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Oh, Those Arabian Nights Fantasies . . .


TomJH
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I recently purchased Flame of Araby from the Universal Vault Collection. It's one of those Arabian Nights action fantasies that Universal made with a maximum of visuals (lovely, rich Technicolor, splashy sets and costumes, lotsa girls in skimpy harem attire) and a minimum of logic.

 

FlameofArabyTall.jpg

 

This particular one stars Maureen O'Hara as the princess of Tunis and no one seems to care that this Arabian princess is red haired, fair of complexion and with a touch of County Cork about her. The film is chockful of such hokey dialogue gems as "By the beard of the Prophet," "Silence, you laughing hyenas" and "You speak in strange riddles." When one large six foot plus beauty in skimpy attire appears, she is referred to by one enthusiastic suitor as "Mountain of many delights."

 

Jeff Chandler is the leading man, a handsome, he man Bedouin intent upon the capture of a wild black stallion, and the bad guys (cartoon baddie, not to be taken too seriously) are a pair of Barbarossa pirates, broadly and grinningly played by Lon Chaney Jr. and Buddy Baer (big little brother of former heavyweight champion Max).

 

These kind of films are visually colourful and unsophisticated and don't pretend to be deep think dishes for a crowd of seven year olds (or any adults who just want to go along for the ride). The Universal DVD print of Flame of Araby, by the way, is a great Technicolor treat for the eyes.

 

Maureen O'Hara appeared in a number of costume romps around this same period of time, including a couple of the Arabian Nights school (another title of her's, Bagdad). What I like about O'Hara's performances is her full investment in her roles and often ludicrous dialogue. The lady never acts like she's slumming it.

 

Of course, these late '40s-early '50s Universal efforts with O'Hara were carrying on the tradition that the studio had first established with Maria Montez during the war years. The two great eye popping Technicolor Montez films that brought in the escapist seeking crowds during the war years were Arabian Nights and Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves (both co-starring Jon Hall, with whom she would appear in four other films, as well).

 

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Montez was, to put it mildly, a limited actress but, due to her Dominican Republic background and halting accent, she had a genuinely exotic appeal that seemed just right for these kind of fantasies. There was a certain imperious quality about her that made her seem right as a monarch. When the war years ended, and audiences were more interested in post-war reality, Montez's days on top ended, but some still look back upon her brief span as an exotic star with a certain affectionate wink of the eye towards the campy fun and innocent sexuality that her films represented.

 

Perhaps the greatest Arabian Nights fantasy of them all was made before either Montez or O'Hara arrived on the scene in that genre. That was when Alexander Korda released his massive three-years-in-the-making 1940 production of The Thief of Bagdad, starring an engaging Sabu in the title role. (Sabu would appear in support of Montez in a few of her films in the upcoming years, as well).

 

Conrad Veidt, as the evil wizard Jaffar, was a memorable, hissable villain. Yet Veidt still retained a touch of audience sympathy for his character because of his unrequited love for an Arab princess. (Years later, when Disney created its animated production hit Aladdin, that film's heavy was clearly influenced by Veidt's performance in this film).

 

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And, of course, no reference to Arabian Night adventures would be complete without making reference to the granddaddy epic of them all, the 1924 original Thief of Bagdad, a silent film many feel represents the immortal Douglas Fairbanks at the peak of his career.

 

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Years later, after the war, when Doug Jr made his own entry into the genre, with Sinbad the Sailor, his pantomime balletic performance was clearly a tribute from son to father. (Though no one could do it quite like Doug Sr). And who was Doug Jr's lovely leading lady in Sinbad? Why none other than a gorgeous Maureen O'Hara, her first entry into the Arabian Nights genre, which brings us full circle back to Flame of Araby again.

 

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There have been, of course, a lot of lesser Arabian Nights films produced over the years for a quick buck. But the best of them, in my opinion, courtesy Korda, the Fairbankses, Montez and O'Hara are a lot of juvenile fun.

 

Are there any other fans of the hokey exotica to be found in Arabian Nights adventure films on these boards? Perhaps you've got a few titles that you'd like to mention.

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Back near where I USED to live, and when I was a smoker, there was a tobacco store where I'd buy my smokes which was run by a bunch of guys from Iraq.  One day, I went in and Ali, the owner, mentioned to me he'd just seen THE THIEF OF BAGHDAD on TCM.

 

HE exclaimed, "You know, I moved here from Iraq only 10 years ago.  Which means I lived in Baghdad for TWENTY YEARS.  And I don't EVER remember the city having BLUE SAND! "  :lol:

 

 

Sepiatone

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ARABIAN NIGHTS and ALI BABA AND THE FORTY THIEVES are fabulous Universal adventures.  The former boasts an outstanding score by Frank Skinner that was recycled when Universal-International started doing the sword-and-sandals pictures in the early 50's.

