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A. Edward Sutherland
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A thief falls in love with the Caliph of Bagdad's daughter. The Caliph will give her hand to the suitor that brings back the rarest treasure after seven moons. The thief sets off on a magical journey while, unbeknownst to him, another suitor, the Prince of the Mongols, is not playing by the rules... Written by
Erik Gregersen <email@example.com>
...Douglas Fairbanks brought grace and poetry to physical action on the movie screen. Fairbanks essentially invented the action/adventure movie genre, known in his day as swashbucklers.
"Thief of Bagdad" was made in 1924 when Fairbanks was half way through the heyday of that part of his career. He already had "Zorro" "The Three Musketeers" and "Robin Hood" behind him. "Thief" was something of a departure, however, for it depended less on Fairbanks ability to dance his way though physical stunts than it did on the Arabian Nights tableau it presented on the screen. And frankly, nothing like it has every been done since. Only Griffth's "Intolerance" created the same kind of feel, and it was gritty and warlike, where as "Thief" was a sort of wondrous dream about what it would be like to live by your wits, go off and slay dragons and eventually, win the hand of a princess by saving her father's kingdom.
Fairbanks was over 40 when he made this film and yet seems so perfectly suited for it that we forget his age. He is the embodiment of the dashing hero.
But what almost overshadows him are the sets themselves. Designed by William Cameron Menzies, they are beyond spectacular. Almost every frame of this film is a work of art and of course, the amazing thing is, this was not done through computer animation. So skillful are the designs and the camera-work, that it is almost impossible to tell where the sets stop and the matte paintings begin.
Credit for all this must also go to Fairbanks,who wrote the script and produced the film. Raoul Walsh's direction is also great, although the film is a little long in some spots and would be aided by some skillful editing.
Fairbanks acting style seems today very much of the silent era, yet at the same time, there is always the feel of joyous celebration to it. He was always something of the happy rogue or perhaps, a guy who realized he was getting to make a living by playing in the world's most wonderful sandbox. He was blessed with good fortune and he knew it.
Of the others, Julanne Johnston, who plays the princess, probably comes off the worst of the main characters. She is beautiful,but comes off as little more than window dressing. But kudos to the incredible Anna May Wong who plays the treacherous Mongol slave girl. Wong's great beauty and strong screen presence allow her to steal almost every scene she is in. That Wong never got the chance to play many lead roles is one of the great tragedies of Hollywood history.
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