In this drama, Diana (Myrna Loy) is a beautiful tourist from the United States who is visiting Cairo, accompanied by her Uncle Cecil (C. Aubrey Smith) and Aunt Powers (Louise Closser Hale). Diana is to meet her fiance Gerald (Reginald Denny) in Cairo, but she soon makes the aquaintance of Jamil (Ramon Novarro), a handsome local who works for the hotel as a tourist guide. Jamil returns Diana's lost dog, earning her gratitude, though she's unaware that Jamil took the dog himself so that he could return it to her. After several days of showing Diana Cairo's most magificnet sights (and scheming to keep Gerald at a distance), Jamil reveals his secret to Diana -- that he's actually an Arab prince who wants Diana's hand in marriage. However, Diana isn't especially taken with this idea at first, and and before long the darker side of Jamil's infatuation makes itself known. The Barbarian was based in part on one of Ramon Novarro's silent hits, The Arab, and the film inspired more than a few raised eyebrows in 1933 thanks to a scene where Myrna Loy swims in the nude at an oasis, though Loy later wrote that she was wearing a flesh-colored body stocking in deference to her modesty (and the censors).
by Mark Deming synopsis