 

When I saw Disney's ALADDIN I couldn't believe how much it owed to THIEF OF BAGDAD.

Even though the special effects in THIEF OF BAGDAD seem primitive today, the sincerity in the performances and the exotic magic of the design and Miklos Rozsa's score still pack quite a wallop.

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ARABIAN NIGHTS and ALI BABA AND THE FORTY THIEVES are fabulous Universal adventures.  The former boasts an outstanding score by Frank Skinner that was recycled when Universal-International started doing the sword-and-sandals pictures in the early 50's.

 

When I saw Disney's ALADDIN I couldn't believe how much it owed to THIEF OF BAGDAD.

Even though the special effects in THIEF OF BAGDAD seem primitive today, the sincerity in the performances and the exotic magic of the design and Miklos Rozsa's score still pack quite a wallop.

Ray, the musical score of Flame of Araby is not the same score heard in either of the two Montez films (at least, under the opening credits). Certainly, though, it is similar in exotic tone, particularly with the string section. However, while the credits of Flame list Joseph Gershenson as musical director, I saw that IMDb's credits for the film list Frank Skinner, along with Edward Ward, Hans J. Salter and Milton Rosen with uncredited stock footage.

 

I wonder who wrote the musical score for Flame of Araby, which is quite lovely.

 

Those two Montez films hold a special place in my heart since I saw them on TV so often as a kid.

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These films are entertaining but they are mostly forgettable films lacking in many ways when compared to other costume adventure films like The Adventures of Robin Hood and the various pirate sub-genre films.   

I agree, though I would say that the first two versions of Thief of Bagdad (the Fairbanks silent and the Korda talkie) are both outstanding productions, even if their special effects are dated. Both films have a sense of wonder and awe, which is crucial for great fantasy escape.

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When it comes to movies based (loosely in this case) upon tales within Scheherazade's One Thousand and One Nights, my favorites are Ray Harryhausen's trio of Sinbad movies: The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958), The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973) and Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977).

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When it comes to movies based (loosely in this case) upon tales within Scheherazade's One Thousand and One Nights, my favorites are Ray Harryhausen's trio of Sinbad movies: The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958), The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973) and Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977).

Yes, Liam, they're fun movies, particularly 7th Voyage, thanks to Harryhausen's stop motion effects. The music by Bernard Herrmann for the first Sinbad doesn't exactly hurt either. What leaves me a little cold about these films, though, is the lack of a really engaging actor playing the hero in any of them. Kerwin Matthews comes off the best in the first one by default.

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So Tom, do animated shorts count here, ol' buddy?

 

Well if so, then here's a short clip from MY favorite Arabian Nights film I discovered years ago while on my way to Pismo Beach to dig for clams...

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fu92wc7IQl0

 

(...yep, ya never know where you'll end up if ya make that wrong toin at, well, YOU know!) ;)

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I can't see that Bugs Bunny clip, but think it's the one with the fat guy saying "Hussan Chop!" which I think is a pretty weak short.

 

The Bugs cartoon I loved, A LAD IN HIS LAMP, features Jim Backus as the Genie's voice. Bugs constantly interrupts the Genie to help him escape from the villians....the Genie's taking a bath, kissing a girl, etc. A riot! I haven't seen it since I was a kid but it's burned in my memory.

 

A-Lad-In_His_Lamp.jpg

 

Sandal pictures are a fave genre and I love all the ones already mentioned. I even enjoy the sandal comedies like ALI BABA GOES TO TOWN with Eddie Cantor-

 

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And the classic ROAD TO MOROCCO-

 

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TomJH, I loved your comments on those wonderful sword-and sandal epics from Universal.  It took me back to my childhood and the Saturday matinees.  What wonderful times those were!  And for some reason, the ones from Universal were always special in my heart, although I loved those from other studios as well.  And Universal certainly used their contract players to good advantage.  Actors like Piper Laurie, Tony Curtis, Rock Hudson, Suzan Ball, and Mamie Van Doren.  I keep hoping that someday TCM will feature more of these.  Thanks again for taking me back to those calmer, more innocent times.

 

Terrence.

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I can't see that Bugs Bunny clip, but think it's the one with the fat guy saying "Hussan Chop!" which I think is a pretty weak short.

 

 

"Weak?!" "WEAK???!!!" My dear, how in the world could "Ali Abba Bunny"(yes, the one featuring the big oaf Hassan) and MY all-time favorite W-B short EVER be considered "weak"?! And especially with that strong ending featuring the greedy Daffy Duck getting his just desserts at fade out?!

 

You HAVE to be kiddin' me here, lady!!!

