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 ...
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A. Edward Sutherland
A kind-hearted young man is thrown out of his corrupt home town of West Rome, Oklahoma. He falls asleep and dreams that he is back in the days of olden Rome, where he gets mixed up with court intrigue and a murder plot against the Emperor.
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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>
Newsreel footage of the many stars appearing at the Carthay Circle Theatre premiere of Wee Willie Winkie (1937) is used for the film's finale. See more »
The story is set in tenth-century Baghdad but reference is made to the sultan's being the ruler of Arabia. Baghdad is in Iraq or, as it would have been known then, Mesopotamia. See more »
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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In his second "back to the past" dream film (four years after "Roman Scandals"), Eddie Cantor skewered FDR and the New Deal in this satiric look at the Arabian Nights. Cantor and screenwriter Gene Fowler wanted to do a take on "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court," with the difference that, as much as they poked fun at FDR's policies and oratory, the New Deal policies that Cantor institutes in Baghdad don't backfire quite the same way as the Yankee's did at King Arthur's court.
Hobo Aloysius Babson, a film fan and autograph hound, stumbles onto an Arabian Nights film set and gets made an extra. A miscalculation on his medicine sends him into a dream, however, and he finds himself at the court of the Sultan of Baghdad. Giving his name as "Al Babson," they assume he's the son of Ali Baba, and after surviving an assassination attempt made with his stunt knife, he's made an adviser to the king.
The film is full of Cantor's trademark humor, singing and dancing, and the obligatory rueful reference to Cantor's family full of daughters. A troupe of African musicians--who speak no language but Cab Calloway's--provides a terrific swing number (unhappily, Cantor performs it in blackface), and Cantor and Tony Martin deliver a catchy number, "Vote for Honest Abe," that works as a campaign song for Sultan Abdullah.
The production cost over a million dollars, not a little of which went to create an impressive flying carpet effect. Sadly, two of the crew were killed when the carpet fell on them, and Cantor himself got so knocked about and bruised in the scenes on the carpet that he was elected an honorary member of the Hollywood Stunt Men.
The film ends with Al Babson attending a film premiere in which he sees Eddie Cantor (another common Cantor touch), and a host of stars such as Victor McLaglan and Shirley Temple are also seen there (understandably: the premiere was for "Wee Willie Winkie").
All in all, the film is great fun, with fast-paced and topical dialogue and lots of great sight gags (a "W.P.A. Filling Station" for watering local camels). It's very much of its time, so if you're at all familiar with the New Deal era, it will be an entertaining hour and a half.
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