Lost Film Files #1: She’s a Sheik (1927)

Unfortunately, many films of the silent era have been lost. This new series is going to list some of the more interesting ones. We are going to start with a comedy from the late silent era.

She’s a Sheik (1927)

Status: Missing and presumed lost

Take The Sheik. Reverse the genders. What do you have? A lusty lady chieftain abducting a handsome fella across the desert sands. Sounds hilarious, no?

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Bebe in costume
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And with the object of her affection.

Photoplay magazine had this to say:

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IF YOU think you have already sounded the depths of Bebe Daniels’ versatility, guess again. As Zaida, the adopted daughter of an Arabian chieftain, she decides a handsome captain in the French Foreign Legion is her proper mate, repulsed in her advances, she kidnaps him, and proceeds to tame him in her own way — and interesting it is. Richard Arlen is the captured man who learns to like it. In this picture, Bebe has made a unique place for herself as an athletic heroine. James Bradbury, Jr., and Bill Franey afford much amusement as a motion picture company that strolls into Bebe’s camp. They are also a good excuse for some of George Marion’s clever titles. William Powell, as Kadal, has a comedy villain role that he enacts beautifully. Don’t play bridge the night this picture is shown.

The Film Daily was ecstatic for the picture:she's a sheik image (5)

THE PRIZE KIDDING PICTURE ON THE SHEIK IDEA

FULL OF DELIGHTFUL TOM-FOOLERY. BEBE DANIELS AND WILLIAM POWELL SEND IT OVER WITH LAUGHS.

Cast… Bebe screens like a million, and proves a delightful comedienne. Powell as the sheik kids the role for a barrel of laughs. Richard Arlen pleasing. Others Josephine Dunn, James Bradbury, Jr., Billy Franey, Paul McAllister, Al Fremont.

Story and Production… Comedy romance. Bebe Daniels as the “sheikess” kidnaps her man. From start to finish a great piece of kidding on the sheik idea,. When William Powell appears as the real sheik after the gal, the picture enters the class of a comedy wow. The laughs keep pyramiding till it finishes in a gale of laughter with a clever gag. The sheik’s followers surround the camp and Bebe projects a war picture on the desert hills. The French “shadow” troops come pouring over the desert. The film is reversed as the love scene approaches. The sheik and his gang fire at the “retreating” enemy. Then they advance again. The sheik and his crowd surrender in panic. Miss this, and you’ll weep.

Motion Picture News, which was aimed at theater owners, was equally happy with the film, praising its novel take on a familiar formula.she's a sheik image (4)

Bebe Daniels specialized in making comedies that took a familiar tale and reversed the genders.

Her take on Zorro, Senorita, was presumed lost before it turned up in a private collection. The only latter-day mention I have found to She’s a Sheik is an offhand reference to a 1970 screening of the film in the book Silent Players by Anthony Slide. And since over 40 years have since passed, who is to say the print is still in existence.

A pity since The Sheik thoroughly deserved a gender reversal. Plus, the team of Daniels/Arlen/Powell is quite funny if  Feel My Pulse is any indication. This looks like a real corker and one that would appeal enormously to modern audiences, thanks to its intriguing reversal of a popular plot. Here’s hoping that someone somewhere has a copy.