 

(...though if you're NOT kiddin' me here, then may the fleas of a thousand camels infest your linen closet!!!) 

 

;)

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"Weak?!" "WEAK???!!!" My dear, how in the world could "Ali Abba Bunny"(yes, the one featuring the big oaf Hassan) and MY all-time favorite W-B short EVER be considered "weak"?! And especially with that strong ending featuring the greedy Daffy Duck getting his just desserts at fade out?!

 

You HAVE to be kiddin' me here, lady!!!

 

(...though if you're NOT kiddin' me here, then may the fleas of a thousand camels infest your linen closet!!!) 

 

;)

Well, Dargo, as BUGS would have said:

 

"What a MAROON!"

 

Anyway, to HELL with "The Arabian Nights".  I'M waiting for the film version of "The Kama Sutra"!   :P

 

 

Sepiatone

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Yeh, ya have to be careful about taking a swipe at "Ali Baba Bunny," TikiSoo. Dargo's post rebuttal of your comment is reflective, I think, of his agreement with Bugs's general philosophy about an insult.

 

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All joking aside, Ali Baba Bunny is a great cartoon, but this Arabian Nights satire is wonderful, not for Bugs, who is more or less straight man, err, hare here, but as a showcase for Daffy Duck. Daffy is hilarious in this short for his conniving and back stabbing because he's so in-your-face greeeeedy, and wants all the treasure that he and Bugs find in a cave for himself. This cartoon may have Bugs's name in the title (Bugs, a true star, always gets top billing, of course), but I think that even Dargo would agree that Daffy steals the show here.

 

However, your selection of Bugs Bunny in A Lad in His Lamp is great, too. Aside from the hilarity of Jim Backus' voice as the Genie, this cartoon has that great moment when a chunky shiek with a hate on for our rabbit hero tries to get his attention with a swipe of his steel edged simitar.

 

That, in turn, gives Bugs, a natural born comedian if ever there was one, the opportunity to crack wise, "Just a minute, Doc! Let's not start splitting hares!"

 

A truly funny, if "Ouch!" worthy, one liner, if there ever was one.

 

But Bugs and Daffy weren't the only cartoon heroes to venture into the fantasy world of the Arabian Nights. There was also Popeye in two Technicolor two reelers that he made in the late '30s, Popeye the Sailor Meets Ali Baba's 40 Thieves, and Aladdin and His Magical Lamp.

 

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It's Blutto, of course, as the bad guy in Forty Thieves, though, for some reason his name is not Ali Baba. Instead he's the mighty Abu Hasan, the terror of the desert and every town in the area. And when he and his men raid a town to steal, they steal! That includes the red stripe off a barber shop pole, as well as the chattering false teeth from the mouth of a nervous by-stander.

 

At one point, though, when Abu Hasan, a bully boy blow hard if ever there was one, first confronts Popeye, the sailor man reaches into Abu's shirt, yanking out his long red flannel undies.

 

"Abu Hasan hasn't got 'em anymore," Popeye laughs.

 

"You try make fool from me," Hasan gruffly replies, showing he's no grammarian.

 

"Nature beat me to it," Popeye responds under his breath in one of those little throwaway comments for which Jack Mercer, who did the voice of the sailor man, was known to ad-lib.

 

Here it is:

 

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TomJH, I loved your comments on those wonderful sword-and sandal epics from Universal.  It took me back to my childhood and the Saturday matinees.  What wonderful times those were!  And for some reason, the ones from Universal were always special in my heart, although I loved those from other studios as well.  And Universal certainly used their contract players to good advantage.  Actors like Piper Laurie, Tony Curtis, Rock Hudson, Suzan Ball, and Mamie Van Doren.  I keep hoping that someday TCM will feature more of these.  Thanks again for taking me back to those calmer, more innocent times.

 

Terrence.

Thanks for the comments, Terrence. Universal certainly used Arabian Nights fantasies as a training ground for their grooming of some young stars, as you say. Tony Curtis comes to mind in Son of Ali Baba and Prince Who Was A Thief, for example.

 

Suzan Ball, whom you mentioned, was in Flame of Araby, the film with which I started this thread. A couple of years after that film Universal then put its star, Jeff Chandler, into another action opus, Yankee Pasha. This one covered three different action genres, starting off as a western, with frontiersman (and expert rifle shot) Chandler then setting out to find sweetheart Rhonda Fleming after she is kidnapped by pirates at high seas, and finally ends in an Arabian Nights setting. There we have the opportunity to see Rhonda in a harem, something that many red blooded boys would dream about afterward, I'm sure.

