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Marco Polo travels from Venice to Peking, where he quickly discovers spaghetti and gunpowder and falls in love with the Emperor's daughter. The Emperor Kublai Khan is a kindly fellow, but his evil aide Ahmed wants to get rid of Kublai Khan so he can be emperor, and to get rid of Marco Polo so he can marry the princess. Ahmed sends Marco Polo to the West to fight barbarians, but he returns just in time to save the day. Written by
John Oswalt <email@example.com>
Lana Turner later recalled in a Gary Cooper biography that her "fancy black oriental wig" had been glued around her face with spirit gum, while she felt extremely uncomfortable in her costumes, and worse yet, had her eyebrows shaved off, at the insistence of Samuel Goldwyn himself, and replaced them with false slanting black ones. See more »
When Marco crosses a bridge, his party is attacked and his horse is driven over a cliff. A safety wire is clearly visible on the rider. See more »
THE ADVENTURES OF MARCO POLO take him from his home in Venice, across the wide expanse of Asia, to the palace of the great Kublai Khan.
Lavish and at times exciting, this adventure film never rises far above the level of a comic book and should not be relied on for much historical accuracy. Even so, it is nonetheless entertaining, with a sturdy hero and a villain worthy of scorn & hisses.
To his credit, Gary Cooper plays the title role with good grace and a straight face, doubtless well aware that a fat paycheck would be his reward for spending so much time running about in 13th century garments. His Marco is a perpetual student, always excited about finding something new and interesting. His romance with princess Sigrid Gurie is refreshingly low-key and charming, even if wholly implausible.
Basil Rathbone is the evil Saracen who controls the Khan's court, his lust for ultimate power having made him as rapacious as the vultures & lions he keeps in his private apartments to feed upon his enemies. Suave & sophisticated, Rathbone's soothing voice and sinister good looks made him the perfect intelligent villain.
A bevy of fine character actors keeps the fast paced story moving: little Ernest Truex as Marco's bookkeeper with bad feet - he spends much of the film perched on Cooper's back; H. B. Warner as the soft-spoken Chinese inventor who befriends Marco; chubby, dithering George Barbier as a less-than-awesome Khan; rotund Robert Greig, sporting enormous fingernails, as the Khan's majordomo, and diminutive Ferdinand Gottschalk as a most unfortunate emissary from the Khan of Persia.
Jolly Alan Hale appears as a rebel leader who blithely sends his prisoners off to be boiled in oil, but secretly lives in fear of his termagant wife, Binnie Barnes, while he secretly ogles slave girl Lana Turner.
Some of the true facts concerning Marco Polo (1254-1324) and omitted by the film should perhaps be relayed. Marco's father Niccolò and uncle Maffeo had already made the long trip to China and met the great Kublai Khan. They left Venice in 1260 and returned in 1269 with the Khan's request that they come back with Christian missionaries and teachers. The Polo brothers took 21-year old Marco when they began their return trip in 1271, with the blessings of the Doge, who secretly hoped for Venice's power to expand, and the new Pope, who assigned two priests to travel with them. Afraid of what might lie ahead, the priests abandoned the Polos in Muslim territory. The Polos would not reach the Khan's court until 1275. Marco immediately became a tremendous favorite of the monarch, who used and trusted him during his entire stay in China. Marco was able to travel and record many strange & wonderful sights, and for awhile was even made governor of the important city of Yangchow. Finally, in 1292, Marco was able to get the Khan's permission to return his elderly relatives to Venice, after escorting a Chinese princess and her immense entourage to the Persian Khan. (There was no romance between Marco and the princess; to attempt one would have been more than his life was worth.) Eventually, after seemingly endless travel, the three Polos arrived home in Venice, having been gone for 24 years. In 1298, while captaining a Venetian ship, Marco was captured and placed for a short time in a Genoese prison. While there, he dictated the story of his marvelous travels to a fellow inmate. When eventually published, it became one of the most famous books of the millennium.
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