Lobby Card Dissection: The Sheik, or, “Rudolph Valentino? Who’d pay to see him?”

Like most silent movie fans, I also enjoy the quirky marketing materials of the era. Posters, lobby cards, ads, etc. I recently ran across a lobby card for The Sheik and a few things struck me as pretty funny. Let’s share!

So here’s the lobby card in all its glory:

the-sheik-lobby-cardOh, and in case you were wondering, lobby cards were meant to advertise the film inside or in front of the theater lobby by showcasing exciting scenes.

But let’s get on with the dissection!

the-sheik-lobby-card-1Who gets top billing? Agnes Ayres, that’s who! Even though Valentino had a strong fan following and a couple of hits under his belt, Metro and Paramount executives seemed to credit everything EXCEPT his charisma and sex appeal. Plus, Ayres was dating one of the big executives of Paramount at the time, so billing her on top seemed like a no-brainer.

the-sheik-lobby-card-3

Why does Rudolph Valentino have a yellow diamond behind him? Does he carry with with him everywhere?

“What’s that, Rudy?”

“This? Oh, it’s just my yellow diamond.”

And it seems to be bisecting his middle. Oh dear! That looks painful. How does he keep it on, do you think? Tape? Glue? Force of will? His psionic powers?

the-sheik-lobby-card-4In order to emphasize the cultural and racial difference between the characters, Valentino’s hands were painted a dark shade, far darker than the skin of his face. Once you notice this, you cannot unsee.

the-sheik-lobby-card-2My favorite piece of the lobby card by far. Can’t you just hear the Sheik shrieking “Woo hoo hoo!” Daffy Duck-style as he makes his escape with the object of his desire? (This scene never appears in the film, alas.)

You can read my review of The Sheik here.

Availability: The Sheik is available as a double feature with Son of the Sheik from Flicker Alley. There are numerous bargain editions but, frankly, you get what you pay for.

8 Replies to “Lobby Card Dissection: The Sheik, or, “Rudolph Valentino? Who’d pay to see him?””

  1. The Sheik! This is too funny, the yellow diamond made me laugh so hard. A yellow diamond… well, atleast he didn’t paint himself gold like some characters. I might be imagining it, but in Rudy’s Sheik movies, it always looks like they have darkened his hands in the actual film. His hands look darker than his face in The Sheik and The Son of The Sheik as if they have been made to look that way. Perhaps not, but the titile card just reminded me of it. Thanks for this, I LOVED it!

      1. I understand why they did, but Rudy was already Italian with a slightly darker tone, there was really no need. It’s interesting, in several of his earlier films they put pastey makeup on the poor man to make him paler, but in The Sheik they felt the need to put dark makeup on him to make him look darker.

      2. I think they were having trouble wrapping their heads around a darker complected leading man. His pasty films (All Night, The Delicious Little Devil) attempted to cast him as a WASP and an Irish-American respectively. (A swarthy hero? Never! What a shocking notion!) He was allowed to keep his natural skin tone when he played a villain (Eyes of Youth, The Married Virgin). He also looked natural in Four Horseman but, of course, his character was from Argentina. The Sheik, in contrast, was all about fan-dancing around a possible interracial relationship. I think the hands were meant to make this contrast all the more shocking, especially since the audience is constantly reminded that Agnes Ayres has pale hands. Racist as heck but the most logical explanation for this makeup oddity. (And, let’s face it, during this period of film history, racism is usually the correct explanation.)

  2. Lobby cards from the silent era are always so cool just because of how tactile and primitive the photo manipulation was in a lot of them. And the hand drawn look of the lettering is always appealing. I remember one lobby card of The Sheik were photos of Rudolph and Agnes’ heads were placed on drawings of their costumes. The jarring effect was amusing.

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