The Sheik's Physique - Planes Trains and Automobiles Blogathon


Rudolph Valentino working on a car in 1925
Today's post is directed to the automobiles portion of the blogathon.  Naturally, I had to sneak in a short post which featured Rudolph Valentino.  He loved cars!  He had a beat up Fiat, early on in Italy.  When he arrived in Hollywood he went into some debt buying a 1915 Cadillac which he proudly took apart, repaired drove around Hollywood for several years.  After Valentino became a star and returned to Europe in the summer of 1923, while in Paris, he purchased an Avions Voisin (now housed at the Nethercutt Collection in Sylmar, CA).  During that summer trip he test drove and rented a Voisin which he drove through France and Italy.  I can only imagine from his description of the roads, his wife Natacha's recollections and his need for speed, that rental returned to Paris more than a little worse for wear. 

Natacha Rambova in the hard top, Valentino in the open Voisin in Paris summer 1923.  Note the bored chauffeur in the back!
While in in Italy his visited and ordered Isotta Fraschini touring car (which he took delivery in 1925).  Valentino also had a 1925 Franklin Coupe and a Ford truck (for working around Falcon Lair).  He employed a chauffeur reluctantly after he had a car accident.  He had a need for speed and had terrible eyesight, too.  Not a good match when driving a car.

Federico Beltran Masses admiring Valentino's new car a spectacular custom Isotta-Fraschini.
In 1925 during filming of The Eagle, Valentino and some pals got together, drove out to Santa Monica and the Pacific Coast Highway and shot a short movie that ended up being entitled The Sheik's Physique.  Lost to history is the how and, more importantly, the why this little film was made.  I will surmise the presmise was something a simple as the fact that Valentino took delivery of this automobile and was excited about it.  After all, it cost him something over $20,000 in 1925 (adjusted for inflation in 2015, that's $271,458.95) he wanted to show it off.  Valentino also had plenty of camera gear, shot many photos and lots of home movies. 

The plot is a simple one, Valentino take his car out for a spin to the beach.  He climbs out of the driver's cab, stretches, eyes the waves and climbs into the passenger cab.  He begins to undress, noticing us peeping at him, he breaks the 4th wall and staring right into the eyes of the viewer (the camera eye, or you) he pulls down the privacy shade with a wink.  A quick dissolve and and we see him exiting the car in his bathing suit and beach robe.  He strides out to the beach and lies down on his robe for a nap in the sun with the waves lulling him to sleep.  While he sleeps we see a car drive up and as a man eyes this posh automobile, he gives the high sign and steps in the driver's cab and steals the car.  Another iris to dissolve and we see Valentino wake up, rub the sleep from his eyes and check his watch, realizing he is late for something.  His car has been stolen!  He starts to walk up the Pacific Coast Highway, it's warm as he wipes his brow, and, in a moment of hilarity, jumps up and down to attract the attention of an oncoming car.  The driver stops, picks Valentino up as a hitchhiker and they drive away in a much humbler set of wheels.  Fade out!

This curious little film is entertaining, for what it is. Unfortunately, it ends abruptly and one does wonder what exactly the ultimate purpose was.  Sadly, this is all lost to history and we'll never know.  The closeup of Valentino pulling down the privacy shade makes this little film quite worth it.  His sense of humor is fully on display, a little self-deprecating, too.

This post is part of the Classic Movie Blog Association's Planes Trains and Automobiles Fall blogathon.  Please DO visit here for the lineup of fantastic blog posts!


Caftan Woman said…
More. More. We want more! What we saw was too adorable not to have more.
FlickChick said…
OMG - I LOVE this post! Thank you, thank you, thank you! Rudy is simply adorable.
Ha - yes, I agree with Caftan Woman. We need to see more of this little gem!

Thanks for all the info re: Valentino and his love of cars. Interesting stuff!
Anonymous said…
What a great post! Loved all the information about Valentino's love affair with automobiles!
Lesley said…
Love the post. I had no idea Valentino was a car collector. Had he lived a few decades later he might have been a race car driver, like Paul Newman.
Leah Williams said…
This post was hilarious. I loved watching the clip this morning. That self-aware look at the audience was priceless, and these lines made me laugh: "He had a need for speed and had terrible eyesight, too. Not a good match when driving a car." Thank you for such a great start to my day.
Anonymous said…
Hi. I'm a classic film blogger and quite often host blogathons. I'm hosting another one next year and would like to invite you to participate. The link is below with more details
Hamlette said…
I love this short :-) That moment with the window shade is so adorable and funny and sexy all at once -- pure Rudy delightfulness.

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