“The Sheik” is a 1921 silent romantic drama film directed by George Melford and starring Rudolph Valentino, Agnes Ayres, and Adolphe Menjou. It is based on the 1919 novel of the same name by Edith Maude Hull.
The film is set in the North African desert, where an independent and spirited Englishwoman named Lady Diana Mayo (Agnes Ayres) is vacationing with her brother. One day, while out riding alone, she is kidnapped by a group of Arab men and taken to the tent of Ahmed Ben Hassan (Rudolph Valentino), a wealthy and powerful Sheik. Ahmed initially plans to ransom Diana back to her brother, but soon finds himself drawn to her beauty and spirit.
Diana initially resists Ahmed’s advances and tries to escape, but gradually begins to fall in love with him. However, their relationship is complicated by the fact that Ahmed is already betrothed to another woman, and by the cultural differences between them. Eventually, Diana is rescued by her brother and taken back to England.
Despite its controversial themes and portrayal of Arab culture, “The Sheik” was a massive commercial success, making Rudolph Valentino a major Hollywood star and sparking a craze for desert romance films. The film was followed by a sequel, “The Son of the Sheik,” in 1926, which was Valentino’s final film before his untimely death at the age of 31.
Edith Maude Hull, Monte M. Katterjohn
Rudolph Valentino, Agnes Ayres, Ruth Miller