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Just picture yourself as a teenager in 1954 and this film comes out. It starts as a western, it has a bit of a pirate movie, and then it switches to one of those "Ali Baba" type of films that people used to enjoy so much. Enough? No, there is more, there is the beautiful Rhonda Fleming, Mamie Van Doren and a whole bunch of contestants for the Miss Universe title. Lucky the ones who had the chance of seeing it at that time. I didn't, so I saw it recently and I tried to see it as if I would be in the past. I enjoyed it. Jeff Chandler is Starbuck, a fur trapper who falls for Rhonda Fleming when he comes to Salem. She breaks up her engagement because she also falls for him, but she cannot find him, so she leaves him a letter and sails with her father to Marseilles. They are attacked by Moroccan pirates and she is sold as a slave for a harem. Of course Starbuck goes after her. It is hard for somebody nowadays to accept this movie, the times have changed, but for those teenagers who are now in their sixties it will always be meaningful.
YANKEE PASHA is a prime example of one of those movies that seemed wonderful when you were a kid but somewhat less so when revisited in later life.Based on a novel by Edison(THE VIKINGS)Marshall the movie tells the story of a fur trapper(Jeff Chandler)who travels all the way to Morocco via Marseilles to rescue his beloved(Rhonda Fleming)who has been kidnapped by Barbary pirates and forced to become the slave of a Jannisary warlord.All this stuff seemed magical and thrilling years ago but now serves as just an effective piece of 50's costume adventure hokum.Well-packaged hokum,however,with Jeff Chandler in good macho form as the burly hero and a nice contribution from Mamie Van Doren as a feisty slave girl.Of its type this is enjoyable stuff and worth a look.
Watching so many of these 50s adventure movies, be they vehicles for cowboys or detectives, soldiers or swashbucklers, aliens or monsters, were like reading so much of the pulp fiction of the day. Rather than spending days reading a book, you could spend a couple of hours whisked away to a fantasy land with some harmless adventure and thrills if not a lot of thought provoking ideas. Forty some years later after growing older and wiser, there are still those times when I wonder where Hollywood's current head is, and head back to comfortable familiar territory. I started watching these kind of movies about the time I reached puberty and needless to say, watching this movie with raging hormones was a thrilling experience back then. Rhonda Fleming is still my favorite actress all these years later, and Mamie Van Doren was one of my favorite 50s blond bombshells, so how can I say anything bad about a Technicolor movie that puts both of these women in harem outfits? Yeow! I always thought Rhonda was at her peak in The Gunfight at the OK Corral, but to this day one of my treasured possessions is an autographed publicity still of her in her harem outfit. Move over Jeannie, you've got company! Forget the hokum plot and go for the ride and check out two of the greatest harem beauties ever.
I once read somewhere that when Jeff Chandler completed Yankee
Buccaneer in 1952 there were a lot of action sequences left over. Like
any other studio Universal never let anything go to waste so two years
later Chandler wound up filming Yankee Pasha.
Fans of the stars should like Yankee Pasha. It's a romance novel about a frontiersman who follows his lady love across the Atlantic Ocean after a misunderstanding about the lady's true intentions. Rhonda Fleming is captured by Barbary Pirates and as redheads are a premium she catches the eye of Rex Reason the head of the Ottoman Sultan's local Jannisary forces in Morocco. His troops even have the Sultan of Morocco somewhat intimidated, the Moroccan Sultan being Lee J. Cobb.
Jeff Chandler is not going to let an ocean or Moslem custom about women Christian captives interfere with his pursuit of his lady love. Not even the Sultan's present of Mamie Van Doren to Chandler deters him one wit from his mission.
Van Doren is as annoying to the audience as she was to Chandler with her constant cackling. She was a beauty no doubt, but her acting talent left a lot to be desired. But this film isn't any great work of art. Blonds and redheads certainly add some spice to any harem.
If you like romance novels and are fans of the stars Yankee Pasha should work for you.
To begin with, I interrupted my ongoing parallel Luis Bunuel (Part 2)
and "Euro-Cult" marathons to indulge in an old-fashioned Hollywood
oater on the big screen. This was due to an unscheduled, but most
welcome, invite by a couple of movie-buff friends of mine (who are
actually my Dad's peers). Since we settled on which film we would be
watching at the very last minute, I went into this knowing only the odd
title (which I was familiar with alright, but it had somehow never
cropped up for viewing until now) and the male lead involved (Jeff
and, yet, I had to smile when, upon wondering if this was
helmed by Joseph Pevney, his name actually turned up in the opening
Being a Universal production, one has to remember that this sort of mindless crowd-pleasing fare used to be churned out virtually on an assembly-line during this era with the slightest of trimmings to accommodate the studio's current top box-office draw (be it Chandler, Tony Curtis or Rock Hudson)! Similarly, several journeymen directors flourished there at the time, proving adept at practically every setting and storyline the executives could throw at them! Now, to get back to the single biggest coup of the film under review, it is the effortless blending of sure-fire formulas which rendered the whole most enjoyable: in fact, proceedings start off in a Western milieu, then the scene shifts to the high seas and a brief interlude of pirate action, before eventually settling into an Arabian Nights adventure! Without wishing to attribute undue subtext to an inherently modest product, I am sure it would have greatly pleased the Surrealists to witness its depiction of amour fou literally transcending genre conventions!
