Fun Size Review: The Married Virgin (1918)

Featuring one of Rudolph Valentino’s earliest surviving major roles, The Married Virgin is melodrama about a he-vamp and his attempts to marry money. The film’s breathless publicity screamed that, ‘Here is a Picture that for Class in production and Novelty in Plot Leaves the Ordinary “Program Feature” without an Excuse for Existence.’ (All italics and weird capitalization theirs.)

Continue reading “Fun Size Review: The Married Virgin (1918)”

This is me when the “Who did Valentino romance?” debate starts. Animated GIF

wishing-ring-1914-run-away

Poor Rudolph Valentino! He is one of very few silent stars with modern name recognition but what do people talk about? His love life. On and on and on and on. Look, I have no problem with people discussing something that doesn’t interest me but I have a huge problem when those people try to pull me into the debate.

Read my lips: I. Don’t. Care. At all.

I realize that a lot of people use the “I don’t care” line as a preamble to even more Valentino romance stuff. “I don’t care who he romanced but…” and after the “but” comes evidence that they very much do care.

There is no “but” or “however” or “on the other hand” in these parts. When I say I don’t care, I mean just that. See, I neglected to install surveillance cameras on his bedroom wall and so I cannot give a definitive answer as to who he loved. So, why get upset? Let’s just enjoy his films (or not, as we please) and be happy! If you want to debate the who, what, when, where and why… Go ahead. Just not here.

The GIF is from The Wishing Ring, which I love to pieces and have declared one of the most charming and delightful films of 1914. It’s funny, witty and gorgeous to look at.

(You can read my full-length review here.)

Fun Size Review: The Sheik (1921)

The Sheik 1921 Rudolph Valentino Silent Movie
The Sheik himself.

Sometimes goofy, sometimes creepy, occasionally romantic but always entertaining. Rudolph Valentino is a sheik who falls for an Englishwoman, Agnes Ayres. What do you do when the lady you love thinks you’re a creep? Kidnap her and confirm all her suspicions, of course! This film reportedly had women fainting in the aisles. Modern women are more likely to be rolling in the aisles with laughter. An amiably clueless kitsch fest.

sheik-rudolph-valentino-agnes-ayres-silent-movie-escape1

[toggler title=”How does it end? (click here for a spoiler)” ]Our heroine realizes that kidnapping is okay if the criminal is handsome. Anyway, he’s not really an Arab. Interracial romance averted (yes, people were really worried about that back then), the happy couple is united.[/toggler]

(Read my full-length review here. You can also check out my video review.)

If it were a dessert it would be:

Mayonnaise Cupcakes
Mayonnaise Cupcakes

Mayonnaise Cake. Weird ingredients but it somehow tastes good. And the ladies love it!

Availability: There are a lot of home video editions of The Sheik. The best is the Image release but it is now out-of-print in disc format. It is still available via digital download (for U.S. markets). Alpha has also released a version but I have not viewed it. It likely has a canned score.

Silent Movie Trivia #12: The Sheik (1921)

Click to view in lightbox
Click to view in lightbox

Iconic roles are a blessing and a curse. On one hand, it assures screen immortality and a loyal group of fans. On the other, it means that a performer’s career is overshadowed by that one big part. Rudolph Valentino never quite escaped the shadow of The Sheik, the film that made him a legend. But Valentino was not first choice for the role. Or second choice. Or third. If you are wondering why, look at the popular leading men who had enjoyed success with Paramount/Famous Players-Lasky until that point. Wallace Reid, Dustin Farnum, Thomas Meighan, Elliott Dexter… In short, nothing at all like Valentino.

Valentino had made a splash over at Metro with his tango but no one seemed to know what to do with him. In contrast, James Kirkwood was an established actor and had played a similar role opposite Mary Pickford in 1914’s The Eagle’s Mate. Granted, that film had an American backwoods setting but it did show that Kirkwood could pull off this whole “romantic abduction” thing that was so popular. (Mary Pickford’s name in the film was Anemone Breckenridge. Really. Yes, really. Thank goodness that movie was silent, the actors would have been tripping over that one. The original novel is a study in unintentional hilarity. I just have fun reading the dialogue out loud.)

In case you were curious, here is Mr. Kirkwood.

James Kirkwood (via Wikipedia)
James Kirkwood (via Wikipedia)

(Read my full-length review here.)

Availability: There are a lot of home video editions of The Sheik. The best is the Image release but it is now out-of-print in disc format. It is still available via digital download (for U.S. markets). Alpha has also released a version but I have not viewed it. It likely has a canned score.

The Silent Life in 1925: Ladies, now art deco hairstyles are yours for the asking!

