The Green Goddess

Special support provided by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

One of silent cinema’s most stately personages, George Arliss is best known for his portrayals of noblemen, millionaires and prime ministers (such as the titular role of Disraeli) — but his turn as the sinister Rajah of Rukh in The Green Goddess is a juicy, highly-entertaining 180-degree variation on his usual “upstanding citizen”. Amongst a background set-up containing touches eerily reminiscent of today (tensions between East and West, protests and civil strife), Arliss plays the despotic head of a fictional kingdom, eager to exploit the situation when a trio of British travellers are forced to land their airplane on his turf. Taking them prisoner, Arliss intends to use the unlucky folks in a hostage trade with the British government — but will the three manage to escape on their own to safety? The Green Goddess provided Arliss with one of his signature roles, as he not only portrayed the Rajah in the 1921 stage production, but also in this film, and a 1929 talkie version. This also might be the only feature film in history to claim a namesake salad dressing, as the tasty condiment was created in honor of Arliss’ tangy stage performance by a San Francisco chef in 1922!

Dir. Sidney Olcott, 1923, 35mm, 106 min. (Restored 35mm print courtesy of UCLA Film And Television Archive)

Watch our trailer for “The Green Goddess”!