The Promise of Daleford

One of the most intriguing aspects of “The Young Rajah,” Rudy’s final film at Paramount prior to his self-imposed hiatus from that studio, is that it confronts racism, the idea of the “other” ~ those who are somehow different from us.

As others have also noted, the all-American boy look was the standard for leading men in pictures when Rudy burst upon the scene, became a star, in 1921. He almost single-handedly changed that calculation and, right on cue, lots of Latino-looking actors were suddenly offered contracts at pretty much all the major studios. Rudolph Valentino cracked the code. And his character in “The Young Rajah,” Amos Judd, did the same.

Amos was of East Indian origin in the script, mostly raised in the US, and a student at Harvard. He met Molly Cabot, Wanda Hawley’s character, at a “Reincarnation” party where the guests dressed in costumes that reflected who they thought they might have been (and/or wanted to be) in a “past” life. Kudos to June Mathis, by the way, for slipping this idea into the script! Doing so reflected her personal interests, also her desire to inform, as well as entertain, moviegoers.

By the end of the party, Amos is smitten and then he finds out that Molly and her father have rented a house in Daleford, Connecticut for the summer, which is where he lives.

So, Daleford, a mythical New England town, with solid American values! Amos fits in, but does he? There is some degree of racism implied, couched in the hostility directed at him by several fellow students, and a touch of the overt, in Molly’s case. She is very attracted to Amos but can’t get past his exoticism, darker complexion, commenting to her father, who supports the idea of their being a couple, that she “ couldn’t marry a man that was not of her own people” even though she has already discovered that his mother was European. By dint of a few plot machinations, however, Molly sees the light, literally and figuratively, her love for Amos rising above her own objections.

June Mathis was blunt in this film, two of the inter-titles referring to Molly’s views as prejudiced. She also injected respect for all religions, as well as a plea to judge people by the thoughts they think, not by the way they look. Ms. Mathis was a gifted screenwriter and even though this script did not quite hit the mark for the audiences of the time, I applaud the fact that she, and Rudy, were willing to take on these issues, especially given that Rudy had had some experience with them himself as an Italian immigrant.

This is an important film, for all sorts of reasons, not the bagatelle it was once thought to be. We are indeed fortunate that it has been restored and is available on DVD.

Wayne Hatford

 

 

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Comments

  1. Dominic Caruso says:

    Very interesting. I believe I will purchase the film. Post more often my friend. I’m sure you have a lot to contribute…..

  2. Karena Robertson-Bloom says:

    Whether it be serendipity or fate, I am grateful that June Mathis and Rudolph Valentino crossed paths and developed their personal and professional relationship. I cannot imagine The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse without Valentino. The Young Rajah is not only a visually beautiful film, but addresses prejudice (albeit in a decidedly upscale manner…). Valentino had a unique gift, he was elegant yet earthy, be could be haughty yet remain sympathetic, he was sensual and confident but still displayed sensitivity and vulnerability, his persona and ability to communicate so much in silence, made the characters work. June Mathis was truly a woman ahead of her time, both in talent and vision. Valentino was and is simply incomparable.

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