Cobra is a 1925 silent film starring Rudolph Valentino, Nita Naldi, Casson Ferguson, and Getrude Olmstead. Valentino plays a penniless nobleman whose weakness is women.
“There are times when friendship becomes the most important thing in a man’s life, stronger than love, equal to any sacrifice – even that of love itself.”
The film opens at the Café del Mar where a young girl’s father is looking for Count Rodrigo (Valentino). He pays the owner to get him out without the father seeing him. Jack Dorning (Casson Ferguson) walks outside the café and the father mistakes him for Rodrigo. He tries to explain he is an American and not Rodrigo. With Rodrigo watching, the two men get into a fight on the street. Rodrigo cuts in to try to help Jack out. After looking at Jack’s papers, Rodrigo tells the father he is indeed American and not the man he is looking for. The father leaves and Rodrigo tells Jack he is the man the father was looking for.
The next day at Rodrigo’s house Jack is visiting and he tells Rodrigo he should be in his business selling antiques. The father shows up at the house with his daughter Rosa. He shows Rodrigo the letter he wrote to his daughter. Rodrigo tries to give him an expensive chalice to go away. Jack gives the father a lot of money to buy him off. Rodrigo gives him the money in exchange for the letter and the father and his daughter leave. Rodrigo explains to Jack that he tries to behave but it doesn’t run in his family.
The film flashes back to show an ancestor having affairs with two women.
Jack suggests that if he wanted to really get away from the women there he should work with him in America. With his knowledge of Italian antiques he would be invaluable. Rodrigo sails to America with the best of intentions.
At Jack’s firm Rodrigo meets his secretary Mary Drake (Gertrude Olmstead). He is attracted to her and starts to hit on her. She refuses his advances. He also finds that New York is not a place to escape women.
At a restaurant Elsie (Nita Naldi) has been flirting with Rodrigo all evening. Her date has become upset and punches Rodrigo and a fight starts. Afterward, Rodrigo dances with Elsie.
Later at the apartment Rodrigo shares with Jack, a lady named Sophie wants money from Rodrigo to go away. He tells her she can’t stay because people are coming over for tea. Once again Jack pays the lady to go away. Rodrigo tells Jack, “Women fascinate me as that cobra does its victim.”
Rodrigo wants Jack to receive Elsie and her Aunt for tea. He doesn’t want to be around women. The next morning at work Rodrigo receives a telegraph from Jack saying he and Elsie quietly wed the night before. He feels like the luckiest man in the world. A year later he still feels this way.
Rodrigo has found new joy at the office working with Mary. He is having genuine feelings for her. One day Elsie comes into the office and tells Mary “He is a charming and brilliant person but you must realize he is not the man to care deeply for any one woman.” With her husband out of town for the evening Elsie stops by the office. She tells Rodrigo, “I’ve written you, I’ve shown you in a thousand ways that I love you.” She takes her coat off. Re minds her that she’s married to his best friend. She tells him she knows a place they can be alone together and dares him to come with her. He tells her she is poisonous like a cobra. She continues to dare him. She dares him to kiss her and then let her go. He finally succumbs.
In a room at the Van Cleve Hotel Rodrigo pushes Elsie away. He tells her he’s been a cad to have come this far. He leaves and she phones a man named Jim. She tells him she’s at the usual place and she will wait for him.
The next morning Rodrigo was facing the dread of facing his friend. Mary tells him she was hurt by a spiteful thing someone (Elsie) said to her. He tells her that whatever was said about him he deserved.
Jack comes into the office frantic. He tells Rodrigo that he arrived home at eight in the morning and found that Elsie hadn’t been home all night. Jack goes to his office and Rodrigo calls the Van Cleve Hotel. A look of shock comes over his face.
A boy comes with the morning newspaper and as Rodrigo looks through it for information he comes across a news story that says: Van Cleve Hotel Burns. Early morning fire claims two victims. Rodrigo wanted to confess everything to his friend. He didn’t want to tell Jack what sort of woman the wife he loved and adored had been. Jack is now on the verge of a breakdown because he doesn’t know what’s become of his wife.
In time Jack has gotten better. He’s back in the office and he tells Rodrigo he’s discovered the truth about Elsie. Rodrigo tells Jack he’s leaving for Italy.
On his return from Italy Rodrigo learns that there has been a great change in Jack thanks to Mary. Jack tells Rodrigo he loves Mary.
Rodrigo tells Mary he’s never seen Jack look so happy. He makes up a story about a blonde he met on the boat going over to Italy. Mary tells him he hasn’t changed at all. He’s sacrificed his love for Mary for Jack’s happiness. Rodrigo leaves with a heartbreaking look on his face.