Cast & Crew
In 1900 in Cairo, police chief Ahmed questions wealthy socialite Ruby Chepstow Armine, who has just returned from a year abroad with her husband, about her knowledge of deceased playboy Mahmoud Baroudi. Without informing her husband Nigel, Ruby agrees to come to Ahmed's office the next day. Later that afternoon, Ruby takes Nigel's best friend, Dr. Meyer Isaacson, to her garden to ask for his help, and relates the events of the last three years: In London, as a coquettish divorcèe, Ruby makes an appointment with Meyer, on the pretext of having insomnia, but in reality to find out about Nigel, a wealthy Egyptologist. Meyer resents her flip, spoiled nature, but Ruby is determined to ensnare Nigel romantically, despite Meyer's suggestion that he will do everything in his power to prevent it. Ruby negotiates a meeting with Nigel and that night has dinner with him, only to have Meyer interrupt their meal. Certain that Meyer will ruin her opportunity by telling Nigel about her gold-digging intentions, Ruby plans to leave London, but her devoted maid Marie convinces her to try again. That same night, Ruby encounters Nigel and when he proposes, Ruby, in a fit of conscience, alludes to her questionable past. Nigel is undeterred, however, and Ruby accepts. After marrying, they move to Egypt, where Nigel is searching for the tomb of Ramses V. Ruby is initially delighted with the exotic surroundings, but soon wearies of Nigel's stodgy friends. One evening at a dinner party, a bored Ruby notices the distress of a young guest, Yvonne Dupont. When Ruby questions her in private, Yvonne confesses that although engaged, she has unwittingly gotten involved in an innocent flirtation with a young man who is now blackmailing her over letters she wrote to him. Ruby offers to intercede and upon meeting the suave Mahmoud Baroudi, quickly sees through his proclamations of sincerity, yet gets him to agree to destroy Yvonne's letters. Baroudi flirts with Ruby, who, while amused to find his character similar to her own, remains dignified and impassive. Several days later, while seeing Yvonne off at the strain station, Ruby runs into Baroudi, and when Nigel is away at the excavation site, she becomes involved with him. Soon, even the faithful Marie is disgusted by Ruby's flagrant behavior and warns her that Nigel is soon returning for a one-week visit. Panicked and guilt-ridden, Ruby breaks with Baroudi, yet remains obsessed with the playboy. When Nigel returns he says nothing about Ruby's distracted mood, which is exacerbated when she reads in the newspaper that Baroudi is publicly escorting American heiress Jean McCormick. During a dinner party at Villa Bella Donna, which the McCormicks attend, Ruby is incensed to discover Baroudi with Jean, passing himself off as a prince. In a jealous fury, Ruby reveals Baroudi's fraud to Mrs. McCormick and within days the family returns to New York. Baroudi is angry until Ruby mollifies him with a settlement check from Mrs. McCormick. The two begin seeing each other again, but Baroudi grows restless after quickly spending all the money gambling. Baroudi then reveals that he is still communicating with Jean, who will turn twenty-one shortly, and legally come into her inheritance. When Ruby responds angrily, Baroudi observes that should Nigel suddenly meet with an abrupt end, Ruby would be as wealthy as Jean. He then shows Ruby a silver box containing poison powder and mentions the superstition that unfortunate occurrences happen to those who disturb the ancient tombs. During the unveiling ceremony for the Ramses tomb, Ruby recognizes Baroudi's servant as one of the attendants, and realizes he has poisoned Nigel's coffee, but remains silent. During the ceremony, Nigel collapses and the attending physician, Dr. Harding, is unable to diagnose his ailment. When Nigel requests that Meyer be summoned from England, Ruby promises to contact him. Meanwhile, Baroudi's servant continues to slowly poison Nigel, with Ruby's knowledge, even after their return to Villa Bella Donna. When Marie realizes that Ruby is lying to Nigel about contacting Meyer, she summons him herself before angrily resigning. In distress, Ruby goes to Baroudi only to find him with another woman. Ruby protests that she cannot endure watching Nigel suffer, but Baroudi points out that while he cannot be connected with the poisoning, she can easily be implicated. He convinces her that she must hasten the process as Meyer is expected shortly, and Ruby reluctantly agrees. That night Ruby herself takes the poison to Nigel's room, where he tells her that should he die, she should allow Meyer to counsel her, despite their obvious dislike for each other. He then reveals that Meyer had told him all about her disreputable past before their marriage, but that he, Nigel, loved her and was sure he could trust her. Overcome with remorse, Ruby cannot poison him and instead goes to Baroudi and tells him that Nigel is dead. When Baroudi orders drinks to celebrate, Ruby, realizing that Baroudi will soon want to rid himself of her, uses the poison on him and watches him die. Back in the present, in the Villa Bella Donna garden, Ruby finishes her story, explaining that since Baroudi's death, she has lived in complete fidelity to Nigel. Meyer is uneasy with Ruby's confidences and remains skeptical of her self-proclaimed reformation. Later that evening, Ruby writes an entire confession and privately gives it to Meyer to give to Nigel after she turns herself in to Ahmed the next day. Some days later at Ruby's funeral, Ahmed meets with Meyer to inquire about the likelihood that she died accidentally in an unexpected rockslide while taking a walk on the night of her confession. Meyer assures him that it was accidental and although he hands over Ruby's confession, he pleads for him to reveal nothing to Nigel. Ahmed agrees and returns the note, which Meyer destroys.
Edwin C. Lear
Ernest J. Nims
C. S. Ramsay-hill
Men are just begging to be lied to... so I lie. They don't fall in love with me; they never trouble to know me; they just fall in love. And they're cheated by their own imaginations.- Ruby
Interesting viewpoint.- Isaacson
It's the truth! If I can have everything I want, money, pleasure, admiration, just by a little harmless lying, I'd be a fool not to lie, wouldn't I?- Ruby
Hollywood Reporter news items indicate that Marlene Dietrich and Joan Crawford were considered for the role of "Ruby." Hollywood Reporter reported that Universal-International launched a $100,000 radio campaign around Temptation's star, Merle Oberon. Some scenes in the film were shot on location at Red Rock Canyon, in California's Mojave desert. According to Hollywood Reporter, Temptation was the first motion picture to have a world premiere aboard a passenger train, on the Chesapeake and Ohio railroad's George Washington, which ran between Washington, D.C. and Cincinnati, Ohio. Among the many other screen adaptations of Robert Hichen's popular novel and John Bernard Fagan's play, all titled Bella Donna, are a 1915 Paramount film, directed by Edwin S. Porter and Hugh Ford, starring Pauline Frederick, Thomas Holding and Julian L'Estrange (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20; F1.0271); another Paramount production in 1923, directed by William Seiter, starring Pola Negri, Conway Tearle, and Conrad Nagel (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30; F2.0339); and a 1935 Gaumont-British production, directed by Robert Milton and starring Mary Ellis, Conrad Veidt, Sir Cedric Hardwick and John Stuart. On April 12, 1956 the Lux Video Theatre broadcast a version of Temptation directed by Norman Morgan, starring Sarah Churchill, Dayton Lummis and John Bently. All of the earlier film versions are faithful to Hichen's original ending, which has Ruby, stunned by "Mahmoud Baroudi's" rejection, wandering off to die in a desert sandstorm.