The White Sheik (1952) Poster

User Reviews

Add a Review
23 ReviewsOrdered By: Helpfulness
A delightful and enchanting comedy from Fellini
Ymir428 September 2003
"Our real lives are in our dreams, but sometimes dreams are a fatal abyss."

That line above is one of the most beautiful lines I've ever heard in any film. This 1951 comedy feature is free of Fellini's quintessential surrealist vision but filled with the delights of idiosyncratic imagery, genius comical precision, and indisputable humanity.

The film opens in Rome, where a newlywed small-town couple is vacationing on their honeymoon. While in Rome, the (very) young bride takes advantage of being near the location where a new film is being shot that stars The White Sheik, a popular film/serial/newspaper icon whom she is secretly infatuated with. While her husband is sleeping, she sneaks off to find the Sheik and give him a drawing she has made of him. Brunella Bovo, who plays the bride, is new to me, but she was absolutely entrancing in her innocence. Trieste's comic expressions are absolutely arresting. Sordi is hilarious as the Sheik, who is about as unromantic a romantic figure as you can imagine.

Nino Rota's first score for Fellini is a lot of fun and exceptionally carnivalesque. You can tell by the marriage of music and image that Fellini and Rota had a real treasured creative hit-off with this film, and as most know, Rota scored every Fellini film after "White Sheik" until his death in 1979. This great score has never been released in it's entirety, but the main title theme has appeared on many Rota compilations.

An absolutely adorable little film, which seems to have been regrettably ignored by the majority. It's one I will watch many times.
26 out of 28 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A rare combination of high comedy and true (though comical) suspense. A real gem.
guanche30 June 2003
The protagonist is a stuffy little bureaucrat from a small town arriving for his honeymoon in Rome with his very sheltered (only a bit more than himself) young bride. He has few romantic thoughts on his mind. His main concern is a meeting with his uncle, a minor official at the Vatican, who has arranged an audience with the Pope.

While the jerk is taking a nap, his bride plots a momentary escape to fulfill her one wild fantasy---A meeting with the "White Sheik" a hero of the "frumetti"---a sort of trashy photographic comic book popular in 50s Italy---to whom she has sent red hot fan mail. She learns that the studio is only a few blocks from the hotel and resolves to meet her secret love for just a minute and get back to the hotel in time. Through a comedy of errors she is accidentally "abducted" to a shooting session where she learns to be careful about what she wishes for. Meanwhile, her husband is desperately searching for her and coming up with all kinds of frantic excuses to his family for her absence. I won't describe the movie any further for the benefit of those who wish to see it.

A very effective comedy with plenty of innuendo for adults and even some slapstick and sight gags. Loads of laughs for young and old. A very sweet story that nevertheless contains some of the surrealistic elements of Fellini's later work. If possible, get the subtitled version. The Italian language enhances the comical effect. A real gem.
20 out of 23 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Incredibly sweet and charming film
zetes17 December 2001
This is Federico Fellini's first solo effort, his first film, Variety Lights, having been co-directed by Alberto Lattuada (although it is unmistakably in the style of Fellini's early films). The White Sheik is quite underrated - there's no reason why it should be so much less respected than the other early films, particularly La Strada and Nights of Cabiria, the two most often cited as masterpieces (and I'd agree). I actually like The White Sheik quite a bit better than I Vitelloni, Fellini's next film (Il Bidone is the only one from his early period that I have not yet seen). The White Sheik is quite humorous, perhaps Fellini's funniest (although so many of his films contain a great amount of comedy). No Fellini fan should go without seeing it, because so many of his themes and images are established in it. In fact, no one should miss Variety Lights, either, for the same reason. But The White Sheik, unlike Variety Lights, stands by itself as a great film. 9/10.
16 out of 19 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Honeymoon in Rome
jotix10019 October 2006
Warning: Spoilers
This was Fellini's directorial debut, although he had been involved in the Italian cinema for quite some time as a writer, mainly. "The White Sheik" heralded the great things that Fellini had in store for all his admirers. It is also the debut of a character that will come to life later on, Cabiria, the prostitute with the heart of gold, the eternal optimist, whose story will be told a few years later in full length.

Fellini was indeed inspired for this picture. He was lucky in finding collaborators of the stature of Tullio Pinelli, who will be linked to Mr. Fellini in many other projects, Michelangelo Antonionni, himself a distinguished director, and Ennio Flaiano. The music of Nino Rota adds another layer to this film with its tuneful score. Arturo Gallea's wonderful black and white photography looks as though it was just shot, with its crisp details of that Rome of the early 1950s in all its splendor.

Ivan Cavalli, an older man has married the beautiful, and younger, Wanda. They come from a small town and their honeymoon is to be spent in Rome, taking the sights and visiting his well connected relatives. The arrival at the train station captures the chaos and confusion that looks pretty much the same today. The prim Ivan is taken aback when the clerk at the Tre Fiori hotel shouts to take the couple to the "honeymoon suite" on the third floor.

