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Men and women, fathers and children. Ahmed, son of Diana and Sheik Ahmed Ben Hassan, falls in love with Yasmin, a dancing girl who fronts her father's gang of mountebanks. Among the cutthroats is Ghobah, a villainous Moor to whom Yasmin is promised. In ruins near Touggourt, the city where Yasmin dances, she and Ahmed meet secretly until one night when her father and the gang capture the son of the sheik, torture him, and hold him for ransom. Will Ahmed believe that Yasmin set him up for capture? Even if true love finds a way through webs of deceit, what will the vigorous and imposing sheik say about his son consorting with a dancing girl? Written by
THE SON OF THE SHEIK (United Artists, 1926), directed by George Fitzmaurice, reunites the leading players of Rudolph Valentino and Vilma Banky, most recent stars of THE EAGLE (UA, 1925), in what has become one of the most popular films from the silent era, mainly because of it not only being Valentino's final screen performance, but is where the legend of Valentino began. A sequel to his earlier success, THE SHIEK (Paramount, 1921), Valentino's career up to this point consisted of hit and miss stories over the next few years until THE EAGLE not only brought renewed interest in Valentino, but reassured it with THE SON OF THE SHEIK. Since sequels were a rarity during that time, Valentino, as did Douglas Fairbanks with the sequel to his immensely popular, THE MARK OF ZORRO (1920), DON Q, SON OF ZORRO (1925), Valentino reprises his original role as well as portraying his own son, Ahmed. Agnes Ayres, Valentino's leading lady in THE SHEIK, is offered special billing in the opening credits, who also re-enacts her original role as Diana, this time as wife and mother.
The story begins with the opening titles that read as to the location, "Not East of Suez, but South of Algiers." Yasmin (Vilma Banky) is the daughter of Andre(George Fawcett), a renegade Frenchman and leader of a group of thieves. She supports them through her dancing publicly. In the marketplace (as recalled by Yasmin via flashback), she meets Ahmed (Valentino), a handsome young sheik, and the two fall in love. After meeting with Yasmin secretly one night, Ahmed is captured by her father's renegades and held captive in a building where he hangs by his tied-up wrists placed on the window bars, and subject to whip torture for not revealing the name of his father and other information. After being freed by his men, Ahmed, believing Yasmin as his betrayer, abducts the girl and subjects her to his methods of torture, with one scene looking at Yasmin with vengeance in his eyes, and (off camera) putting her through the process of rape. It would be his father, Ahmed Ben Hassan (Valentino) who orders him to release the girl. After learning the truth from Ramadan (Karl Dane), Ahmed tries to win back Yasmin, who has returned to the dance hall, and now wants nothing to ever do with him.
In many ways, a much more interesting story than its predecessor, and brief to the point at 68 minutes. Aside from the fine chemistry between Valentino and Banky, the supporting villain as played by Montagu Love, along with sandy sets with production designs by William Cameron Menzies, THE SON OF THE SHEIK is Valentino's film from start to finish. And with this film as well does the Vilma Banky name remain legendary. But who knows how far Valentino's screen career would have gone had it not been for his untimely death at the age of 31 shortly following the film's release.
THE SON OF THE SHEIK did enjoy frequent theatrical revivals for a number of years, usually on a double bill with THE EAGLE, as well as television showings during the early to mid 1960s. It became one of the selected films shown during the summer months on weekly public television series, "The Silent Years" (1971), hosted by Orson Welles (New York City area, WNET, Channel 13, on July 13, 1971). In spite of its popularity and the legend behind it, what's interesting to note is that while the twelve movies featured on "The Silent Years" did enjoy rebroadcasts up till the mid 1970s, THE SON OF THE SHEIK wasn't included in the reruns. Some years would pass before its availability onto video cassette and/or DVD (Blackhawk and/or Kino), the best being from the Killiam Collection accompanied by a theater organ score by Jack Ward. THE SON OF THE SHEIK, which played as part of its silent film collection on American Movie Classics around 1996, can be currently seen and studied whenever played on Turner Classic Movies. For those interested in the legend of Valentino, THE SON OF THE SHEIK, which provides two Valentinos for the price of one, as well as being an important part in cinema history, is worthy screen entertainment. (***)
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