8.1/10
401
8 user 5 critic

Ali Baba Goes to Town (1937)

Approved | | Comedy, Fantasy, Musical | 29 October 1937 (USA)
A movie company is doing the Arabian Nights when a hobo enters their camp, falls asleep and dreams he's back in Baghdad as advisor to the Sultan. In a spoof of Rosevelt's New Deal, he ... See full summary »

Director:

Writers:

(screen play), (screen play) | 3 more credits »
Reviews
Nominated for 1 Oscar. See more awards »
Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Certificate: Passed Comedy | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

A woman disguises herself as a child to save on a train fare and is taken in charge by an army man who doesn't notice the truth.

Director: Billy Wilder
Stars: Ginger Rogers, Ray Milland, Rita Johnson
Comedy | Musical | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

In New York, a gambler is challenged to take a cold female missionary to Havana, but they fall for each other, and the bet has a hidden motive to finance a crap game.

Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Stars: Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons, Frank Sinatra
Palmy Days (1931)
Comedy | Musical | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  

Musical comedy antics in an art deco bakery (motto: "Glorifying the American Doughnut") with Eddie Cantor as an assistant to a phoney psychic, who is mistaken for an efficiency expert and ... See full summary »

Director: A. Edward Sutherland
Stars: Charlotte Greenwood, Barbara Weeks, Spencer Charters
5th Ave Girl (1939)
Comedy | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

Rich industrialist Walter Connolly feels unwanted by his wife and children so he hires unemployed Ginger Rogers to pose as his mistress.

Director: Gregory La Cava
Stars: Ginger Rogers, Walter Connolly, Verree Teasdale
Thin Ice (1937)
Comedy | Musical | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  

A Swiss hotel's ski instructor falls in love with a man who goes skiing every morning.

Director: Sidney Lanfield
Stars: Sonja Henie, Tyrone Power, Arthur Treacher
The Iron Mask (1929)
Adventure | Drama | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

King Louis XIII of France is thrilled to have born to him a son - an heir to the throne. But when the queen delivers a twin, Cardinal Richelieu sees the second son as a potential for ... See full summary »

Director: Allan Dwan
Stars: Belle Bennett, Marguerite De La Motte, Dorothy Revier
Comedy | Mystery | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

Screwball comedy has wealthy mystery writer Paula Bradford using her doctor ex-husband's non-payment of alimony to coerce him into a reconciliation.

Director: Stephen Roberts
Stars: William Powell, Jean Arthur, James Gleason
Adventure | Action
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

Seeking revenge, an athletic young man joins the pirate band responsible for his father's death.

Director: Albert Parker
Stars: Douglas Fairbanks, Billie Dove, Tempe Pigott
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.1/10 X  

Mary Hagen lives in a small town in Ohio and goes to Jordon Junior College. For years, there has been whispers, rumors and gossip about who are her real parents. When Tom Bates returns to ... See full summary »

Director: Peter Godfrey
Stars: Ronald Reagan, Shirley Temple, Rory Calhoun
Adventure | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

Cheated out of his estate by his sadistic uncle, young Benjamin Blake goes to the South Seas to make his fortune so he can return to claim his birthright.

Director: John Cromwell
Stars: Tyrone Power, Gene Tierney, George Sanders
Certificate: Passed Comedy | Musical
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.7/10 X  

President Franklin Roosevelt appoints a theatrical producer as the new Secretary of Amusement in order to cheer up an American public still suffering through the Depression. The new ... See full summary »

Director: Hamilton MacFadden
Stars: Warner Baxter, Madge Evans, James Dunn
Drama | Musical | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

This send-up of ragtime song and dance begins in 1915 San Francisco when society boy Roger Grant decides to pursue popular rather than serious music.

Director: Henry King
Stars: Tyrone Power, Alice Faye, Don Ameche
Edit

Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
Yusuf / Tony Martin
...
Sultan
June Lang ...
Princess Miriam / June Lang
...
Sultana / Louise Hovick (as Louise Hovick)
Raymond Scott and His Quintet ...
Raymond Scott Quintete
...
Ishak / Broderick
Virginia Field ...
Dinah
Alan Dinehart ...
Boland
...
Prince Musah (as Douglas Dumbrille)
Maurice Cass ...
Omar - The Rug Maker
Warren Hymer ...
Tramp
Stanley Fields ...
Tramp
Paul Hurst ...
Captain
Sam Hayes ...
Radio Announcer
Edit

Storyline

A movie company is doing the Arabian Nights when a hobo enters their camp, falls asleep and dreams he's back in Baghdad as advisor to the Sultan. In a spoof of Rosevelt's New Deal, he organizes work programs, taxes the rich and abolishes the army. Written by Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

new deal | taxes | sultan | spoof | dream | See All (41) »