Wanda, who is much younger, has something else in mind. She, like a lot of women of that era in Italy, loved the romance stories that were beautifully photographed and which had its followers who adored figures like Fernando Rivoli, the hunk male star of those soap opera paperbacks. Wanda, has been corresponding with the office that handles the production of those penny romances, goes to meet her idol. Wanda, a naive woman, is an instant hit with the woman who writes some of the stories, who tells her Fernando is downstairs waiting for her. Well, that's the beginning for Wanda's fling with celebrity.

In the meantime, Ivan awakens to a flooded room because Wanda forgot to turn off the water in the bath tub. Little does he know, but his punctual uncle and his family await the newlyweds downstairs, but Wanda is missing. What to do? Ivan does everything to excuse his absent bride to the uncle, telling them she feels too sick to go with them. Ivan decides to go along with the relatives not knowing what else to do. The visit to the Pope, a highlight of the trip, has to be postponed.

Wanda finds herself on a beach location where some of the White Sheik's photography is to be shot. She makes quite an impression with her idol, who sees in the naive woman an easy prey. Little prepares him for the way everything will turn against him as his jealous wife arrives to the shoot. Wanda, has to find her own way to Rome in the company of a beach goer who sees in Wanda the same thing Rivoli saw: sex!

Leopoldo Trieste, who plays Ivan Cavalli, was the perfect man to play this fastidious man. Mr. Trieste runs away with the picture. The only concern for this stuffy man is his honor. The mere idea of having his good name sullied by Wanda simply is too much for him; it horrifies him. Mr. Trieste, one of the best film actors in Italian cinema makes a wonderful Ivan.

Brunella Bovo appears as Wanda, the young bride. Ms. Bovo is also marvelous in the film. She is a romantic woman who probably is married to Ivan to please her parents. Ivan is the opposite of her idea of what those heroes of the romance novels she adores, must look like. Wanda is horrified when she realizes what her idol Rivoli expects from her.

Fellini and his team were blessed in casting Alberto Sordi as Rivoli. This actor was at an excellent moment in his film career. His larger than life persona dazzles Wanda, but he is like some other handsome hunks that are used to easy females who he lures to bed by telling them what they want to hear.

The ensemble cast is also excellent. Enzo Maggio, a notable character actor, plays the hotel concierge who is more interested in pushing post cards than giving service. Lilia Landi is Felga, one of the models posing for the novels. Ettore Maria Margadonna is seen as the well connected uncle. Giulietta Masina appears toward the end of the film as Cabiria who is walking the streets where she meets the distraught Ivan and comforts him.

This delicious film is a must see for all fans of that genius that was Federico Fellini.
8 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A very "un-Fellini" sort of film
MartinHafer6 September 2006
This was the first film Fellini directed on his own and it was among his best but most under-appreciated films. While it does not have the usual "Fellini look" (with odd looking supporting characters, unusual stories or unique style), the film is a definite winner--featuring a very cute story and some winning performances. Plus, like most of Fellini's films, the plot is pretty weird--and that I truly appreciate.

A young man and woman are married and come to Rome for their honeymoon. The very organized husband seems to have planned every last detail of the trip--scheduling almost every second of every day and allowing them no time alone or to even consummate their marriage. Instead of trying to get this seemingly inflexible man to bend, the young bride hopes to just slip away from the hotel VERY briefly to go meet her idol, the "White Sheik". Unbeknownst to the hubby, she is an avid reader of an adventure magazine that feature this fictional character--complete with photos and stories about his larger than life adventures and romance. And, she'd been writing him for some time and her only real desire in Rome was to spend just a brief moment with him. However, when she arrives at the office that publishes the magazine, the actor portraying him in the stories isn't there. But, the folks see she's a real fan and want to help her, so they tell her to get in the truck and go with the camera crew to the shoot. She only has a moment, but agrees--after all, he is her idol.

Well, one thing after another goes wrong and her brief excursion lasts more than a day! In the meantime, the new husband is panic-stricken but doesn't want to tell his uncle or his family--he's too embarrassed to tell them he's misplaced his wife! And, for the next day or so, he makes one excuse after another to explain why she isn't there to go on their fully packed itinerary! The story is very cute and charming, it provides a few laughs. In many ways, it reminds me of the later film THE PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO (where Mia Farrow is a devoted fan of a movie serial star and sees the same film again and again), but it is both more charming and ultimately has a better and more upbeat ending.

PS--I know this may make me sound like I am not "with it", but I really do prefer most of Fellini's earlier films and hate the "über strange" films from later in his career (such as SATYRICON). This is a wonderful film that is sure to please everyone--even those who don't think they like the films of Fellini.
7 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
I think I may agree with the notion...
MisterWhiplash10 January 2005
...that Federico Fellini, one of the most gifted and visually wild Italian directors of the 20th century, blossomed out until with his masterpiece 8 1/2 (which, by the time he got to, as Martin Scorsese once said, "he was on Mars"). With his first solo effort, parting ways with Rossellini but not entirely from neo-realism, he went back to one of his passions- comic-book writing. Los Sciecco Bianco (The White Shiek) is likely one of Fellini's funniest works, and it shows him gearing up his visual sense of space, and with his trademark characters (set, which is his usual, in Rome).