 

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Innocent sexuality always played a key role in films of this kind. This same film also has a young Mamie Van Doren as a chatterbox harem girl who eagerly wants to "serve" her "master," Jeff Chandler. Jeff is a one-woman type in this film, however, so keeps saying things to her like "Cease your endless chatter, woman," somehow always overlooking some of Mamie's other, more obvious, assets.

 

And so as not to forget any ladies reading this thread, here's a shot of Douglas Fairbanks as the Thief of Bagdad:

 

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Fairbanks was 40 when he trained for this role, and very much at his beefcake peak, as I'm sure that ladies in the audience appreciated at the time.

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I wonder who wrote the musical score for Flame of Araby, which is quite lovely.

 

 

Whenever Joe Gershenson gets sole musical credit (Musical Direction by Joseph Gershenson), that is because the score is "by committee".  Multiple composers are assigned individual sequences to score.  Also, JG may select library music from existing scores and re-record for the new picture.  These latter compositions are usually listed as "stock music" in the IMDB and are taken from the actual cue sheets which detail composer and, if applicable, the picture they were written for.

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Whenever Joe Gershenson gets sole musical credit (Musical Direction by Joseph Gershenson), that is because the score is "by committee".  Multiple composers are assigned individual sequences to score.  Also, JG may select library music from existing scores and re-record for the new picture.  These latter compositions are usually listed as "stock music" in the IMDB and are taken from the actual cue sheets which detail composer and, if applicable, the picture they were written for.

Thanks for the explanation, Ray. When I saw one man credited as "musical director" I assumed that it might have been something such as you described. Since Flame of Araby had, as you put it, music "by committee," I assume that we will probably never know who composed the score heard during the opening titles then.

 

Hardly seems fair to the composer. I'm sure that more than a few would like to know who created such a lovely piece evoking such a romanticized sense of the Arabian Nights.

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Here is the trailer for Bagdad (1949), with Maureen O'Hara.




The music heard here is clearly Frank Skinner's score for Arabian Nights (1942). I don't know if other studios "borrowed" music from previous films they had produced quite as much as did Universal.

 

(Certainly, though, I frequently recognize snatches of Max Steiner music in some Warners films for which he did not receive credit).

 

IMDb lists Skinner as the uncredited composer of Bagdad.

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Here is the trailer for Bagdad (1949), with Maureen O'Hara.

 

The music heard here is clearly Frank Skinner's score for Arabian Nights (1942). I don't know if other studios "borrowed" music from previous films they had produced quite as much as did Universal.

 

(Certainly, though, I frequently recognize snatches of Max Steiner music in some Warners films for which he did not receive credit).

 

IMDb lists Skinner as the uncredited composer of Bagdad.

20th Century Fox seemed to recycle the theme for CHAD HANNA (not sure if it was written for this film) in a number of other films, usually with a 19th Century setting and a westward expansion. And they sure fit in "Street.Scene" into many movies, of various genres.

 

Tom, I love this thread, and these films.do transport me back to my childhood....in my case, in front of a tv. My favorite Maria Montrz movie was COBRA WOMAN. And nobody seems to have mentioned her.immediate successor at Universal for these types of movies, the delectable Yvonne De Carlo.

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20th Century Fox seemed to recycle the theme for CHAD HANNA (not sure if it was written for this film) in a number of other films, usually with a 19th Century setting and a westward expansion. And they sure fit in "Street.Scene" into many movies, of various genres.

 

Tom, I love this thread, and these films.do transport me back to my childhood....in my case, in front of a tv. My favorite Maria Montrz movie was COBRA WOMAN. And nobody seems to have mentioned her.immediate successor at Universal for these types of movies, the delectable Yvonne De Carlo.

Glad you like the thread, Arturo.

 

You are certainly correct about Alfred Newman's "Street Scene" theme getting a fair number of re-cyclings in Fox films.

 

I have a particular affection for the films that Maria Montez and Jon Hall made together, and I agree with you that Cobra Woman is a hoot. Love it when Montez does her "exotic" dance before King Cobra. And when she did her dance of the seven veils bit at the climax of Arabian Knights (or, at least, Montez's double did) villain Leif Erickson is smirking and licking his lips so much that he'd never have to use ChapStick again.

 

I'm not certain if Yvonne de Carlo was in any Arabian Nights films. I almost mentioned "Salome, Where She Danced," though it's a film I haven't seen. Presumably it's very much of this same kind of escapist fantasy. 

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When I saw Disney's ALADDIN I couldn't believe how much it owed to THIEF OF BAGDAD.

Even though the special effects in THIEF OF BAGDAD seem primitive today, the sincerity in the performances and the exotic magic of the design and Miklos Rozsa's score still pack quite a wallop.

 

ALADDIN is one of my all-time favorite Disney movies.

I also love THE THIEF OF BAGDAD (1940), especially Sabu's performance.

 

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