Monday, November 5, 2012

Myrna in Egypt

In 1933's The Barbarian, Myrna Loy is NOT playing the exotic.  Ramon Novarro is. He is The Barbarian of the title - Jamil El Shehab, an Arabian prince, who has been working in the city as an erstwhile tourguide and ladies' man. Diana Standing (Myrna) arrives in town with her fiance Gerald Hume (Reginald Denny) and her companion Powers (Louise Closser Hale).  Jamil takes an immediate interest in Diana - she is somewhat less engaged by him.  There is some verbal dueling, some tricks played by Jamil on Gerald, and finally, Jamil kidnaps Diana.  

Today, we would probably say that Diana had Stockholm Syndrome, because, quite frankly, as physically attractive as Jamil is, he is really quite an unattractive individual. He is a bully, he is a male chauvanist, and finally, he is physically abusive.  Why Diana would want him in the end is beyond me. Then again, Gerald is no prince among men either. He's just a wimp who can't even stand up to his mother!

 Loy is just lovely, as always and one is sympathetic to her Diana.  The problem is, one can't understand why she doesn't just leave town with Powers (the always irrepressible Louise Closser Hale) and find a better man.  Certainly the two she's managed to dig up in Egypt should just be left in a pyramid somewhere with a mummy! This is not really a film that translates well in the 21st Century.  We really wanted Diana to get a better break.

And of course, it is ever so racy.  By today's standards, the hint of nudity in one of the scenes is bothing, but in 1933, it would be just enough to upset the would-be censors.

A quick scene from early in the film:

The film is worth a quick peek, especially for the scene where Diana argues with her future mother-in-law about the proper placement of her bridal veil. 
And here she is in the bridal veil
And don't miss the final scene - oh, my, the times they really HAVE changed (thank heavens)!

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