The story is quite simple and, for the novice to Fellini's daring feats of the 60's, entertaining and accessible. A man with a level of pride in his family's connections in bureaucracy and religion in Rome (played by Leopoldo Triste, with perfect usage of wide eyes), is married to a young woman, Wanda (Brunella Bovo). She loves him, but finds him perhaps a little un-easy to be around for a day. So, she sneaks off for what she thinks is just a momentary call for fandom- she's a big fan of 'the white sheik', the star of the kinds of comics being printed in Italy (mostly for women, as said on the DVD, they were still photos as opposed to drawings, with pulp/love stories). But, in a Fellinian twist, Wanda gets whisked away by the shooting crew of the series, and Ivan (Triste) is stuck in one of those text-book comic situations, where everything is "under control". The results are rather funny, if also intriguing.

The little characters are also what makes the film fun, aside from our lead couple, and with this film we get the white sheik himself, Fernando Rivoli (Alberto Sordi, who finds that line between a stealthily romantic type and hopelessly dim), and the crew, filled with their little comments. Plus, there is a late-night visit to Ivan in a despairing state, from Cabiria (later to appear in one of Masina/Fellini's best combinations, Nights of Cabiria), involving a flame shooter. And as the film unravels, it becomes key to the fun- we know things will turn out right somehow, but how is what makes the film work (unlike Fellini, some might think, as many of his other films are the opposite, with flights of fantastical comedy in hopeless tragedies). It's not a great film, there are some inconsistencies, and at a couple of points the pace loses its strength. But if this was a place to evolve from for the director, it's not a bad place in the slightest. That there are wonderful turns for Trieste, Bovo, Marchio, and legendary composer Nina Rota, is another reason to watch it.
12 out of 17 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Sceicco bianco Lo representing Fellini's earlier work hints at the great talent that Fellini would become.
crow-5013 January 2000
When most people think of Fellini, they think of his films La Strada or La Dolce Vita and 8 1/2, but the director's vast catalogue of films is worth checking out just to see a genius at work. Fellini's early and little known film, The White Sheik proves to be a cinematic gem that not only hints at the director Fellini would become, but also stands on its own as an achievement.

Part soap opera (read Mexican soaps) and part romantic comedy, The White Sheik leans towards surrealism and comic book camp (over 30 years before Kevin Smith created DOGMA). The premise of the story is that two newly weds, Vanda Giardino (Bruenella Boro) and her husband Ivan Cavelli (Leopoldo Trieste) honeymoon in Rome where Ivan hopes to make a good impression of his relations. Unfortunately for him, his wife sneaks out of the hotel room so that she can meet her comic book hero, The White Sheik (Alberto Sordi.

Shot in black and white, this film is gorgeous and surreal. The actors on the set of The White Sheik come across as gypsy or circus like. They sport tough attitudes and this makes a nice contrast to Vanda's wide-eyed innocence.

The White Sheik is technically Fellini's second film, but the first one in which he did not share directing credits. However, he did share writing credits with Michelangelo Antonioni, Ennio Flaiano and Tullio Pinelli. If you are a fan of La Strada and Nights of Cabiria then you must see this film.
10 out of 15 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
My brief review of the film
sol-21 July 2005
Quite an interesting comedy with ideas about fantasy versus reality, a wonderful Nino Rota score, and great work by Bovo, an actress who can capture some great expressions on her face: realistically big-eyed, naïve and innocent, as is required for her character. The film does however suffer from unevenness, trying to balance two styles of comedy - light-hearted semi fantasy and silly slapstick. By themselves either style works fine, but when joined together, it becomes a little messy. The film is not really helped by excessively silly supporting characters, and Trieste feels very over-the-top at times. Still, the aforementioned virtues, and interesting camera-work with an extensive range of different angles, are enough to keep this film afloat. Definitely recommended, even if not perfect.
8 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Calling all Fellini Lovers
jolesmiles4 July 2006
A classic Fellini comedy, with all the atmosphere of a carnival that fans expect. Brunella Bovo is lovely, naive, well-meaning, but lead astray by a philandering playboy. Meanwhile, her new husband seems doomed to appear utterly insane to his family who has come to Rome to meet his blushing bride--suddenly disappeared. Charming, funny, what's not to love? Oh, and Guilietta Masina arrives in her role as the kind and sensual Cabiria--icing on the cake! While certainly not the greatest Fellini film on record, it makes for pleasant viewing. Yes, the behavior of the characters is hardly exemplary, but then, would that be entertaining?
6 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
The Not So White Sheik
Rindiana12 September 2009
Likable early Fellini told in a sprightly farcical vein, with good-natured jabs against hypocritical family honour, marital disharmony and the hokeyness of pulp kitsch.

The situations are a tad too low-key to work as premium farce, but the humanity and naturalness that are invested in the story and the characters, despite all tendencies to rely on stereotypes, render this pic highly watchable, if not as memorable as later films made by the master director.

And in an age when satire is often equated with a misanthropic attitude it's nice to witness a more empathic way to get one's knuckles rapped.

7 out of 10 pitying prostitutes
2 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews