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The Thief of Bagdad

The classic 1940 remake of the silent fantasy film .

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Thief of Bagdad puts the "H" in Hollywood

  • Jun 13, 2009
  • by
Prince Ahmad is a prince no more. An evil curse has been cast upon him by his vizier, rendering him blind and barren. What's more, Ahmad's new found friend, Sabu, has been turned into a dog. Ahmad must now find a way to break the curse, find the woman he loves and somehow reclaim his place as Prince of Bagdad. Not necessarily in that order.

Thief of Bagdad is, thankfully, before my time. So while my elders may visit this movie with fond nostalgia, I approached it with a pinch of nausea. Even while bearing in mind that this is a 1940s movie, I still couldn't figure out how a man from London, England whose real name is John Justin, managed to get the leading role of a guy whose name is Ahmad, which as far as I know should have been pronounced, Ahkmed. I mean, in a school play, sure. I've seen all kinds of creative ethnic mixing and matching with starring roles on grade school stages. But an Academy Award winning movie?

Almost as strange was that our Prince of London, er, I mean "Bagdad" is surrounded by natives of India. They might as well have called this movie, Prince of Bangladesh. Even Sabu, the co-star of this film, is from India. If nothing else, I suppose this movie is a time-piece that illustrates how Hollywood got around the "problem" of having to use ethnic people to make exotic movies. These days, when Tom Cruise plays The Last Samurai, we're not supposed to believe that he's Japanese. We're just to believe that he can become a master samurai in the course of a winter and likewise score the hottest chick in the village. So there has been some progress...I guess.

Who knows. Maybe Academy Awards were less demanding in the 40s. Even getting an Academy Award for Art Direction is a bit dubious since the Prince's palace and garden feels more Victorian than anything else. But, hey, the Special Effects are nothing if not brilliantly inventive, and it got an Academy Award for that too.

Maybe casting an Englishman and an Indian as Arabs was intended to be part of the brilliant Special Effects. Yeah, that's it. No doubt, our producers were unable to convince actual Iraqi's into taking the role of extras in this film. Especially since our producers insisted on spelling Bagdad without the "H."

Prince of London, er, I mean, Bagdad.

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Jordan ()
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About this movie



Genre: Action, Adventure
Release Date: December 5, 1940
MPAA Rating: G
Screen Writer: Miles Malleson, Lajos BirĂ³
Runtime: 106 minutes
Studio: United Artists
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