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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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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 »
Had Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg written anything memorable from this version of Kismet, Robert Wright and Chet Forrest might not have ever adapted Alexander Borodin's music to make their acclaimed version of Kismet in the fifties. We should all be the poorer for that.
Music is the weak spot in this version of Kismet, the songs sung by Joy Page and Marlene Dietrich aren't anything memorable. But classical American actor Otis Skinner who created the role of Hajj on Broadway back in 1911 is replaced by probably the only man in Hollywood who could have made that Edwardian dialog palatable to modern ears. Of course that would be Ronald Colman, a man I could get joy listening to him recite Buffalo Phone Directory.
This was one of MGM's biggest productions in the Forties, they splurged for technicolor and if you're going to have Marlene Dietrich play the seductive princess go for the gold. Lots of delightful cries emerged from cinema audiences when those golden painted legs of Dietrich were shown. Even on television they're still quite a sight.
Unfortunately the sound version of Kismet that Otis Skinner made in 1930 for Warner Brothers appears to be a lost film so we can't compare his interpretation of the lead with Colman. But in watching Colman's performance it seemed to be his Francois Villon aged so that he now had a teenage daughter. Anyway, it works beautifully.
James Craig is the earnest young caliph who I kept expecting to sing A Stranger in Paradise and Edward Arnold is the villainous vizier. Mr. Arnold played him like the political boss of ancient Bagdad.
MGM also filmed the better known musical version of Kismet with Howard Keel, Ann Blyth, and Vic Damone putting their marvelous voices to that classical score. That version has the music no doubt, but this one has Colman and Dietrich, so take your choice and you can't go wrong with either.
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