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Film / The Barbarian

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The Barbarian is a 1933 film directed by Sam Wood.

Diana Standing (Myrna Loy) is a tourist who comes to Egypt to marry her stuffed shirt fiancée, Gerald Hume. As she gets off the train, she is spied by a rascally Egyptian man, Jamil (Ramon Navarro). Jamil has a little racket in which he romances wealthy white ladies and winds up exchanging rings with them—naturally, the rings that he gives his lovers are costume jewelry. Jamil is enchanted by Diana's beauty, and worms his way into her circle as her tour guide ("dragoman").

Jamil puts the romantic full-court press on Diana, who is at the same time offended by his brashness and undeniably attracted to him. Eventually she fires him for sneaking his way into her boudoir and kissing her. Jamil doesn't give up, however, and infiltrates a caravan that Diana takes into the desert. There events take a darker turn.

Based on a stage play called The Arab although the film is actually quite similar to book and film The Sheik. C. Aubrey Smith plays Diana's uncle Cecil.


  • Ambiguous Syntax: Jamil says "If mademoiselle wishes, I could give her a bath." Diana is outraged until Jamil clarifies that he means Diana's little dog, although in reality the double meaning is obvious.
  • Attempted Rape: It's offscreen, but Diana's panicked cries for help make clear what is happening with her and Achmed Pasha. Jamil has an attack of conscience, barges in there, and pulls Diana out. (Only to rape her himself that night.)
  • Bathe Her and Bring Her to Me: What is happening in the infamous Bathtub Scene where a (seemingly) nude Myrna Loy is getting a wash, although she does not know it. She is happy when the ladies of the desert palace give her a fancy bath, but she's actually being made ready for Achmed Pasha.
  • Bathtub Scene: The most famous/infamous scene in the movie, and one that was pushing the limits of censorship even for The Pre-Code Era, shows Diana taking a bath, with nothing to obscure her but some rose petals and not very many rose petals at that. She looks like she's naked, but Myrna Loy wrote in her memoir that she was wearing a flesh-colored body suit.
  • Brownface: Your Mileage May Vary as to whether Ramon Navarro (a Mexican playing an Arab) counts, or Myrna Loy (supposedly half-Egyptian, but with no attempt to make her look different) counts. But very white Edward Arnold as the dastardly Achmed Pasha, wearing tanning lotion and a bushy fake mustache, definitely counts.
  • But Not Too White: Dialogue explicitly states that Diana's mother was Egyptian. Unlike some of Myrna Loy's Yellowface parts in this era, no attempt is made to make her look any more different. This was almost certainly a hand-wave to help racist 1933 audiences swallow the romance between a white woman and an "Arab" man.
  • Con Man: Jamil. He has a scam in which he professes passionate love to a white lady tourist and, on her departure, gives her a ring that's supposedly an ancient family heirloom. The gullible white lady naturally gives him an expensive ring from her finger as a token of their romance. His ring, of course, is worthless.
  • Establishing Character Moment: In the opening scene Jamil is shown running a scam to trick a white lady (played by famous gossip columnist Hedda Harper) out of her ring, complete with flowery declarations of love and longing. After he gets the ring, he moves a few train cars down and does the exact same thing with another white lady tourist, this time in German.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Diana's little dog growls at her bossy, controlling would-be mother-in-law.
  • Food Slap: Having raped her, Jamil asks Diana to marry him and she seems to agree. That lasts right up until the wedding ceremony where she throws the cup of sacred water right in his face. After that he sends her back to Cairo.
  • High-Class Glass: C. Aubrey Smith regularly wore these as stuffy upper-class Brits and does so here. The joke is that uncle Cecil is actually a deadbeat, continually sponging off of Diana's fiancé Gerald.
  • Lap Pillow: Jamil is resting his head on Diana's lap as they glide down the Nile in the final scene.
  • Lingerie Scene: Multiple scenes of Diana in her boudoir in lingerie. She is indignant when Jamil worms his way into her boudoir, more than once.
  • A Match Made in Stockholm: Jamil kidnaps Diana, briefly hands her over to Achmed Pasha, has a change of heart and re-kidnaps her for his own sake, and eventually rapes her. She winds up falling in love with him and runs away with him in the end.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Myrna Loy as Diana checks every fanservice box there was in 1933. Sexy Backless Outfit, Stocking Filler, tight dresses, Lingerie Scene, one of the most daring Bathtub Scenes of the era, and a Navel-Deep Neckline.
  • Navel-Deep Neckline: Diana spends much of the third act dressed in a Fanservice outfit that has one clasp at neck level and then is open down past the navel, and isn't too securely fastened at that. A couple of times she's seen clutching a wrap to her chest when men stare at her too overtly.
  • Rape Discretion Shot: After having "rescued" her from Achmed Pasha, Jamil takes Diana to a small oasis to stop for the night. He grabs her and kisses her forcefully. The scene then cuts away, but from her tear-streaked face and Thousand-Yard Stare the next morning it seems clear that she was raped.
  • Romantic False Lead: It's perfectly clear that Diana won't end up with her stuffy, boring Disposable FiancÚ Gerald, even if he didn't say stuff like "Well, I realize that there are such things as romance and poetry and all that sort of rot."
  • Romanticized Abuse: Jamil kidnaps Diana, literally drags her across the desert (he's on a horse, she is on foot tied to the saddle), then rapes her. They fall in love, and run away together at the end.
  • Runaway Bride: "Here Comes the Bride" is playing downstairs when Diana climbs off the balcony and runs away with Jamil.
  • Sea of Sand: The Egyptian desert that characters wind up wandering across is the typical featureless sandy desert.
  • Secretly Wealthy: Jamil turns out to be crown prince of a desert tribe. He's filching rings from rich ladies as an exercise in fending for himself.
  • Sexy Backless Outfit: Fanservice from Myrna Loy, as every fancy dress she wears is a sexy backless outfit.
  • Stocking Filler: In the sort of Fanservice that Hollywood could no longer get away with after The Hays Code was enforced, Diana is seen in her boudoir, in lingerie, hooking stockings to a garter belt.