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The White Sheik

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The White Sheik
Theatrical release poster
Directed byFederico Fellini
Screenplay byFederico Fellini
Tullio Pinelli
Ennio Flaiano
Story byMichelangelo Antonioni
Federico Fellini
Tullio Pinelli
Produced byLuigi Rovere
StarringAlberto Sordi
Leopoldo Trieste
Brunella Bovo
Giulietta Masina
CinematographyArturo Gallea
Edited byRolando Benedetti
Music byNino Rota
Release dates
  • 6 September 1952 (1952-09-06) (VFF)
  • 20 September 1952 (1952-09-20) (Italy)
  • 25 April 1956 (1956-04-25) (U.S.)
Running time
83 minutes
Box office$50,850[1]

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 have 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 hour making excuses to his eager family who want to meet his missing bride.[2] The White Sheik was filmed on location in Fregene, Rome, Spoleto and Vatican City.[3]


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 Rudolph Valentino-like hero of a soap opera photo strip and sneaks off to find him, leaving her conventional, petit bourgeois husband in a quandary 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 White Sheik was Fellini's first solo effort as a director. He had previously co-directed Variety Lights in 1950 with Alberto Lattuada.

Originally the treatment for The White Sheik was written by Michelangelo Antonioni.[5] 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.[6]

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.[7]

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.[8]


Italian film critic Giulio Cesare Castello, writing for Cinema V, argued that Fellini's past as a successful strip cartoonist 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 strip cartoonist 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."[9]


Nino Rota scored the film.


  1. ^ "The White Sheik (2019 re-release)". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Archived from the original on November 4, 2021. Retrieved March 20, 2020.
  2. ^ "The White Sheik". Internet Movie Database. Archived from the original on 31 October 2011. Retrieved 21 April 2012.
  3. ^ "Filming locations for The White Sheik". Internet Movie Database. Archived from the original on 15 March 2016. Retrieved 21 April 2012.
  4. ^ "Full cast and crew for The White Sheik". Internet Movie Database. Archived from the original on 22 June 2009. Retrieved 21 April 2012.
  5. ^ Chandler, Charlotte (March 2012). "My Dinners with Federico and Michelangelo". Vanity Fair. Archived from the original on 14 July 2015. Retrieved 16 August 2015.
  6. ^ Hancock, Joseph H., Toni Johnson-Woods and Vicki Karaminas (2013). Fashion in Popular Culture: Literature, Media and Contemporary Studies. Chicago: Intellect Books. p. 249. ISBN 978-1841507163. Archived from the original on 2021-11-04. Retrieved 2015-08-16.
  7. ^ Trieste, Leopoldo. "Lo Sceicco Bianco - Fellini - Interviste". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 16 August 2015.
  8. ^ Smith, Geoffrey Nowell (1996). The Companion to Italian Cinema. London: Cassell. p. 79. ISBN 0304341975.
  9. ^ 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. (in Italian)
  • Burke, Frank M. "Variety Lights, The White Sheik, and Italian Neorealism". In Film Criticism, Winter 1978, Volume 3, no. 2, p. 53-66.

External links

This page was last edited on 15 January 2023, at 07:35
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