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
Edit

Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

29 October 1937 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Nuits d'Arabie  »

Box Office

Budget:

$1,000,000 (estimated)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(RCA High Fidelity Recording)

Color:

(tinted)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

Eddie Cantor appears as himself in the film's final sequence with Tony Martin. See more »

Quotes

Ali Baba: Excuse me, who are these fellows? They're not even listening!
Sultan: They're my new musicians from Africa.
Ali Baba: Africa?
[to musicians]
Ali Baba: What part of Africa?
Sultan: I'm afraid they don't understand you. You see, they talk a strange tongue.
Ali Baba: [to musicians] Parlez-vous Français?
[No response]
Ali Baba: Se hable espanol? Capisce italian'?
[No response]
[...]
See more »

Connections

Version of La cueva de Ali-Babá (1954) See more »

Soundtracks

A Hot Time in the Old Town
(1896) (uncredited)
Music by Theo. A. Metz
Played when the election results are announced
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

 
A 1930s cultural curiosity
2 August 2011 | by (Upstate New York) – See all my reviews

ALI BABA GOES TO TOWN (1937) is an interesting historical curiosity for classic movie buffs. It stars famed entertainer Eddie Cantor in one of his rare movie roles. The cast includes such familiar faces as Roland Young, John Carradine, Douglass Dumbrille, and Charles Lane, but also features burlesque queen Gypsy Rose Lee (a.k.a. Louise Hovick) at the outset of her ill-fated film career. "Looney Tunes" fans and music enthusiasts are also in for a treat seeing Raymond Scott and His Quintet dressed as Arabs and "performing" their eccentric jazz ("Twilight in Turkey") on primitive instruments.

Old movies from Hollywood's Golden Age often serve as time capsules for their era, and that is true with ALI BABA. Meant to be shown for a few weeks in theaters before stepping aside for new features from Hollywood's movie-churning machine, films set out to entertain the audience of their time, never dreaming of being resurrected in the age of home video and TCM. Jokes are often topical, reflecting the political climate or world news of the day. Dance sequences capture an era in music history and small cultural references may be lost on modern viewers.

ALI BABA GOES TO TOWN borrows its premise from Mark Twain's "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court", inserting a modern man (through a dream) into an old and foreign setting. This time, star-struck autograph seeker Al Babson (Cantor) visits the set of a Hollywood "Arabian Nights" movie, dozes off, and imagines he is in ancient Bagdad, where Roland Young is the real sultan and Douglass Dumbrille is the scheming prince. Cantor reforms Bagdad, introducing American principles of democracy and economics. He shapes Arab society in the image of New Deal America, with amusing (if absurd) modern touches (camel filling stations?) and plenty of cracks at Franklin Roosevelt and 1930s politics.

Eddie Cantor was an entertainer on stage, radio, and screen. He was famous in part, like Al Jolson, for his blackface routines, and there's one in ALI BABA. When the sultan is unable to grab the attention of his tribal African servants, Cantor speaks some Cab Calloway jive and gets them on their feet. Rubbing on his minstrel face paint, Cantor leads the Africans in an extended musical number ("Swing Is Here To Stay"), which earned an Oscar nod for dance direction. The scene was an innocuous inclusion in 1937, but can be a bit uncomfortable for modern viewers in this age of racial sensitivity.

Another great time capsule scene is at the close of the film, where the movie-within-the-movie has its glitzy premiere. It's a look back at the red carpet Hollywood premieres of yesteryear, where stars would be announced as they arrived by an emcee at a microphone. Footage from an authentic movie premiere provides cameos from Hollywood icons like Douglas Fairbanks, Shirley Temple, Tyrone Power, Victor McLaglen, Sonja Henie, Cesar Romero, and Dolores del Rio, as well as other stars of the day whose names haven't stood the test of time.

This Eddie Cantor vehicle is a dated comedy in many ways, but is valuable from a historical perspective. With its political satire and its glimpse of vintage Hollywood, the movie is intriguing. Some of the gags are fun, and it's a rare film that shows John Carradine (in an Arabian get-up, no less) doing a silly little dance. The flying carpet effects are relatively primitive, but fairly effective. I'd never seen Eddie Cantor on film before, and I must say I found his eye-rolling shtick tiresome. But that's probably his trademark and he did know his way around a witty line of dialogue.

Check out ALI BABA GOES TO TOWN if you're a fan of old-time Hollywood. (It helps if you're familiar with the 1930s and recognize names like Eddie Cantor, Gypsy Rose Lee, Roland Young, John Carradine, and Raymond Scott.) It's mildly entertaining, but it's certainly a neat curiosity. Keep an eye out for it.


4 of 4 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Discuss Ali Baba Goes to Town (1937) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for:
?