Valentino Filmography ~ “The Sheik”

The imprint that continues its effect, even to this day. Not exactly my favorite role, but in some ways perhaps the most stellar of my career!

Have you ever seen a simpering Sheik? Neither have I so when Paramount proposed I take the part, and even though Natacha thought very little of it, I was determined to give it a ‘go,’ to imbue what Mrs. Hull had written with flesh and bone. Then, as we began to shoot, I soon realized that the script, and Director, were steering me toward stereotype, I, the Arab, who apparently actually was of European origin. Agnes Ayres was a peach, and I mean that in the fullest sense of 1920’s lingo. She fulfilled the other half of the puzzle and created, along with my efforts and character, great congruency with the original story. Yes, we were faithful to it but, of course, with certain liberties and truncations. Fun it was to embrace the accoutrements of the role ~ crescent-shaped blades, daggers, baggy trousers, turbans, capes and the like ~ rather exotic, the whole enterprise, for we were breaking new ground, cracking the code, the one that guaranteed that racial divisions stay intact. So that is why, from my current vantage point, I see this film as having been significant, a foot in the door for cross-cultural and ethnic connections ~ to make them more palatable to the public, expand consciousness.

The part called for great physicality, and I was more than ready to oblige. My prowess with horses and animals of all types came into play, added yet another ingredient to the mix. Did I over-do in a few scenes? Of course, Friends ~ as seen through your lenses. But, it was appropriate at the time, for what we wanted to accomplish, and what the Director required. Color had a role in this film too as certain scenes were given greater heft by the addition of tinting, the sands of the desert made more inviting perhaps than they would ordinarily be. An unexpected hit for Paramount, and a signature role, as it turned out ~ what I could not foresee when first it was shown.

Hard to believe but there were aspects of this film that were challenging for me. A little touch of priggery, superciliousness, in a few scenes when I spurn Agnes’ character, behavior which was not at all commensurate with my personal style and therefore somewhat hard to pull off. But I did, and effectively enough so that no one noticed I had to work at it. Women’s fantasies were raised, albeit tickled by the premise of this script, and enchantment reigned. Once upon a time, “The Sheik” was on everyone’s mental screen, and in a gaggle of cinemas too, a box-office champ of 1921. Quite a gambit! And so it was that I became elevated, risen, as a star. I suppose you could say I was truly hatched!” ~ Rudolph Valentino





  1. I love reading these posts. How wonderous it is to hear Rudy’s life and times, opinions on roles and life and all matters through his own words.
    I am reading dark lover now and I must say it is and may always be the finest valentino bio of them all. i was especially intrigued by the reception of The shiek.
    Recently I bought a 1950’s copy of the Edith Hull book, and plan on giving it a read as soon as I am done with Dark lover.