October 21, 1921: The iconic silent film, The Sheik, premiers. The movie was directed by George Melford and starred Rudolph Valentino and Agnes Ayres. It was based on the book of the same name written by Edith Maude Hull with a screen adaptation written by Monte M Katterjohn. William Marshall was the cinematographer. Famous Players-Lasky produced the movie with distribution by Paramount Pictures. The 80 minute film cost under $200,000 to make and earned over $1.5 million in the US and Canada on its first release.
Lady Diana Mayo (Ayres) was a headstrong woman bent on maintaining her independence. Through a series of events, Diana ends up in a caravan led by Sheik Ahmed Ben Hassan (Valentino). Ahmed is smitten by the lovely woman who continually rebuffs his advances. He is essentially holding her prisoner of his caravan. In the book, Ahmed rapes the young woman; in the movie he does not. Diana is not swayed by his behavior in either medium. She finally escapes, only to be captured again by an evil man. Ahmed saves her but is injured in the attempt. Diana attends the wounded sheik and falls in love but resists as she is repelled by the thought of loving an Arab. She learns that the Sheik is of British and Spanish heritage and was only adopted into the Arab community when he was orphaned. They marry and live happily ever after, or until the sequel.
Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaello Pierre Filibert Guglielmi di Valentina d’Antonguolla was born in Italy in 1895. His mother was French and his father an Italian veterinarian. The father died of malaria when Rudolph was 11. In 1912, Valentino moved to Paris but came back to Italy the next year. He had trouble finding employment in both places and came to the US where he was processed through Ellis Island on December 23, 1913. He was 18 years old. He found work as a dancer at Maxim’s where he became involved with Blanca de Saulles. Her ex-husband eventually had Valentino arrested on some flimsy vice charge. He was released from jail before Blanca shot her ex-husband. Fearful of another scandal, Valentino left town.
Valentino’s acting career was sealed with his performances in both The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and this movie. He enjoyed fame for some time, but it waned after two box office duds. He had just finished filming The Son of the Sheik where he reprised his role in The Sheik, playing both the father and the son in the sequel. He was in New York City on a promotional tour when he became ill. He was diagnosed with a perforated ulcer and underwent surgery. It seemed successful until he developed complications. He died on August 23, 1926 at the age of 31. His last film was released just two weeks after his death.
To generalize on women is dangerous. To specialize on them is infinitely worse.
A man should control his life. Mine is controlling me.
Women are not in love with me but with the picture of me on the screen. I am merely the canvas on which women paint their dreams.
I am beginning to look more and more like my miserable imitators. – all from Rudolph Valentino
Also on this day: Suicide Pilots – In 1944, the first kamikaze attack took place.
Apple Day – In 1990, the first Apple Day was held in Covent Garden, London.
USS Constitution – In 1797, the ship was launched.
Disaster – In 1966 the Aberfan disaster took place.