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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 <email@example.com>
Excuse me, who are these fellows? They're not even listening!
They're my new musicians from Africa.
What part of Africa?
I'm afraid they don't understand you. You see, they talk a strange tongue.
Se hable espanol? Capisce italian'?
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Ali Baba Goes To Town anticipates the war in Iraq by several decades. Just as we are at war to democratize Iraq and its capital Bagdad, so Eddie Cantor is in Iraq by himself to bring the New Deal to the old caliphate. The populace seems to take to it somewhat better.
Cantor is young Al Babson hitchhiking on a freight car to Hollywood when while doing a little soft shoe to entertain fellow tramps Stanley Fields and Warren Hymer he falls out of the car and in the desert. Not to worry though, he lands in the middle of a sand and sandal Arabian picture that 20th Century Fox was shooting. The film has the look of the kind that Maria Montez would do at Universal in the next decade. He gets hired as an extra.
However in a big scene where he's one of many to pop out of a giant jar, Eddie over medicates himself on his many pills and falls asleep and dreams himself back into old Bagdad. The people he meets there are suspiciously like the stars of the film he's on like June Lang, Tony Martin, and Roland Young. Young makes a rather urbane sultan who takes to Cantor, so much so he makes him his prime minister. Cantor proceeds to introduce the New Deal to Bagdad and gives the people some ideas of democracy.
That does not sit well with a trio of villains, Douglass Dumbrille, John Carradine, and Louise Hovick. If you don't recognize the name Louise Hovick, she was a minor starlet at Fox who would leave their shortly for another career involving exposure under the better known name of Gypsy Rose Lee.
Cantor did this whole thing before and much better in Roman Scandals. In real life Cantor was a number one booster of the New Deal of Franklin Roosevelt and the satire is somewhat blunted. It's also somewhat dated and you'd really have to be familiar with both Cantor and the Thirties to get a lot of the jokes.
Tony Martin is in the film as a young reformer type or what passed for one in old Bagdad. I got a feeling that a lot of his role was left on the cutting room floor. He makes no mention of Ali Baba Goes To Town in his joint memoir with Cyd Charisse.
Ali Baba Goes To Town did not fare well at the box office even with the presence of a whole lot of guest stars in the film via newsreel clips from the premiere of Wee Willie Winkie. By mutual consent Darryl F. Zanuck and Eddie Cantor did not make any more films and Cantor was off the screen for three years.
The film is really for Eddie Cantor fans and for those who'd like to familiarize themselves with one of the greatest entertainers of the last century. But there are far better filmed examples of his work.
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