Two Arabian Knights (1927)
Produced by Howard Hughes this terrific silent film won its director Lewis Milestone (All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)) the one and only Best Director Comedy Picture Academy Award ever given. It stars William Boyd (“Hop-Along Cassidy”) and Louis Wolheim (also in All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)) as two American soldiers during World War I who rescue an Arabian princess (Mary Astor). Also featured is Boris Karloff (Frankenstein (1931)). Donald McGibney’s story was adapted by Wallace Smith and Cyril Gardner with continuity provided by James O’Donohoe and titles by George Marion Jr..
The film opens with soldiers Boyd and Wolheim jumping into a foxhole to temporarily escape certain death at the hands of the invading German army. Evidently Private Boyd resents the treatment he’s received from his Sergeant (Wolheim) and decides given their situation that he may as well get his licks in on his superior officer for a change. The two men fight for a while before the German troops literally surround their foxhole and take them prisoner. Still battling they are marched through a town and then out through the snow to a remote camp for prisoners of war.
Once at the camp the prisoners are lined up and relieved of their valuables by the German Commandant. However unbeknownst to each other Boyd and Wolheim pickpocket back the other’s possessions taken. In the delousing station Boyd draws a cartoon of one of the German officers which Wolheim finds amusing but when Wolheim is about to be reprimanded by the officer Boyd admits that the sketch was his and takes the punishment instead. Thus the two men’s bond is formed and then solidified when they exchange each other’s pilfered trinkets.
The American prisoners decide that they will work together to escape. However when they do and because they used white robes to avoid detection in the show they inadvertently become prisoners again in a line of Arabs about to be transported by train to Turkey. There are a lot of comic bits sprinkled throughout their exploits. For instance the men’s robes were frozen askew at the bottom like dresses whence they were hiding in the snow. Then when the men are being held inside with the other Arabs before boarding the train this ice melts and a German guard who slips on the dripping water assumes the men have being urinating on themselves.
Like a regular comedy team Boyd is the “brains” while Wolheim is the “brawn”. After riding in the Arab prison train until they’re almost to Constantinople the men escape into a horse drawn carriage of hay but quickly find themselves “stranded” on a cargo ship in the Mediterranean. When they are discovered as stowaways the Greek (?) Captain demands fare and the soldiers give them all they have to stay on-board. At that moment a small boat capsizes next to theirs and seeing that no one else is helping them Boyd jumps in to save its former occupants. However he must then be saved by Wolheim who also jumps in.
One of the persons rescued is a veiled Arabian princess (Astor) who naturally attracts the attention of the Captain and the two soldiers. There are then several comic exploits between the men who compete for her attention with (pretty boy?) Boyd “winning” her heart. But alas once the ship is anchored she is retrieved by the sheik whom her father has arranged as her betrothed. Will true love triumph? Will the Americans be able to rescue the princess from her fate? One things for sure this is a very entertaining and amusing film.