Here is a fun little curio from Photoplay. Natacha Rambova, aka Mrs. Rudolph Valentino, aka Winifred Shaughnessy of Salt Lake City, was in the process of making What Price Beauty? when she decided to cross-market her hair-dos to Joan Q. Public. One of the models is a young actress who was discovered by the Valentinos, Myrna Loy.

While the article seems to indicate that Rambova invented the model head for the beauty shop, I find that highly unlikely. (In fact, I take just about everything she ever claims with a rock of salt.) The cross-promotion aspects may be unique but I am reserving judgement.

My favorite style is the one modeled by Myrna Loy. In fact, I often have a very similar (albeit less pointy) haircut. And I can assure you that it works extremely well in the kitchen

photoplay-1925-pick-your-style

photoplay-1925-pick-your-style-2

Rambova wrote the screenplay for What Price Beauty? (the film is now considered lost) and was assisted by some of the soon-t0-be biggest names in Hollywood glamor: Adrian and William Cameron Menzies.

Rambova was a talented costume designer but, like many talented people, she did not know when to quit. As the costume designer/art director trying to take over an entire film is not generally welcomed by directors, producers or actors, Rambova’s career petered out. (Or she left in a huff, depending on who you believe.)

I don’t like to be one of those “blame the ex” people but her designs for Monsieur Beaucaire, while lavish and lovely, were spectacularly ill-advised as Valentino was trying to burnish his manly man credentials and such a thing is all but impossible in satin, lace and a powdered wig. (Grapevine released the film on DVD, should you care to see Valentino in knee-breeches. I do not judge.) Of course, Beaucaire was also a bit of snoozer and managed to waste the charms of its talented leading ladies, Bebe Daniels and Lois Wilson, so it is unfair to lay all the blame at Rambova’s door.

On the other hand, Rambova deserves kudos for trying to make her own career and for being able to use her freedom to leave Theodore Kosloff, a spectacularly annoying performer who was also rumored to be abusive. In any case, enjoy her hair designs.

Silent Movie Rule #1: You always kidnap the one you love

sheik-rudolph-valentino-agnes-ayres-silent-movie-takes-her

Life lessons from the people of silent film. Disclaimer: I am not responsible for any consequences you might suffer from actually following this advice.

In our boring world, kidnapping is a serious crime and likely to land the perpetrator in prison for a long stretch. That’s just silly, say the people of the silents. Kidnapping is just your way of showing that you like someone, no harm intended. (This is especially true if one uses a silver cigarette holder. Stylish!) Unless, of course, the kidnapper is ugly and the victim is attractive. In that case, it is a heinous crime and will be punished in the strongest possible manner.

This rule comes to us courtesy of The Sheik. (You can read my full-length review here.)

Recommended

Shriek for the Sheik… and Animated GIFs

Since Accidentally Hilarious is in the works, I decided to post a selection of GIFs from one of the very best cheesy films of the silent era, The Sheik. It’s the film that put Valentino on the map but it is so… so… Well, anyway, it’s a ton of fun if you get into the spirit of the thing. (The spirit of the thing being pure kitsch.)

Where does one even begin? Well, here, I guess. Rudolph Valentino and Agnes Ayres engage in an eyelid twitching contest. I think he wins, don’t you?

sheik-rudolph-valentino-agnes-ayres-silent-movie-giving-her-the-eye

So he takes her to the desert to show her his etchings. Agnes soon realizes that he has no etchings at all and plans an incredibly wily and cunning escape. By which I mean she flails her arms and screams “AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!”

sheik-rudolph-valentino-agnes-ayres-silent-movie-escape1

But it all turns out all right because he rescues her from an ugly guy and turns out to be a Spaniard in disguise. Of course.

You can read my review here, should you be so inclined.

Recommended

Video Review: The Sheik (1921) A Silent Movie Review

Here it is! My very first video review. It’s been in the works for six months and I am delighted to be finally unveiling it.

I am covering one of the most famous (and kitschiest) silent films ever made, one that even non-fans have heard about: The Sheik. I discuss the film’s background, the casting of Valentino and then launch into a review of the film itself. And all in just ten minutes? Is such a thing possible?

I hope you enjoy it!

Continue reading “Video Review: The Sheik (1921) A Silent Movie Review”

Valentino: “Ah yes, with one flick of these eyelids, I will win your heart, my little porcini mushroom.” Animated

sheik-rudolph-valentino-agnes-ayres-silent-movie-giving-her-the-eye

The meet-n-greet scene in The Sheik sets the pace for all of the over-the-top events to come. Much flicking of eyelids and brows between Rudolph Valentino and Agnes Ayres.

In other news, this is kind of how I look at the dessert menu in a restaurant.

“Ah, my little blueberry cheesecake, you shall be mine forever.”

“Mmm, my petite flourless chocolate cake, I shall win you in the end!”

