the 1944 film
The 1944 version of Kismet was an MGM picture in Technicolor starring Ronald Colman, Marlene Dietrich, Joy Ann Page and Florence Bates. James Craig played the young Caliph of Baghdad, and Edward Arnold was the treacherous but likeable Grand Vizier. It was directed by William Dieterle, but was not a success at the box office.
The film is based on a play by Edward Knoblock by the same title, which was also the basis for the
the Movie - starring Marlene Dietrich and Gwen Stephanie
The story takes place "when old Baghdad was new and shiny", in an Arabian Nights atmosphere. Colman plays Hafiz, a middle-aged trickster and magician who calls himself the King of Beggars. He occasionally puts on elegant attire and goes about the city pretending to be the "Prince of Hassir". On one such occasion, he meets and amuses Lady Jamilla (Dietrich), the head wife of the Grand Vizier.
Meanwhile, actual royalty is roaming the streets of Baghdad at night, as the young Caliph (James Craig), distrusting the information presented by advisers and spies, disguises himself as a peasant, the "son of the Royal Gardener", to learn the truth for himself. He meets the "Prince of Hassir" in a cafe and sees his magic tricks. But some time prior to this, he has seen a beautiful girl looking over the wall of her home without her veil, and fallen in love...with Marsinah (Page), the daughter of Hafiz.
Determined to make a beautiful life for his child, Hafiz has built high walls around his
house, brought her up on fairy tales and taught her to expect that she would marry royalty. Marsinah's nurse, Kasha (Bates), growls "Bah!" every time Hafiz gets expansive about the future. She knows Marsinah is seeing the "gardener's son", but keeps it from Hafiz. Marsinah has told her lover about Hafiz' golden promises of a "prince who will batter the walls down". The Caliph returns to his palace, planning to do exactly that and propose to
Hafiz witnesses an attempt on the Caliph's life by agents of the Grand Vizier (Arnold). Although he knows the Caliph is unmarried, he decides the Vizier is good enough, for he might be Caliph himself tomorrow. Donning fancy stolen clothes, Hafiz reappears as the Prince of Hassir, talks his way into the Vizier's presence and offers him Marsinah's hand in marriage. The Vizier plies Hafiz with wine and food and shows off his dancing girls, including a reluctant Jamilla. She only agrees when she realizes the guest is her friend. In a private moment, Hafiz asks Jamilla to leave the Vizier and marry him, and she agrees; Marsinah will take her place.
Returning home, Hafiz tells his daughter to prepare for her wedding day; Marsinah is outraged, then resigned. Hafiz is arrested for theft and brought back to the Vizier. He is sentenced to have his hands cut off, but a messenger ominously summons the Vizier to appear before the Caliph. Hafiz bargains with the Vizier for his hands and his life. He offers to petition to be hired as the Caliph's new jester and then kill him with a knife throw.
The plan goes awry when the Caliph, whose spies have revealed Hafiz to be Marsinah's father, laughingly tells Hafiz that they have met before. Deliberately missing, Hafiz hears the Vizier order the immediate death of Marsinah. Desperately, he escapes, and confronts and kills the Vizier.
The Caliph orders his men to tear down the walls of Hafiz's house, just as Hafiz had prophesied, and rides in on his white horse; Marsinah then realizes that the gardener's son and the Caliph are one. Though Hafiz is exiled from Baghdad for life, he is sent to Hassir -- as a prince, with Jamilla at his side.
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