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Karim, a collector of jewels, is one of the richest men in Bombay, which belies his humble beginnings and being poor as little as ten years ago. His wealth was derived from a diamond he received from his jewel merchant father, who was killed by marauding bandits because of the jewels in his possession. Twice, ten years ago, Karim was saved from people who would kill, steal or lie to get the diamond. His two saviors were an Indian holy man, and an American tourist. When Karim and American tourist Janice Darsey meet, it is mutual love at first sight. Their interracial romance has many obstacles to happiness, including the disapproval by Janice's aunt, with who she is traveling through India. As Karim and Janice begin a courtship against all odds, two people from Karim's past may ultimately factor into whether it will be happily ever after for Karim and Janice together. Written by
In India, boyish Ramon Novarro (as Karim) is blessed by holy man Nigel de Brulier (as Rao Rama) while traveling the countryside with father Mitchell Lewis (as Hamid), a jewel merchant. When bandits attack their mountain village, Mr. Lewis gives his son a huge, very valuable diamond. Then, Mr. de Brulier buries him alive. This saves Mr. Novarro's life, as most of the villagers are slaughtered. Rising from his "grave", Novarro learns his father died in the massacre.
In his turban and rags, beggar Novarro goes to Bombay, to sell the diamond. But, the jeweler is crooked; to get the gem for nothing, he yells "Thief!" About to lose his diamond, Novarro is assisted by American tourist Conrad Nagel (as William "Bill" Darsay). Mr. Nagel was in the jeweler's shop, and witnessed the incident. In gratitude, Novarro tries to give his Nagel the diamond, but he declines. Next, Novarro sells the diamond, and becomes a wealthy gentlemen.
Now playing polo, Novarro meets shapely young Madge Evans (as Janice Darsey), who is attracted to the handsome horseman. "I adore precious stones," she tells Novarro. The two begin a romance, which makes race-conscious mother Marjorie Rambeau uncomfortable. Novarro and Ms. Evans want to marry, despite ethnic and religious differences. Nagel, Evans' brother, re-enters the picture. He forbids the marriage, reminding Evans, "You're a white woman!"
While sometimes unsatisfying, this film winds up being more thoughtfully presented than you'd expect. The prejudicial issues are represented surprisingly well for the time. MGM production standards are high for star Novarro, who was assigned these (arguably) inappropriate "ethnic" roles frequently, and Evans is an attractive leading lady. In his last American film, director Jacques Feyder shines, subtlety introducing Nagel's character and staging scenes well.
****** Son of India (8/1/31) Jacques Feyder ~ Ramon Novarro, Madge Evans, Conrad Nagel, Marjorie Rambeau
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