Monday, April 01, 2002


Spoilers Below!
Myrna Loy, in one of her early exotic roles, plays a half-Egyptian woman who visits Egypt with her rich fiance, a blond, puffy-faced prig (Reginald Denny). She hires Ramon Novarro to be her guide and servant; he's a smooth-operating quasi-gigolo who gets money and jewels from appreciative female tourists. For a while, the movie is comic in tone as Novarro falls in love with Loy and works his way into her entourage and her favors. Suddenly, about halfway through, it's like a different writer took over and, in a rather melodramatic turn, he kidnaps her, tells her he is a prince, and tries to marry her against her will. She escapes, he catches her, she fights against him, he whips her and then frees her. Just as she's about to marry the prig, Novarro returns, serenading her from her balcony. So, naturally, she leaves with him.

I've never read a traditional romance novel (Harlequin, bodice-ripper, or otherwise) but I imagine this is what many of them are like. I guess we're supposed to be glad that Loy goes off with Novarro, but between the abductions and the violence, his actions are just short of rape (perhaps not even short of it) and I found it difficult to be happy for her. Of course, I didn't want her to wind up with Denny, either. Novarro is a steamy exotic lover, but he is also fairly toadying and even a bit effeminate. Loy is lovely and intelligent; I wonder if her "half-caste" status is supposed to make us assume that it's only natural that she should take to Navarro's treatment. C. Aubrey Smith and Edward Arnold are around to do their usual things. Louise Closser Hale plays Loy's uptight, pruny chaperone, but she's the only one who isn't surprised that Loy leaves with Novarro. A strange movie for our times, with the romantic violence a little unsettling, but if nothing else, the desert scenery was lovely.