Article 2473 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-9-2008
Posting Date: 5-20-2008
Directed by William Dieterle
Featuring Ronald Colman, Marlene Dietrich, James Craig
A self-proclaimed King of the Beggars decides to make his daughter the queen of Baghdad; towards that end, he masquerades as the prince of a distant land and befriends the Grand Vizier, whom he believes will assassinate the current Caliph and take his place. Unbeknownst to him, however, his daughter has been secretly meeting the man she loves – the Caliph disguised as the son of the royal gardener. Complications ensue.
This Arabian Nights epic was filmed seven times over the years; this was the fifth one. It’s based on a play by Edward Knoblock, and I would describe the story as similar to that of the one of Aladdin, only redone and somewhat inverted. It also lacks the fantastic content of the Aladdin story; without a genie in the story, the only real fantastic content is the beggar’s magic tricks. I’ve always liked William Dieterle as a director, and he does a fine job here. I also like Ronald Colman as Hafiz the beggar; he had a way of delivering the stylized dialogue that made it sound perfectly natural. I also really like Edward Arnold as the Grand Vizier; he always made such great villains. However, I’m not all that taken with Marlene Dietrich here; to me, she’s one of those actresses that simply doesn’t belong in an Arabian Nights movie, and I find her presence somewhat jarring, and I was less than enthralled by her exotic dance (in which she had her legs painted gold). Hugh Herbert plays his usual character, and is used sparingly (a wise decision). Though this movie was given an opulent production, it’s still fairly lightweight fare, and it isn’t particularly memorable.