U …is for
Under the Crescent
The plot included considerable, if sometimes convoluted, foreign intrigue. An actress who is performing at an opera house in Cairo becomes the object of the infatuation of two men: Egyptian Prince Ibrahim Tousson and American Stanley Clyde. Totally smitten with the actress, the Prince ignores a vital directive from his cousin, the Khedive (viceroy of Egypt under Turkish rule), concerning a “Moslem uprising” and an impending fight to be mounted by the Ottoman Empire. Clyde, however, finds and reads the letter and rushes to share it with consul-general Sir Godfrey. But before Godfrey is able to act on the information, he is drugged by his Arab servant Mehemid Ali, who is actually a spy. Meanwhile, Tousson’s mother, disturbed by the rumors of her son’s infatuation, arranges a hasty marriage for him with his cousin, Princess Uarda. Fearful of losing his share of his mother’s estate, Tousson agrees to the wedding; but he creates a clever deception, by which the heavily-veiled bride he marries is actually the American actress.
After the Princess, Clyde, Zohra, and her baby (whom a frenzied mob at the mosque had intended to sacrifice) take refuge in a pyramid, Prince Tousson attempts once again to reclaim the official documents, without which the Christian massacre cannot occur. Given twenty-four hours by the Khedive to retrieve them, he and his spies track down the fugitives. As Clyde bravely tries to hold off the Prince’s men, the Princess hides in the coffin of an ancient queen but is betrayed by her own veil, which gets caught in the coffin lid and reveals her hiding place. The documents are ripped away from her and delivered to the Said Pasha, who decrees the death of the infidels. Meanwhile, with the Princess and Zohra once again in his power and Clyde again his prisoner, Tousson begins the journey back across the desert.
When a desert sandstorm suddenly erupts. Tousson seizes the opportunity to dispose of his unwelcome heir. The child is found by a band of Bedouins, who recognize the amulet around his neck as belonging to Zohra, who turns out to be the daughter of the band’s leader Rasaid. In accordance with the Moslem idea of honor, Rasaid decides to pursue and kill the daughter who has dishonored him. But discovering her in the Prince’s palace, driven mad by the loss of her infant, he spares her his vengeance (madness being sacred to Mohammedans) and redirects his wrath toward the Prince. Despite several frightening encounters involving trap doors and a leopard called the “Little Executioner,” both Clyde and the Princess escape, just in time, along with Zohra and her father.
As the Princess awaits execution, the newly-crowned king drops dead from the poison. Standing in front of the grave that has been dug for her, she removes her veil and reveals herself to be Tousson’s wife, now officially the country’s queen. Her first act is to command the release of the Christians, after which she is immediately denounced as a traitor and a Christian spy by the Qadi (the judge who renders decisions according to Islamic law) and rushed by Tousson’s supporters who want to kill her. Fortunately, the English soldiers, with Clyde at the helm, arrive at the castle and, with their superior weaponry, mow down the infidels. Clyde leads the Princess to safety, where she collapses in his arms.
Apart from its exotic “Old Egypt” locale and its strong anti-Moslem bias, Under the Crescent was not an exceptional serial. It did, however, mark the cinematic film highpoint of the career of its star, Ola Humphrey, a popular stage actress and sister of silent film actor and director Thomas Orral Humphrey (cast in the serial as spy Meheimit Ali). She subsequently appeared in only two more films, Missing (1918) and Coax Me (1919), both of them forgettable.
Under the Crescent, which is thought to be lost, remains of interest to film buffs because of its unusual subject, exotic characters, and wild animals.
Survival Status: Presumed lost.
Director: Burton L. King
Release Date: June 1, 1915
Release Company: Universal Film Manufacturing Company
Cast: Ola Humphrey (The American Actress, Princess Tousson), Edward Sloman (Prince Ibrahim Tousson), William C. Dowlan (Stanley Clyde), Carmen Phillips (Princess Uarda), Helen Wright (Princess Tousson, Prince Tousson’s Mother), Edna Maison (Princess Zohra), William Quinn (Said Pasha, the Khedive), Henry Canfield (Sir Godfrey, General Counsel), Orral Humphrey (Meheimit Ali, the Spy).
Episodes: (two reels each) 1. The Purple Iris. 2. The Cage of the Golden Bears. 3. In the Shadow of the Pyramids. 4. For the Honor of a Woman. 5. In the Name of the King. 6. The Crown of Death.