Silent Movie Trivia #12: The Sheik (1921)

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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.

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


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.)


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?


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!!!!”


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.


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


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!”

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


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.


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


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


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.


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).

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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)


The Sheik has been released on DVD by Image.