ONE ARABIAN NIGHT (1920)
Article 3179 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-26-2010
Posting Date: 4-28-2010
Directed by Ernst Lubitsch
Featuring Ernst Lubitsch, Pola Negri, Paul Wegener
What it is: Arabian Nights epic
The beautiful favorite wife of a sheik is secretly in love with a handsome merchant. She hatches a plan to find another woman more beautiful than herself to lure the sheik into picking a new favorite wife, thereby leaving her free to pursue her affair. However, the woman she finds is a wild and unpredictable gypsy woman who is loved unrequitedly by a hunchback. Complications ensue.
The only fantastic content in this Arabian Nights story is the presence of a hunchback; other than that, the only reason I can think that this movie would qualify is by association, since many other Arabian Nights stories have more fantastic elements. Of the Lubitsch films I’ve seen for this series, this is my second favorite, but you must bear in mind that two of the others I’ve seen (THE EYES OF THE MUMMY and THAT LADY IN ERMINE) are considered his weakest movies, and this one is considered just a hair better. Lubitsch himself was extremely disappointed by his own performance as the hunchback here, and it was his last acting role. I quite liked the movie, though it is admittedly over the top, but the energy is very high, and it manages to tell its complicated story with verve and clarity. Much of the story is comedic, though it takes some tragic turns towards the end. Pola Negri is definitely memorable as the wild gypsy woman, and Paul Wegener shows up as the jealous sheik. My favorite story thread has the hunchback seeking solace from his pain by imbibing of a drug that puts him into a deathlike state, only to have his supine body embark on a series of unexpected adventures when it is stolen by thieves that mistake it for booty.