21 May 2006 | TimesSquareAngel
Not totally lost - Turner Classic Movies premieres reconstruction in May 2006
A badly deteriorated print with Spanish titles was discovered in Europe recently - however only the last three reels totaling about 35 minutes had survived. The first fifteen to twenty minutes represent a collage of studio stills, bits of a trailer, modern photographic inserts and bridge material from June Mathis' continuity script to replace the first two or three reels that have disintegrated. Nitrate damage is evident in the remaining footage as well as some fading and streaking. The missing sequences include a fantastic Art Deco costume ball (designed by Natacha Rambova) and a rowing team boat race showing off Valentino's physique in tight fitting trunks and nothing else.
Valentino, whose subtlety and intelligence are evident in every picture he made, plays Amos Judd (born Sirdir Singh), the mysterious adopted son turned Harvard man. Amos' ancestors included Arjuna, the hero of the Bhagavad Ghita whose forehead was touched by the God Krishna and he and his offspring have been given powers of prophecy. This turns out to be a blessing and a curse for Amos Judd as his past comes after him and threatens his love for Molly Cabot, an American girl played by blonde and lovely Wanda Hawley. Fortunately, her father seems to be a Unitarian judge with remarkably liberal attitudes, so their union is not out of the question.
The film deals head on with issues of racism with remarkably enlightened and forward-thinking attitudes for that period. The issue of interracial relationships is explored in a very sympathetic light. The attitude expressed is that a man should be judged by the quality of his thought and not his religion or the color of his skin. Amos Judd, himself the product of an interracial marriage between an Italian woman and an Indian Rajah, is shown as being a student of all religions who believes that there are many roads to one God.
The film is intriguing for its stunning design, magnetic star and free-thinking philosophy. Evidently the film was not a great success, came out just at the time Valentino was arrested for bigamy and preceded a period of conflict with the star and Paramount studios. Valentino didn't like this film but I found it rather enticing and one can only hope that somewhere there is another print in better condition.