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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>
The play opened on Broadway in New York City, New York, USA on 25 December 1911 and closed in June 1912 after 184 performances. 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 »
More Arabian Nights stuff, this time emanating from the studio where the lion roared: according to the Internet Movie Database, there are twenty (count 'em) films that go by the name of KISMET and, although the Vincente Minnelli-Howard Keel musical version is the best-known of the lot, this earlier straight adaptation starring Ronald Colman and Marlene Dietrich is perhaps the best-regarded. For the record, I do have the former on VHS but won't have time to catch it just now and, of all the rest, I'm mostly interested in the 1930 German version (there was another one made in Hollywood the same year) which, like the film under review, was directed by William Dieterle! Speaking of which, I don't quite understand the reasoning of Warner Brothers (who have inherited DVD distribution rights to the MGM film library) behind recently releasing the 1955 version on this format on its own (so to speak, since it actually forms part of a Musical Collection) rather than coupled with the earlier version.
Aged 53, Ronald Colman still cuts a strikingly handsome figure (even when dressed as a beggar) and his silvery hairline is amusingly obscured by the most unseemly of turbans for all but one scene in the film's latter stages. Equally splendid-looking is his 43-year old German co-star who, in the film's most celebrated sequence that was, ironically, later cut for TV screenings because of its 'erotic' content(!), has her legs painted in gold for a veiled dance number before the court of evil Grand Vizier Edward Arnold and Colman (who dubs himself the King of Beggars by day but moonlights as a sovereign of a far-away land). Given the maturing age of the two leads, it's no wonder that two younger actors were recruited in the persons of James Craig (as the Caliph of Bagdad who likes to go incognito through the streets of his kingdom as a gardener's son) and the late Joy Page (Colman's secreted daughter); she had made a memorable screen debut in CASABLANCA (1942) and died earlier this year aged 83.
The cast is rounded up by Florence Bates (as Colman's nagging in-law), Harry Davenport (as Craig's wily adviser) and Hugh Herbert (as one of Colman's would-be comic-relief sidekicks). As was to be expected from Hollywood's premier studio, no expense was spared in bringing this opulent costumer to the screen including shooting in eye-filling Technicolor amidst impressively-constructed sets and this effort was rewarded by garnering the film four Academy Award nominations in that year's ceremony although, as had been the case (and would be again) with similar Oriental ventures, the nominees all went home empty-handed!
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