Anyway, here we find trapper Chandler and redhead Rhonda Fleming falling for each other virtually at first sight (though, typically, she is intended for another who unsurprisingly proves to be an arrogant bully). Soon enough, the two men engage in a horse race, which Chandler wins thanks to an Indian yelp (like the one Richard Dix gave in CIMARRON ) which frightens his rival's steed! Sailing to Marseille with her father, she is kidnapped by pirates and sold into slavery to a Moroccan potentate (or, rather, an aspiring usurper) played by Rex Reason here billed as Bart Roberts and later promoted to lead status for the sci-fi classic THIS ISLAND EARTH (1955)! The real ruler (an ill-at-ease Lee J. Cobb) fears his own army would not withstand a full-scale attack by Reason's forces. He is saved by the arrival of Chandler upon the scene, who offers to school his soldiers in quick-shooting tactics in exchange for a place at court in an effort to get wind of Fleming's whereabouts. For his services, Chandler is not only garbed in the latest Oriental fashion but gets acquainted with their customs (including owning a personal slave-girl in the shapely form of delightfully "cackling" yet jealously conniving Mamie Van Doren, also thankfully the closest thing here approximating comic relief) prompting him to exclaim at one point, "I can Salaam with the best of them!"
As is to be expected, Chandler eventually regains Fleming and loses her once more to Reason, before himself falling into his clutches. Their obligatory showdown (by the way, there is also a cat-fight between the two girls over their supremacy in Chandler's harem!) takes place on the prison turret, with the villain predictably getting his just desserts by being impaled on a set of horns which protrude from the walls to prevent convicts from escaping! One thing which I noticed but forgot to tell my host (who is a Victor Mature fanatic) is that Reason's castle was, in all probability, the very same one to be featured (complete with a strategically-placed palm-tree) in Mature's own Universal-produced Arabian Nights epic THE VEILS OF BAGDAD (1953), and which had actually been one of the first titles we caught at his private cinema!
In fact, watching YANKEE PASHA via a surprisingly well-preserved 16mm copy, despite the occasional image blurring and emulsion problems in an ambiance which attempted to recreate the full theatrical Saturday matinée' experience (complete with walls adorned by vintage movie posters and musical accompaniment before the performance and during the reel-changing break) heightened the steady dose of unassuming colorful entertainment provided by the main feature. In conclusion, the career of silver-haired Jeff Chandler may have been short-lived but it proved incredibly prolific nevertheless: having checked just now, I have some 23 of his films lying unwatched in my collection as opposed to the mere 7 which I have gotten under my belt so far! Given that this year marks the 50th anniversary of his tragic passing, I might make room for a well-deserved retrospective throughout my proposed generic viewings in 2011
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
On a proud pinto pony, deeply tanned Jeff Chandler rides into the
frontier town of Salem, Massachusetts, wearing a carefully tailored
buckskin-fringed outfit topped off by a Davy Crockett raccoon cap with
its tail hanging down behind. He's smiling but he carries a fully
loaded musket and, when prodded by some kids, he whirls around in the
saddle and shoots a weather vane half a block away. He doesn't even
take much time to aim. His name is Jason Starbuck. Now is this a hero
Rhonda Fleming and he fall in love at first glance and she helps him win a horse race against her dapper Wuss of a fiancé, all gussied up in a natty cloth suit and jockey cap. He cheats too, but with the help of Fleming, Chandler wins the race and, with it, a passage to the Middle East. He postpones his departure because, after all, there is Rhonda Fleming to be considered. She's obliged to marry because her fiancé is wealthy and her father needs the money. This is what they call a marriage of convenience. But she's reluctant. "Oh, Jason, if only we'd met before I was engaged!" They kiss heatedly. He's a woodsman, with a woodsman's natural impulses, and he don't hold with this fancy money stuff. It's nature versus culture. That distant sound you hear is Levi-Strauss trying to deconstruct the situation.
Fleming breaks off the engagement and takes a ship to Marseillies but the ship is captured and boarded by Barbary pirates. They're real slobs. They sling the fainting Fleming over their shoulders and cart her off, after tearing the top of her dress in a scene known as "the ripping of the bodice." She winds up in Morocco being given as a present to the Aga, who apprises her appreciatively in her raggedy garments and remarks, "Such a tasty dish should be well served." When she bites the hand of a servant who is trying to open her mouth and display her teeth, the Aga chuckles and says, "Such spirit will add a touch of spice to my harem." No kidding. All the dialog sounds like this.
Chandler tracks her down in Morroco but she's now part of the Aga's harem. While he's trying to devise a rescue plan, Chandler demonstrates the art of American frontier shooting (you don't bother to aim) and is hired by the Sultan to train the infantry. He adopts the language and manner of his hosts and dresses in robes and a turban. He manages to arrange a duel with the Aga -- American-style shooting -- and he wins not just his honor but the Aga's favorite harem girl. Yes -- Rhonda Fleming! More tribulations before they live happily ever after.
I found the movie a little deadly. It reeks of 1950s Hollywood. Chandler isn't a bad actor in the right role but a dashing adventurer he's not. And Rhonda Fleming seems unable to utter a credible line. She's very pretty but her beauty is generic, like that of a mannequin in a store window. However I can understand how it might appeal to some of us. It's not demanding, it's diverting, the characters are divided into Good and Evil, and it ends with the loving pair in each other's arms, sailing off into the western sunset, where they are viciously attacked by a great while whale who has been nudged just a little too far and the ship sinks and all hands are lost.
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