporates the frequent use of innuendo, found favor in Hollywood, principally with Mary Pickford who, because of her viewing of SUMURUN, was able to entice the director to the United States, bringing Negri with him, as they had shared many Continental successes, and after her career was macerated by her emotional excess and strong accent, the director continued on to great acclaim, praised for his "Lubitsch touch". This touch is in evidence in this silent German film as it continued to be in his subsequent English language efforts and is essentially the conjugating of the lashes of one eye.
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