In ancient Bagdad, Hafiz is a beggar - self coined the King of Beggars - and a master of the slight of hand. He often likes to wander the streets late at night pretending to be a Prince, ...
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In ancient Bagdad, Hafiz is a beggar - self coined the King of Beggars - and a master of the slight of hand. He often likes to wander the streets late at night pretending to be a Prince, specifically of Hassir located in the farthest reaches of the empire. In the process, he has entered into a passionate romance with a beautiful woman, Jamilla. He is unaware that she is one of the queens of the Grand Vizier - the most powerful man in the empire - to who she was provided in a power deal with Macedonia, the deal agreed to by Jamilla only under the condition that she retain her independence. In turn, Jamilla knows that her lover is not who he says he is, she, however, not having any idea that he is mere street beggar. She doesn't mind his lies as they are a means to escape into a fantasy world away from the reality of life with the Grand Vizier. At home, Hafiz has told his daughter, Marsinah, since she was a child that she would marry a prince, rather than the reality of she probably ...Written by
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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