Like a tale spun by Scheherazade, Kismet follows the remarkable and repeated changes of fortune that engulf a poor poet. It all happens in one incredible day when Kismet (Fate) takes a hand. Written by
In the 1950's, my late father was a businessman who traveled to New York and took in Broadway shows whenever he could. One night, he went to the box office at the Ziegfield Theatre and managed to land himself a great seat for a hit musical. What happened that night would become a legend in my family. Dad fell in love with "Kismet" and for the rest of his life he would torture us by telling the story of the production and playing the original cast album (and the recording of the subsequent Lincoln Center revival) over and over and over and over...
As an adult now, I can appreciate this work. My father was deeply disappointed by this film version and now having seen it I can understand why. As the book of this musical is pure cotton candy fluff, the key to success with any production of this material is how the music is arranged and presented. The singers should be classically trained and the individual playing Hajj needs to be a strong actor with an ability to truly interpret the lyrics.
After having seen Keel in "Kiss Me Kate", I had high hopes before my viewing of this film that he would be able to pull it off. Unfortunately, he only proved that Alfred Drake owns this role in the same way that Richard Kiley will always be "The Man of LaMancha" and Yul Brynner the "King". Keel's portrayal of the character is at best second rate.
Part of his problem (and indeed the problem of other performers in the film) might be the less than adequate arrangements of the music as well as the mangling that was done of some the lyrics and the removal of whole songs. Noticablly missing is the classic "Was I Wasir?" the very clever if gruesome show stopper craftily performed in the original stage show by Henry Calvin.
What really is worth seeing (or perhaps it would be better to say worth hearing) are the sequences with Ann Blyth and Vic Damone who had some of the best voices in film at that time. Damone actually gives Richard Kiley (who was the Caliph in the original Broadway cast) a run for his money in with the performance of "The Night of my Nights". Blyth has a beautiful voice and gives a creditable performance in the face of a hard act to follow in Doretta Marrow, the B-Way Marsinah.
The hardest loss in this production is the beautiful cacophony of voices that was the hallmark of the Broadway show. Instead you get a canned studio chorus that was best left in the can.
I am sorry that the one film version of this delightful Arabian Night tale is such a disappointment.
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