Mysticism, Exoticism, and Eroticism in “The Young Rajah”

Not only was this picture bold in addressing prejudice and racism, it attempted to normalize clairvoyance as well as provide audiences with a window on another culture, East Indian societal and religious points of view ~ things that were foreign to most American moviegoers in the 1920’s and therefore considered exotic.

Here we have June Mathis creating allure, magic on the screen, with Rudy in the leading role! But she is also fashioning the fable that is her script to reflect some of her most strongly held principles, and that is what gives this film an extra punch. June was very much the metaphysician in her personal life, participating in numerous séances and automatic writing sessions, often in the company of Rudy and Natacha, who were also believers in life beyond death. So, because it can, given the story line, “The Young Rajah” embraces mysticism ~ in short, the “bigger” picture, to an even greater extent than some of her other efforts.

Although Paramount may have considered this production low budget, they did employ Natacha to design the costumes, which must have cost plenty! Her renderings, I contend, introduced elements of another “ism” into the mix, eroticism. Amos, Rudy’s character, was very much at ease in his own skin, and the nature of his costumes, swathing him in pearls for example, added to that luster, and at the same time helped create a certain languor. That said, the character was also very vital, athletic and sporty ~ like the wild cat he held in his arms in one scene, always ready to spring into action.

One could easily make the case that given the costumes she designed for Rudy in this film, Natacha was more than willing to share him with the world, and she most certainly was successful in that endeavor!

Wayne Hatford

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Comments

  1. Karena Robertson-Bloom says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this very astute (and witty) observations of the storyline and symbolism in “The Young Rajah.” June Mathis was an exceptional woman in many ways, especially for the time period in which she lived. Valentino had the ability to embody different characters and different ethnicities, he wore his characters and their costumes with equal ease. Natacha certainly did use her husband as an elegant hanger for her creations, they were perfectly matched in that respect.

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