31 user 23 critic

The Sheik (1921)

A charming Arabian sheik becomes infatuated with an adventurous, modern-thinking Englishwoman and abducts her to his home in the Saharan desert.


George Melford


Edith Maude Hull (from the novel by) (as Edith M. Hull), Monte M. Katterjohn (adaptation)




Complete credited cast:
Rudolph Valentino ... The Sheik - Ahmed Ben Hassan
Agnes Ayres ... Lady Diana Mayo
Ruth Miller Ruth Miller ... Zilah - A Marriage Market Prospect
George Waggner George Waggner ... Yousaef - Tribal Chieftain (as George Waggener)
Frank Butler Frank Butler ... Sir Aubrey Mayo
Charles Brinley ... Mustapha Ali - Diana's Guide (as Charles Brindley)
Lucien Littlefield ... Gaston - French Valet
Adolphe Menjou ... Dr. Raoul de St. Hubert
Walter Long ... Omair - the Bandit
Learn more

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Sheik Ahmed (Valentino) desperately desires fiesty British socialite Diana (Ayres), so he abducts her and carries her off to his luxurious desert tent-palace. The free-spirited Diana recoils from his passionate embraces and yearns to be released. Only after being kidnapped by desert bandits does Diana realize how much she has grown to love Ahmed, who comes to her rescue in the nick of time. Written by E. Beck

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis




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Did You Know?


The Sheik (1921), Black Oxen (1923), and Flaming Youth (1923) were often cited by contemporary writers such as F. Scott Fitzgerald as the three cinematic works which defined the cultural zeitgeist of the Jazz Age. A century later, only The Sheik (1921) has survived in its entirety. See more »


Ahmed: Return to me in my loneliness.
See more »

Alternate Versions

The version shown on American Movie Classics had a soundtrack of original music composed and performed by Roger Bellon. The running time was 80 minutes. See more »

User Reviews

Where the new entertainment does not elbow with the old one
18 November 2007 | by marcin_kukuczkaSee all my reviews

There are silents which still make many today's viewers overwhelmed, including productions on grand scale: the ones of stunning visuals and top notch performances. There are "lost" silents which have been a longstanding dream to see by many but the likelihood for finding them is constantly declining. There are also silents which were meant to entertain and they did serve their purpose in the distant past but do not do that any longer. They have simply failed to stand a test of time. Unfortunately, THE SHEIK, from my point of view, appears to direct towards the latest group but surely does not turn out to be "totally dated" or "unwatchable" Let me analyze the movie in more details.

The content is hardly convincing for today's cinema buffs, for the general audience. An English woman Diana Fayo (Agnes Ayres) badly desires freedom since she perceives male-female relation bounds as humiliating and marriage as captivity. She goes for a trip to the Arab city of Biskra hoping for freeing herself from the old bounds of dated tradition and humiliating dependence. Moreover, having met the powerful Sheik Ahmed Ben Hassan (Rudolph Valentino) whose slightest wish is law among his people, she takes a trip into the sun garden of the sand, the desert. However, what she is exposed to appears to be absolutely on the contrary to her expectations. She gets into a "more tragic captivity" where no one is likely to find her whereabouts. Sheik Ahmed, who was to be a liberator, is not accustomed to having his orders disobeyed and Diana is not accustomed to obeying orders. What can happen in such unwelcome circumstances?

Although the action is pretty unpredictable, today's viewers will not watch the movie for the sake of wondering what will happen. It does not absorb us as much as it absorbed the viewers in the 1920s. The visuals are also far from masterwork and some scenes are pretty boring and tedious. Therefore, we could easily say that THE SHEIK is too seriously dated. But many people would not agree with that opinion. What constitutes the movie's great success still today are the two CAST: one is a symbol, the other one is a beauty.

Rudolph Valentino just after his masterpiece, THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE which had premiered in March 1921 and which had introduced him to stardom, was cast in this movie of exotic title and exotic content. He is not a tango dancer nor a soldier for "foreign" France but a sheik. But this is far from his best performance and it is mostly based on pantomime and, from today's perspective, exaggerated mimics. Yet, the presence alone of the silent era symbol made this movie in 1921 and makes it even now in 2007 worth seeing. There must have been interest in this movie since a few years later a sequel THE SON OF THE SHEIK (1926) was made, being at the same time Rudolph's last film. The other person on whose shoulders lies the success of the film is beautiful Agnes Ayres. In fact, she does a much better job as Diana Fayo. She IS a desire incarnate for Valentino and occurs to be very subtle, beautiful, tender - a sort of woman every man would fight for.

"Pale hands I love,

Beside the Shalimar,

Where are you now,

Who lies beneath your spell"

Yes, the sheik is totally "bewitched" by Diana and Valentino appears to be in love with Ayres. However, there is no such powerful chemistry between the couple like in some other movies of the time. They do good jobs apart from each other.

To give you a deeply genuine opinion, I quite enjoyed THE SHEIK but if it had been my first silent, I would not be a silent buff now. What is more, if it had been my first Valentino movie, I would wonder how he could become such a great star. An average movie mostly for silent buffs when you are deeply in the silent era reality. 6/10

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Release Date:

20 November 1921 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Sheik See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Paramount Pictures See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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