22 July 2010 | wes-connors
MGM puts Ramon Novarro in India
In India, boyish Ramon Novarro (as Karim) is blessed by holy man Nigel de Brulier (as Rao Rama) while traveling the countryside with father Mitchell Lewis (as Hamid), a jewel merchant. When bandits attack their mountain village, Mr. Lewis gives his son a huge, very valuable diamond. Then, Mr. de Brulier buries him alive. This saves Mr. Novarro's life, as most of the villagers are slaughtered. Rising from his "grave", Novarro learns his father died in the massacre.
In his turban and rags, beggar Novarro goes to Bombay, to sell the diamond. But, the jeweler is crooked; to get the gem for nothing, he yells "Thief!" About to lose his diamond, Novarro is assisted by American tourist Conrad Nagel (as William "Bill" Darsay). Mr. Nagel was in the jeweler's shop, and witnessed the incident. In gratitude, Novarro tries to give his Nagel the diamond, but he declines. Next, Novarro sells the diamond, and becomes a wealthy gentlemen.
Now playing polo, Novarro meets shapely young Madge Evans (as Janice Darsey), who is attracted to the handsome horseman. "I adore precious stones," she tells Novarro. The two begin a romance, which makes race-conscious mother Marjorie Rambeau uncomfortable. Novarro and Ms. Evans want to marry, despite ethnic and religious differences. Nagel, Evans' brother, re-enters the picture. He forbids the marriage, reminding Evans, "You're a white woman!"
While sometimes unsatisfying, this film winds up being more thoughtfully presented than you'd expect. The prejudicial issues are represented surprisingly well for the time. MGM production standards are high for star Novarro, who was assigned these (arguably) inappropriate "ethnic" roles frequently, and Evans is an attractive leading lady. In his last American film, director Jacques Feyder shines, subtlety introducing Nagel's character and staging scenes well.
****** Son of India (8/1/31) Jacques Feyder ~ Ramon Novarro, Madge Evans, Conrad Nagel, Marjorie Rambeau