starring Pola Negri
September 24, 1923

Over the sands to the city of Bagdad a wandering troupe of jugglers, among them a hunchback, a drunken old woman, and a beautiful black-haired dancer who cared for nothing but to bewitch the hearts of men and loved to rouse the jealousy of the devoted hunchback. On the way to Bagdad, she had met with the great slavedealer, Achmet, and her head was full of plans for winning her was through his means into the harem of the great sheik. The troupe's first showing in the city almost ended in disaster, for the young sheik found the throngs of spectators in his way as he rode through the city, and ordered his men to drive them out. But with one sight of the dancer, changed his mood. Wild with love of her, he bought precious gifts in the bazaar and sent them to the handsome young merchant Nour-ed-din to take them to her. The messenger, pleased the fickle dancer even better than the gifts and she followed him to his shop, stealthily pursued by the hunchback, who had been warned by the old hag. Nut Nour-ed-din, whose heart belonged to Zuleika, favorite wife of the might sheik, remained cold to the dancer's passionate wooing; and the hunchback, who had come to kill a rival, staid to vow eternal gratitude to the one man who had ever resisted the dancer.

In the harem of the great sheik, Zuleika, the favorite pined for her true love, Nour-ed-din, the merchant. Once the old sheik came upon her gazing wistfully form the palace, and his suspicions were roused to jealous fury by a whistled signal he heard outside the harem. Pleas that she was innocent fell on deaf ears. The shell condemned his favorite to death. The whistle had not come form Nour-ed-din, however, but form the young sheik who was trying to win Zuleika's favor. He learned of her danger and rushed to tell his father the truth of the matter, ,reaching him just in time to save Zuleika's from the executioner's sword. All his love for her revived as the old sheik realized his favorite was guiltless, but Zuleika shuddered away from her lord in uncontrollable terror, and the sheik's wounded vanity turned form consolation to thoughts of the wonderful dancer the slavedealer had told him of.

Both father and son came to watch the dancer in the marketplace that night. At the close of the performance, the old sheik bade Achmet bring the dancer to his harem the next day. The young sheik also waited for her, but she slipped away form him to the slavedealer after a wild chase through the streets of Bagdad. Next day, Achmet conducted her to the mighty sheik, who received her in state, led her to the harem, and lifting the necklace of pearls that made her chief wife and mistress of the harem from Zuleika's shoulders, laid it about the dancer's.

In despair at losing the dancer whom he loved so much, the hunchback took some magic pellets that threw him into a deathlike trance. The old woman stuffed the body into a sack, and it was carried to Nour-ed-din's shop by his two slaves, who came to the player's booth to steal what they could find. They were terror-stricken when they discovered they had stolen the body of a man instead of treasure, and hid the sack in a chest that was loaded with goods for the harem of the sheik. For Zuleika was making purchases at Nour-ed-din's shop fir the pleasure of seeing him. When she went, she and her confidante Haidee concealed the young merchant in one of the loaded chests, and so both Nour-ed-din and the body of the hunchback was carried back to the harem, where all the sheik's wives made a feast to celebrate the joy of the lovers.

Meanwhile, in the courtyard, the efforts of the faithful old woman to revive the hunchback were at last successful; but when he learned that she had allowed the dancer to fall into the hands of the sheik he drove her away and began frantically to climb the walls of the palace. He reached the bedroom window only to find the dancer dying on the floor. For the sheik's beautiful wife, who knew no fear, had dare to summon the young sheik after the father had fallen asleep. The passion of their meeting waked the sheik, whose first blow struck his faithless wife, and his next his son. His sword still reeking, the tyrant strode out into the harem, only to find that here too he was betrayed. But the blow he aimed at Nour-ed-din never fell, for the hunchback, bent on revenging the dancer's death, struck him down just in time to save the young merchant and Zuleika's


starring Pola Negri


December, 1921

A fragment of the colorful tales told in that fascinating collection of the "Arabian Nights" has been captured as the basis of this spectacular picture. It was made in Germany by no less promising a combination than Ernest Lubitsch and Pola Negri, who startled the American film market with the triumph they made of "Passion." This production is hardly equal to the Du Barry story; it is more involved, less coherent, and lacks the intense touch of human interest running through the portrayal of one character. But it, nevertheless, is a brilliant and bizarre achievement which smites the eye with scenes that seem blazing with color in spite of the colorless medium of the screen.

Here are all the intrigues of a particularly lively and restless harem.

Starring Pola Negri
December, 1921

First, let us consider the Ernst Lubitsch production "One Arabian Night" (First National), the obviously titled American cut version of the German "Sumurun." "One Arabian Night" is not Lubitsch at his best, for it harks back to an earlier period in the development of the director. It is at once flashing and inadroit, colorful in its atmosphere of the storied Bagdad of the Thousand and One Nights, and yet crude in its telling.

The Reinhardt "Sumurun" is familiar to American theatregoers thru its presentation here some seasons ago. Like the unadulterated Arabian Nights, it is passion rife and rampageous, pulsating and unadorned. It speaks of love, lust and blood in terms crimson and erotic. The weird sensuous beat of the desert drums moves thru. This tale of Sumurun, dancer of the desert, who leaves death and pain behind her in her quest for gold and power and who finds her way to the golden couch of the mighty sheik only to meet death, is not of the Pollyanna school of fiction.

The Reinhardt pantomime -- for the tale was told without words behind the footlights -- had all the imagery of the German master of stage-craft in his finest moments. It was a series of moving, glowing pictures. All this made ideal screen fare, easily transferable to the silversheet, save for the menace of censorship.

Far be it from us to consider the morals of "One Arabian Night," save to say that it does not offend us. As a cinema contribution, it has movement, seconds of fine acting and a faint measure of the imagination of the Reinhardt original. We realize that the original film has been severely cut in the process of diluting it for our modest American eyes, but at the same time we must pronounce it interesting principally as prophetic of the man who was later to do "Passion" and "Deception." The lighting is bad, and the camera work frequently atrocious. But, nevertheless, there is the indication of a man of genius behind the direction. And Pola Negri's desert dancer! Here is passion untamed, enmeshed in fine acting. All the fire and abandon that mark her Carmen are to be found here. Ernst Lubitsch himself plays the tragic role of the hunchback with a splendid sensitiveness. Paul Wegener, the unforgettable Golem, makes the sheik a dominating character.

Video source: Movies Unlimited

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