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Fazil

Live Musical Accompaniment
Screening on Film
Directed by Howard Hawks.
With Charles Farrell, Greta Nissen, Mae Busch.
US, 1928, 35mm, black & white, 74 min.
silent.

Hawks was reluctantly fulfilling a Fox assignment when he took on the adaptation of Pierre Frondaie’s 1922 play L’Insoumise about a conservative Arabian sheik who falls in love with a modern, free-spirited Parisienne. Just as the lovers feel when removed from their respective cultures, the director was also out of his element in this melodramatic romance. Silent screen heartthrob Charles Farrell dutifully fills the role of the stringent, sexy Arabian—much to Hawks’ and certainly contemporary viewers’ dismay—while Norwegian star Greta Nissen seems more credible and comfortable as the feisty, independent Fabienne. In addition to beautifully filmed vignettes within the visually sumptuous—if exoticized—“Arabia,” the picture delivers many other surprises, including a shocking scene of an execution ordered by Fazil; the couple’s sweet and intimate pre-Code courtship; and an even racier, provocatively detailed sequence inside Fazil’s elaborate harem. Preserved by the Museum of Modern Art.

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