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Cairo (1942) -- did anyone watch it?


Swithin
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Just watched *Cairo,* which was on TCM on Monday. What a crazy film! Improbable, at times totally ludicrous, but entertaining. A bunch of disparate Americans arrive in a very strange, Americanized Cairo during World War II. Robert Young plays an annoying character who thinks actress Jeanette MacDonald is a Nazi. Ethel Waters sings a bee-bop song in front of some Egyptian antiquities, after which she has a conversation with Dooley Wilson about Islam and Los Angeles. Eduardo Ciannelli plays Ahmed, who is helping Nazis Lionel Atwill and Reginald Owen. A door to an Egyptian Pyramid opens when you sing a high "C." Crazy beyond belief, but where has this movie been all my life?

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Actually a much better film than its reputation would suggest. A "road picture" sense of humor with all kinds of Hollywood inside jokes.... and of course Jeanette MacDonald is glorious. The Ethel Waters song is "Buds Won't Bud," which was also recorded by Peggy Lee many years later.

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It's on DVD and a film I pull out to watch frequently. I especially enjoy showing it to someone who has a preconceived notion about Jeanette MacDonald and her films. Before being saddled with the MacDonald-Eddy musicals, she was a very skilled comic actress and this was a welcome return to that genre. Very amusing and sometimes outright hilarious and her rendition of "Waiting for the Robert E. Lee" gives indications of how she could sing in a style that was not operatic. Worth seeing - just for fun!

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That is a great scene. MacDonald shuffles, with Ethel Waters behind her, smiling approvingly. It must have been inspired by Irene Dunne's shuffle in Show Boat a few years earlier.

 

In a later scene, after Waters sings her big number, she walks off stage and runs into Dooley Wilson, who is dressed like an Arab. He's been watching her perform and is staring at her off stage:

 

Ethel: "Don't look toward me, I ain't Mecca."

Dooley: "Don't let this nightgown fool you, honey."

Ethel: "What kind of A-rab are you?" "What tribe you from?"

Dooley: "The Central Avenue Social and Easy Introduction Club."

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Thanks so much for sharing the clip. Unfortunately the punchline was not included with regard to the argument between Jeanette and Robert Young about California. It goes something like this:

 

Young: Have you ever been in San Francisco?

 

MacDonald: Yes, once with Gable and Tracy and the joint fell apart.

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I remember that line, it is funny! Btw, Mona Barrie, an actress with whom I was not familiar, is terrific in a supporting role as a villain. (Sort of a Gale Sondergaard-type character). She has great repartee, especially directed against Eduardo Ciannelli.

 

And Paulio -- as your probably know, Cairo and San Francisco have the same director -- W.S. Van Dyke.

 

Edited by: Swithin on Sep 25, 2013 5:36 PM

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