I absolutely love Myrna Loy but I only recently discovered her, so I have slowly been working on watching all her movies.
Generally speaking, I save movie watching for winter but our DVR is pretty full of movies I’m saving for winter, so I decided to watch “The Barbarian” last night.
I knew nothing about the movie except that Myrna was in it and that it was a black and white film from 1933, so possibly pre-code.
I really need to start by saying, this movie upset me and the ending outraged me!
It’s advertised as being a romantic drama but there was nothing romantic about the way the male lead character, Jamil, abuses the women he was supposed to be protecting.
(If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship please call the national abuse hotline at 1-800-799-7233)
The story takes place in Egypt.
Jamil is a servant and a dragoman, which is a tour guide/interpreter and he claims to be a prince.
The scene opens on a train station where we witness a handsome young man conning diamonds out of various women he has obviously seduced into thinking he loves or at least cares for and will miss when they have continued on their journeys… he is looking for his next victim.
Enter Myrna’s character, Diana.
Diana is just getting off a train. She is beautiful, well dressed and well off – judging by the fact that she was carrying a small toy-breed dog and surrounded by family and servants. You can see by her bearing and speech that she is well educated.
Diana has come to Egypt, along with her companions to join her fiance, Gerald. They are to be married in a few days time and live in Egypt as he is an engineer working on a desert aqueduct.
As soon as Jamil spots Diana, he immediately targets her as his next victim.
He tries everything to get her attention and to join her party but he is rebuffed by the men of the family. When everyone is occupied elsewhere, Jamil sees his chance!
He steals Diana’s little dog and later brings it to her, saying he has rescued it from the train tracts. This does the trick and she hires him on the spot!
From this moment on he manipulates and cons everyone around him to get his way in everything!
Jamil harasses Diana in various ways and manipulates things so Gerald looks unreasonable and jealous. He also manipulates circumstances so that he can look like a hero to Diana.
When Gerald is called away on work, Jamil becomes bold enough to enter her bedroom, force his kisses on her and attempt to seduce her.
This all fails and once he is out of Diana’s bedroom, she has him fired and replaced.
At this point, Diana decides she’ll be better off with her fiance so she packs everyone up and heads out into the desert with her new tourguides.
Once again, Jamil sees his chance!
He follows the group and after night fall threatens the life of the new dragoman and once again installs himself as head man.
Diana is furious and decides they should go back to Cairo immediately (presumably it is a shorter distance back to Cairo than to continue on to wherever Gerald is).
Once again, Jamil sees his chance and takes advantage!
He manages to separate Diana from the rest of the party. She sees an oasis and flees there. The women there see that she is exhausted and hot, so they offer her a rose filled bath, clean (though nearly nonexistent) clothing and a bedroom to rest in, but…
It’s all a trick!
Jamil anticipated that Diana would flee to the oasis and talks the owner of the home, Pasha, into whipping Diana and raping her but a few screams in and Jamil is feeling guilty, so when Diana calls out for him to help her, (there’s no one else to call to as Jamil is the only person there that speaks English and the only person there she knows) he rushes in to save her and escapes with her out into the desert!
Jamil is ecstatic that she called to him for help but let’s not forget that he is the reason she is in this situation to start with! So, now…
Diana is fleeing for her life… riding on a horse practically naked… wearing no under garments… AND the gossamer pajamas she’s wearing will do nothing to protect her from the brutal desert sun!
It gets worse!
Pasha sends riflemen to bring Diana back! Jamil fights them all off, killing them all but also kills Diana’s horse in the process… and he’s apparently mad at her about it because he forces her to walk barefoot through the desert, presumably for days, whips her, will not allow her to drink and eat until, first the horse drinks and eats and then he drinks and eats and then…he rapes her!
The next morning, once again feeling guilty, he gives her his horse, says he will walk and that he will take her back to Cairo but men from his tribe arrive and take them to his home and his father. His father, the king, welcomes them and you get the sense that, even though they are speaking a different language, he is telling his father that she is “his woman” and he wants to marry her.
Jamil explains to Diana, that as he had told her before, he really is a prince, that his father sends all his son’s to be dragomen as part of their royal training…(Sorry Dad, if you thought being a Dragoman was going to teach this one humility and kindness or something, you got it all wrong!)
He now asks Diana to marry to him. He promises her that he will never take more wives than her and promises her love and happiness. Completely defeated she agrees to marry him but part way through the ceremony she recovers her spunk and throws holy water in his face. He calmly and sadly allows her to go, ordering men of the tribe to deliver her to Cairo.
I have no doubt that given a few minutes, he would have changed his mind and pursued her so that he could continue to beat her and abuse her but luckily at this point, she was rescued by her fiance and the Egyptian army.
Diana is safely returned to her family and companions. The Egyptian army is hunting Jamil far and wide. He is to be put to death for the crime of hijacking a caravan in the desert, which is considered piracy. The wedding is carrying on as planned, despite Diana’s mother-in-law-to-be’s efforts to stop it. After all, she doesn’t want her son to marry a woman that’s been kidnapped and raped but Gerald staunchly tells his mother that he will not abandon Diana.
Just as Diana is finished getting ready for the wedding and her uncle is waiting outside of her door to walk her down the aisle, Jamil appears on Diana’s balcony singing a love song. She tells him that they are hunting for him, he tells her that Allah has decreed that his life is her’s and she must choose whether he lives or dies.
Now, if he hadn’t just… manipulated her, kidnapped her, had her whipped, made her walk barefoot through a desert while practically naked, whipped her himself, starved her, raped her and tried to force her into marriage… these words would have been very romantic.
What do you think Diana did? Did she push him off the balcony? Run screaming from her room? Call her uncle in to shoot the blighter?
NO! She ran away with him and they lived happily ever after!
WHAT UTTER AND COMPLETE NONSENSE!
I was so angered by this ending! I wanted justice! Not some pretend happily ever after with a man that will do nothing but abuse her for the rest of her life.
Of course, that has nothing to do with Myrna, she did an excellent job, as usual!
But how dare the writers, producers, etc pretend that THIS is romantic, that THIS is love! That a woman “couldn’t possibly resist” a handsome face and a beautiful singing voice!
Yes, abused women often stay with abusive men but that is out of fear or because they have no where else to go or they believe no one else will ever love them or a combination of these and other reasons based on fear, self doubt, isolation and low self esteem…
It’s insulting to women to insinuate that ANY woman, let alone a well educated, well loved, independently wealthy woman would ran away with a man that has just manipulated her, kidnapped her, had her whipped, had her terrorized, made her walk barefoot through a desert while practically naked, whipped her himself, starved her, refused her water, raped her and tried to force her into marriage!
If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship please call the national abuse hotline at 1-800-799-7233