“Oh, you white chocolate macadamia cookies, playing so coy!”

Fun Size Review: The Eagle (1925)

Valentino, the Great Slavic Lover!
Valentino, the Great Slavic Lover!

Valentino’s career was revitalized by going… Russian? Yep, this Robin Hood tale turned out to be an ideal vehicle for him. Valentino is heroic, romantic and surprisingly funny (he had an underused gift for comedy). Essentially a dress rehearsal for Son of the Sheik. Vilma Banky was a marvelous leading lady but the show was thoroughly stolen by Louise Dresser as a man-eating Catherine the Great. A film for anyone who thinks they don’t like Rudolph Valentino.

If it were a dessert it would be:

champagne-trufflesChampagne Truffles. Sparkling and sophisticated yet fun-loving.

Read my full-length review here.

Availability

The Eagle has been released on DVD by Image.

Allow Mr. Valentino to serenade you! (Yes, quite literally, his vocal recordings survive!) Animated GIF

sheik-rudolph-valentino-agnes-ayres-silent-movie-singing-MUSIC

Rudolph Valentino’s early death at the height of his career was a tragedy. It also opened up a floodgate of what-if’s. Would he have survived the transition to sound? Would his career have fizzled even before that?

Me? I think he would have survived. Mr. Valentino had a talent for light comedy, when he was allowed, and he could sing. During the talkie transition, musicals were the absolute rage.

Here is Rudy serenading Agnes Ayres in The Sheik. And, as a special bonus, here is the 1923 recording of him singing the very song quoted in the intertitles, Kashmiri Song.

Hope that brightens your day.

Availability

The Sheik has been released on DVD by Image.

When sneaking away from an amorous Italian, make sure to wave your arms and scream “AAAAAAH!” Animated GIF

sheik-rudolph-valentino-agnes-ayres-silent-movie-escape1

Okay, okay, just back away slowly. Keep calm. Don’t startle him….

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!!!

This scene always kind of cracked me up. Agnes Ayres is not exactly clad for escape but then again, Rudolph Valentino isn’t really clad for pursuit. Knee breeches are just impractical in my opinion. Yes, I realize revolutions were fought and won in them but I dare say most gentlemen would prefer longer trousers. On the plus side, I totally love this impractical but stunning dress! Absolutely gorgeous.

A closer look at the dress.
A closer look at the dress.

On a side note, this scene reminded me of Norma Shearer lunging at the camera in the final scene of The Women.

Availability

The Sheik has been released on DVD by Image.

Silent Movie Picture Book: The Sheik (complete set)

I previously posted this in three parts. Here are all the story cards in one easy post.

Why bother to really watch a movie when you have all the tools on hand to pretend that you watched it! Here is the quick and easy guide to The Sheik, Valentino’s signature film (for better or for worse).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The script:

Him: You’re cute.

Her: I am culturally, morally and ethnically superior. (pulls gun)

Him: We can settle this debate in the desert– OF LOVE! (grabs her and carries her off to his tent)

Her: Unhand me, you brute! (starts crying)

Him: You shall be my bride, my little calzone!

Her: No, no, a thousand times no! (continues weeping)

Him: She’s upset? But why? Just for that, I’m picking out all her outfits for a week.

Her: Listen, Coco Chanel, I hate you and your stupid cigarette holder.

Him: But I can sing! La la la la la! And, my best friend is coming for a visit.

Her: That’s the last straw. I’m outta here. Oof! Or not.

Him: Hey, what’s the idea? If you had escaped, you would have gotten away!

Her: Just for that, I’m wearing my ugliest dress.

Him: Don’t be mad! I have a present for you! A gun! (gives her a gun)

Her: Golly, he’s not so bad after all.

Him: (to himself) Why isn’t it any fun to annoy her? I’m usually into that sort of thing.

Her: Help! Help! I’ve been kidnapped by someone less handsome than you!

Him: Unhand her, you brute! (gets bashed on head in the process)

Her: Thanks for saving me. Sorry they bashed you on the head and whatnot…

Him: And I’m not even an Arab really!

Her: Oh, you silly bunny! I knew the whole time you were Italian.

Him: Spanish.

Her: Whatever. (kisses him)

Availability

The Sheik has been released on DVD by Image.

Fun Size Review: The Son of the Sheik (1926)

Valentino’s swan song and it is a humdinger, let me tell you. Rudy is back as both father and son, Vilma Banky is the leading lady, Karl Dane supports and Montagu Love provides the villainy. Plot stays pretty much the same as the first: Boy loves girl, boy kidnaps girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back again. Slicker, sleeker, smarter and more (intentionally) humorous than the first time around (though still not without its controversy). Showcases Valentino to perfection.

Continue reading “Fun Size Review: The Son of the Sheik (1926)”