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Hafiz, a rascally beggar on the periphery of the court of Baghdad, schemes to marry his daughter to royalty and to win the heart of the queen of the castle himself. Written by
Jim Beaver <email@example.com>
Life Magazine reported that Marlene Dietrich had her legs painted with four coats of gold paint, and her hair sprinkled with powdered gold for her exotic dance number. See more »
Ronald Colman's character eats with his left hand, which is taboo in Arabic culture. See more »
[Referring to Hafiz's daughter, Marsinah]
You think she's going to wither away waiting for your fairy tales to come true?
She's waiting for her fate in all its splendor.
The fate for a beggar's daughter is a camel boy.
See more »
Ronald Colman and Edward Arnold (even as a villain) furnish most of the otherwise inadequate charm of this bit of Arabian nights cotton candy that tells of the "King Of the Beggars" who masquerades as a prince each evening while the true local royalty, the Caliph, also roams the streets of Baghdad by night, disguised as a peasant to learn what his subjects really think of him. A premise with promise; full potential unrealized.
Marlene Dietrich, while contributing to the decor, is largely wasted as Colman's love interest, a captive queen amused by his extravagant lies but unaware of his true identity. Her best moments come during her verbal sparring matches with Arnold. Colman, as always, makes the most of his role which, if not tailor made for him, certainly appears that way. James Craig gives it a gallant try, but is sorely miscast as the Caliph. Had wartime not curtailed Hollywood's supply of young leading men, Craig's participation herein would have been unlikely. It was simply too much to ask to bend his corn-fed, all-American, big lug nice guy type to the part, and MGM might better have borrowed Turhan Bey from Universal. The Technicolor camera seems to like Joy Page, appearing as Colman's daughter in her second film, but her role gives her fewer opportunities as an actress than her first appearance (in "Casablanca," as the Bulgarian newlywed whose husband tries to win money for exit visas at the roulette table). An almost unrecognizable Florence Bates has a couple good moments as Colman's household servant (begging pays well), but Hugh Herbert, with his 'woo-hoo' persona unaltered from that so familiar in Warners musicals of the previous decade, is rather incongruous as one of Colman's fellow beggars, even in as whimsical a fantasy as this.
On a recent TCM screening, host Robert Osborne went on and on about the lavish production values - which he reported offended some during wartime - but I must say, for an MGM production, the money doesn't really show on screen. With its fanciful painted backdrops and stylized sets, it instead resembles one of 20th-Fox's more cut-rate (Technicolor notwithstanding) Grable-Miranda features.
All in all, KISMET is an undemanding way to kill a hundred minutes, but aside from the always-welcome presence of Colman and Arnold, not much more can be said of it.
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