'A Riot of Arabian Color': Rudolph Valentino's The Sheik in Australia and New Zealand

How was this desert romance received in New Zealand and Australia and can it help explain visions of the Middle East that circulated in the interwar period?

Lectures, talks and seminars

The event will be held on Zoom: https://vuw.zoom.us/j/99039710701

Presented by


Hated by the critics but loved by audiences, the adaptation of EM Hull's novel The Sheik for the screen was a cinema phenomenon. It propelled Rudolph Valentino to stardom as a romantic hero, and entered Australasian language and culture in a surprising number of enduring ways. Despite the film's enormous popularity, studies of cinema in Australia and New Zealand have rarely focused on films not produced here, and so we know little of audience response to The Sheik. In an attempt to understand how a film such as The Sheik played to Australasian audiences and why it had such an enduring impact I spent some of my recent Research and Study Leave following The Sheik's distribution through cinemas across New Zealand and Australia. What I found was a burgeoning entrepreneurial industry, rising consumer power of women, and the enduring rhetorical power of Arabian romance.

Speaker Bios

Kate Hunter’s current research project is Imagining Arabia, which explores the persistent cultural presence of ideas of the Middle East in Australia and New Zealand in the first half of the 20th century. She is a member of the History Programme and is Director of the Stout Research Centre for New Zealand Studies.

For more information contact: Alexander Maxwell