The White Sheik
|The White Sheik|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Federico Fellini|
|Produced by||Luigi Rovere|
|Screenplay by||Federico Fellini
|Story by||Michelangelo Antonioni
|Music by||Nino Rota|
|6 September 1952 (VFF)
20 September 1952 (Italy)
25 April 1956 (USA)
The White Sheik (Italian: Lo sceicco bianco) is a 1952 Italian romantic comedy film directed by Federico Fellini and starring Alberto Sordi, Leopoldo Trieste, Brunella Bovo, and Giulietta Masina. Written by Fellini, Tullio Pinelli, Ennio Flaiano, and Michelangelo Antonioni, the film is about a man who brings his new bride to Rome for their honeymoon, to gain an audience with the Pope, and to present his wife to his family. When the young woman sneaks away to find the hero of her romance novels, the man is forced to spend hour after painful hour making excuses to his eager family who want to meet his missing bride. The White Sheik was filmed on location in Fregene, Rome, Spoleto, and Vatican City.
Two young newlyweds from a provincial town, Wanda (Brunella Bovo) and Ivan Cavalli (Leopoldo Trieste), arrive in Rome for their honeymoon. Wanda is obsessed with the "White Sheik" (Alberto Sordi), the hero of a soap opera photo strip and sneaks off to find him, leaving her conventional, petit bourgeois husband in hysterics as he tries to hide his wife's disappearance from his strait-laced relatives who are waiting to go with them to visit the Pope. The plotline was re-used by Woody Allen in his film To Rome with Love.
- Alberto Sordi as The White Sheik
- Leopoldo Trieste as Ivan Cavalli
- Brunella Bovo as Wanda Giardino Cavalli
- Giulietta Masina as Cabiria, La prostituta
- Lilia Landi as Felga, La zingara del fotoromanzo
- Ernesto Almirante as Dottore Fortuna, il regista del fotoromanzo
- Fanny Marchiò as Marilena Alba Vellardi
- Gina Mascetti as Aida Rivoli, La moglie di Fernando
- Jole Silvani
- Enzo Maggio as Furio
- Anna Primula
- Mimo Billi as Man on the beach
- Armando Libianchi
- Ugo Attanasio as Uncle of Ivan
Originally the treatment for The White Sheik was written by Michelangelo Antonioni. Carlo Ponti commissioned Fellini and Tullio Pinelli to develop the treatment. It was satirical in nature, targeting the trashy fotoromanzi comic strips that were extremely popular in Italy when the film was made.
The male lead, Leopoldo Trieste, a playwright who did not consider himself an actor, reluctantly auditioned for Fellini. During the audition Fellini asked him to compose a sonnet that the lead character would have written to his wife. The poem which begins "She is graceful, sweet and teeny..." was included in the film.
Appearing briefly as the prostitute Cabiria, Giulietta Masina would later return to this role in Nights of Cabiria. Her short scene inspired Fellini to write the screenplay and also convinced producers that Giulietta was ready for the leading role.
Italian film critic Giulio Cesare Castello, writing for Cinema V, argued that Fellini's past as a successful gag writer made him a natural choice as the film's director: "Fellini was undoubtedly the best qualified and for two reasons: firstly, his experience as a gag writer and consequently his familiarity with the secrets and intrigues of the world he was about to bring to the screen; secondly, his gift for sarcastic comment and delight in satirizing tradition... The result is unusual and stimulating but derives more from the failure to establish a basic mood or tone rather than from any direct intention. Fellini should find this tone in future works if he is to avoid the discontinuity we found here." 
Nino Rota scored the film.
- "The White Sheik". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 21 April 2012.
- "Filming locations for The White Sheik". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 21 April 2012.
- "Full cast and crew for The White Sheik". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 21 April 2012.
- Castello's review first published in Cinema V (Milan) December 15, 1952. Cited in Claudio Fava and Aldo Vigano, The Films of Federico Fellini, New York: Citadel Press (1985), p. 65.
- Further reading
- Aristarco, Guido. Lo sceicco bianco, in: "Cinema Nuovo", n° 1, Novembre 1952. (Italian)
- Burke, Frank M. "Variety Lights, The White Sheik, and Italian Neorealism". In Film Criticism, Winter 1978, Volume 3, no. 2, p. 53-66.