Ali Baba Goes to Town (1937)

Article #1579 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-11-2005
Posting Date: 12-8-2005
Directed by David Butler
Featuring Eddie Cantor, Roland Young, Raymond Scott

A hobo makes it to Hollywood in the hopes of filling up his autograph book. He ends up being hired as an extra in an Arabian Nights movie, but falls asleep in an urn and dreams that he has been transported to the land of the Arabian Nights.

I found myself trying to remember the name of the Eddie Cantor movie I’d seen previously for this series. Once I remembered it was ROMAN SCANDALS, I immediately knew why the premise of this one seemed so familiar; in both movies, Cantor falls asleep and finds himself in another world. I also knew what was missing from this one; the stunning musical choreography of Busby Berkeley is sorely missed, and this post-code movie simply lacks the daring and the darkness of the earlier movie. To compensate, we have Roland Young as a sultan, and John Carradine in three different roles (as a studio exec trying to get Cantor to sign a release form after he suffers an accident, as a scheming Arab, and as himself). As for Cantor, he’s not bad, but as a comedian, a little of his perky brightness goes a long way with me. The musical numbers are good, but it’s here I miss Berkeley the most as well. The satire is more cute than pointed, and much of it is fairly dated anymore. Still, the end of the movie has the best moments; there’s a stunning sequence involving a ride on a flying carpet that is the high point of the movie, and the final scene in which the Hobo attends a Hollywood movie premiere features lots of entertaining cameos, and sets up the best joke in the movie when the REAL Eddie Cantor shows up. Another good moment has Cantor trying to figure out the native language of a group of African musicians and discovers that they speak Cab Calloway.


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