Barbarian, The (aka A Night in Cairo) (1933): Sam Woods’ Pre-Code Exotic Romance, Starring Ramon Novarro and Myrna Loy

Produced and directed by Sam Wood, The Barbarian (aka A Night in Cairo, a pre-Code exotic romance, starring Ramon Novarro and Myrna Loy.

Written by Elmer Harris and Anita Loos, and based on the 1911 play The Arab by Edgar Selwyn, the film revolves around an American woman tourist in Egypt who has several suitors, among them an Arab guide.

The play had been filmed previously by MGM as The Arab (1924) with Novarro and Alice Terry.

A beautiful American socialite, Diana Standing (Myrna Loy) and her companion, Miss Powers (Louise Closser Hale), arrive at the train station in Cairo, where they are met by her wealthy British fiancé Gerald Hume (Reginald Denny). They plan to be married in the city once Gerald’s mother arrives.

At the station, she is noticed by Jamil El Shehab (Ramon Novarro), a handsome Egyptian dragoman who enjoys romancing women tourists, in exchange for their jewelry.

Jamil is captivated by Diana, but is rejected by Gerald when he offers them his services. Undaunted, he snatches up her little laptog, Mitzi, when he sees she is unattended.

Diana and Powers set out on caravan across the desert with a new guide, who is actually Jamil; undaunted by rejection, he has followed them and forced the new dragoman to leave.

Diana declares she wants Jamil dead to pay for what he has done, making it clear to Gerald that Jamil has violated her. The army is sent to find and apprehend Jamil, dead or alive.

Realizing that she truly loves him, Diana escapes with Jamil on horseback, as Powers thwarts the Humes’ attempts to go after them. When Diana asks him if he knows that her mother was an Egyptian, he tells her that he wouldn’t care if she was Chinese.

As they kiss, the boat drifts out of frame to reveal an exhausted Powers reclining on cushions in its stern, holding Mitzi and dressed in Egyptian harem pants and a fez.

The film was released on May 12, 1933 by MGM.


Ramon Novarro as Jamil El Shehab
Myrna Loy as Diana Standing
Reginald Denny as Gerald Hume, Diana’s fiancé
Louise Closser Hale as Powers
C. Aubrey Smith as Cecil Harwood
Edward Arnold as Achmed Pasha
Blanche Friderici as Mrs. Hume
Marcelle Corday as Marthe
Hedda Hopper as Mrs. Loway
Leni Stengel as Ilsa
Akim Tamiroff as Colonel (uncredited)


TCM showed the movie on August 12, 2021.