Scen.: Svend Gade. F.: Sophus Wangøe. Int.: Gunnar Tolnæs (il maragià), Lilly Jacobsson (Elly von Langen), Carlo Wieth (Kuno von Falkenberg), Thorleif Lund (colonnello von Langen), Jonna Anker Kreutz (la moglie del colonnello), Edith Barré (Senta von Langen). Prod.: Nordisk Films Kompagni 35mm. L.: 1318 m. D.: 64’ a 18 f/s. Bn
In early 1917 “Paimann’s Weekly Film-Lists” warmly recommended to its subscribers, the cinema owners of Austria, to book Robert Dinesen’s latest film: “The story is gripping and highly dramatic; the acting and photography are excellent, the sets lavish and the harem scenes first-rate”. Indeed, Maharadjahens yndlingshustru, a Nordisk production, became a crash box-office hit wherever it was distributed, and while the harem scenes probably didn’t hurt, the main attraction was beyond any doubt the fairytale plot: Elly, a rather ordinary European girl, wins the true love of a fabulously rich, handsome Indian prince. Within the patriarchal order of his male privileges (the harem), she rises to a position deemed privileged by the logic of the film’s happy ending, that of the best-beloved of several wives. Norwegian actor Gunnar Tolnæs, bedecked with jewels and military decorations in his Maharadjah attire, gained immense popularity and the tale-telling nickname ‘The Women’s Favorite Maharadjah’. Miscegenation goes unpunished in this film, contrary to the racist US productions in a similar vein: the Asian desiring a white woman in The Cheat (1915) must die (while it seems no problem that The Sheik, 1921, is a rapist, after it is revealed that he is white after all). It took a great writer like E.M. Forster to expose the fantasy of dark strangers desiring white women for what it is, a figment of white imagination. Incidentally, Forster had lived some years in India as a private secretary to the Maharajah of Dewas before publishing A Passage to India (1924).