Cast & Crew
Posing as Lord and Lady Stonehill, two diamond thieves hold up the main offices of a South African diamond mine and make off with a fortune in uncut stones, taking with them mine manager Hugh Rand as a hostage. The thieves attempt to make an escape across the desert and become lost in the hot and trackless wastes. They release Hugh from his shackles, and he leads them to safety. The girl reforms, and the man is arrested by the authorities. Hugh and "Lady" Diana fall in love.
Desert Nights (1929) - Desert Nights
When Rand opens the Mines vault to show off a fortune in diamonds, Diana and Steve make off with the jewels and also with Rand who is kidnapped by the band of crooks. When the trio find themselves lost and parched in the desert, only Rand can lead the dehydrated thieves to safety. "Buck up you brave diamond thief!" he humorously chastises Diana as she collapses from exhaustion under the desert's blazing sun. As the trio wanders through the desert a strange love triangle results with even stranger results by the film's end.
Desert Nights (1929) was directed by the prolific William Nigh, who began his career as an actor in silents before moving into directing with Mack Sennett comedy shorts. Nigh directed films for three and a half decades in Hollywood in virtually every genre.
Star John Gilbert was the son of a comic whose family's show biz connections landed him in Hollywood where he initially worked in small roles for the Thomas H. Ince Company. By the time Gilbert transferred to Fox, he had transformed from a bit player into a dashing, popular leading man.
But Gilbert's screen lover status was really assured with another career change, when he joined the MGM stable in the 1920s and became a romantic rival to Rudolph Valentino in a slew of passionate features with Greta Garbo, Flesh and the Devil (1926), Love (1927) and A Woman of Affairs (1928). The pair were romantically linked off screen as well. The affair ended in 1929 when Gilbert married Broadway star Ina Claire much to the distress of his fan base who were titillated by his rumored romance with Garbo.
Gilbert had a harder time holding the interest of his female fans with the transition to sound, where his romantic vigor never quite translated to the sound era, perhaps due in part to his less-than-commanding voice but also to a run of mediocre films. MGM touted its stars' voices as yet another of their many talents and in Hollywood Review of 1929 capitalized on the public's curiosity about how the stars sounded by offering many of its players speaking on camera for the first time. Gilbert was featured in the film along with Norma Shearer performing the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet. It begins seriously before ending on a humorous note with Gilbert speaking in pig Latin. Gilbert's first speaking part in Hollywood was in His Glorious Night (1929) which, according to author Donald Crafton, was met with some derision. Gilbert's higher pitched voice inspired Variety's headline, "Audiences Laughing at Gilbert."
The New York Review, Crafton observed, said of Gilbert's voice, "His voice is neither remarkable nor displeasing but it is not that which one would associate with the Great Lover of the screen."
It is possible Gilbert's later problems with alcohol may have been related to his difficulty in making that career transition from fan adulation in the silent era to a diminished presence in sound films.
Director/Producer: William Nigh
Screenplay: Adaptation by Endre Bohem and treatment by Willis Goldbeck
from a story by John Thomas Neville and Dale Van Every
Cinematography: James Wong Howe
Production Design: Cedric Gibbons
Cast: John Gilbert (Hugh Rand), Mary Nolan (Lady Diana Stonehill), Ernest Torrence (Lord Steve Stonehill).
by Felicia Feaster
Desert Nights (1929) - Desert Nights
This film was reviewed in Motion Picture News under the title Thirst.