White Sheik (1952): Fellini’s Solo Debut

Italian (Lo Sceicco Bianco)

After co-directing “Variety Lights” with Alberto Lattuada in 1951, Federico Fellini made his solo directorial debut in “The White Sheik” (“Lo Sceicco Bianco”), a charming, farcical romantic comedy that reflects s several ideas and characters that would continue to dominate his future work.

The tale centers on newly wed couple, Ivan (Leopoldo Trieste) and Wanda (Brunella Bovo), who arrive in Rome for their honeymoon,  While her hubby takes a nap, Wanda, the more romantic and dreamy of the two, sneaks quietly out of the hotel, hoping to meet the White Sheik, Fernando (comedia Alberto Sordi), the dazzling hero of her favorite comic strip show, “Fumetto.” Soon, she is whisked off to the beach Rivoli  for a madcap photo shoot.

Meanwhile, her baffled and worried husband tries to look for her, while making all kinds of desperate excuses for her sudden disappearance to his family members, who are anxious to meet her.

Wanda repeatedly drifts away from her husband and back, in periodic attempts to find The Sheik, ultimately repairing to the location site where he shoots his latest film,

The cast is accomplished, and you can see Giulietta Masina (Fellini’s wife), playing a small part of a prostitute named Cabiria, who would star in some of his best pictures, “La Strada” and “Nights of Cabiria.”

Her inevitable disillusionment with the Sheik is intercut with her husband’s comic (and desperate) attempts to explain his wife’s absences to his disgruntled relatives. After a comically inept suicide attempt, the couple is reunited.

The screenplay of the fable, by Michelangelo Antonioni, Fellini, Ennio Faliano, and Tullio Pinelli, is based on an idea by Antonioni, who would become a major director in his own right.

lIke other Fellini movies, “The White Sheik” deals lightly and satirically with the realtion between dreams and reality, the need for fantasy in everyday life and the inevitable disillusionment.

Nino Rota, who dis the score, would become a frequent collaborator of Fellini’s in such masterpieces as “La Dolce Vita” and “81/2.”

Running time: 86 Minutes

On DVD: April 29, 2003