Ernst Lubitsch (1920)
Shortly before his emigration to the United States, director Ernst Lubitsch created a silent film in which he himself participated as an actor for the last time. Set in Baghdad in the Islamic Golden Age, Sumurun tells of the unrequited love of a hunchback (played by Lubitsch) for a traveling dancer (Pola Negri) and the illicit love between the enslaved harem girl Sumurun (Jenny Hasselquist) and a cloth merchant (played by Harry Liedtke) — thwarted by a brutal sheikh (Paul Wegener).
Writer Thomas Mann saw the film in Munich in 1920 and later incorporated the film experience into his novel The Magic Mountain:
They watched as a rousing tale of love and murder in the court of an Oriental potentate unrolled silently before them; scene after opulent scene sped past, full of naked bodies, despotic lust, full of cruelty, prurience, and fatal desire — and then suddenly the film slowed to linger revealingly on the muscular arm of an executioner. In short, it had been produced with a sympathetic understanding of its international audience and catered to that civilization’s secret wishes. (The Magic Mountain)