The Son of the Sheik (1926) Director: George Fitzmaurice
This 1926 sequel to The Sheik (1921), also starring the “Latin Lover” of silent cinema, Rudy Valentino, is sometimes reputed to be better than the original. This film was released approximately two weeks after Valentino unexpectedly died from peritonitis (an internal inflammation) at the age of 31. He collapsed as he traveled the country promoting this film, until he suddenly collapsed and had to undergo surgery which ultimately caused his death. It was intended to be Valentino’s big comeback in Hollywood as his popularity had somewhat waned at the time. His death catapulted sales for the film, though Valentino never wanted to reprise the role of the lusty “sheik,” however his career needed a shot in the arm.
The film plays the on the mystique and intrigue of the bedouin warlords, the middle eastern romance-adventures of T.E. Lawrence and others. The story is based on Edith M. Hull’s follow-up novel to The Sheik of the same name. This time Ahmed is the spoiled son of the sheik (Valentino plays the son) who falls in love with a dancer whom he believes has betrays him. He goes alone to visit her and watch her dance, but he is robbed and held for ransom. Hull disapproved of miscegenation and her politics certainly appears retrograde to the modern taste (luckily, the filmmakers chose to jettison some of the source material about the sheik having an English son). Eventually, Ahmed escapes with the hopes of exacting revenge on Yasmin for what he believes to be betrayal.
The film was shot in California and in the Yuma Desert in Arizona. The film lasts slightly longer than an hour.
The Son of the Sheik is an entertaining romp through a Jazz Age perspective on the mystique of Arabia. Its significance lies in the story and aura surrounding the attempted rise, coupled with a dramatic fall, of Rudy Valentino’s career in Hollywood.