Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Christmas treats: The Thief of Bagdad, 1924

Back to the silent world for THE THIEF OF BAGDAD, in a sparking new Blu-ray edition, highlighting those fantastic sets and the tinted colours - blue for night exteriors, yellow for dawn, green for under the sea etc. Its another silent classic that dazzles, like Griffiths' ORPHANS OF THE STORM, or those early Frank Borzage's with Charles Farrell (THE RIVER) etc, as per Silents label. I really must put on that 1925 BEN HUR one of these days ....

I first saw this THIEF OF BAGDAD decades ago during a christmas holiday at my parents home in Ireland, there was not much on Irish television in those days, so we fell on this and were enchanted with it. Marvellous to have it now, in a perfect edition. Let me quote from the blu-ray essay by Laura Boyes of the North Carolina Museum of Art:
An enchanted Arabian Nights fantasy unfolds in a dazzling Art Deco kingdom as a lowly thief quests for the love of a dainty princess. Flying carpets, winged horses, fearsome beasts and an invisibility cloak are a few of the state of  the art special effects, the main one being Fairbanks' boisterous athleticism and joyful smile. 
Douglas Fairbanks is know today primarily for the swashbuckling silent classics in which he impersonated the likes of Zorro, Robin Hood and D'Artignan ... 
Fairbanks and Mary Pickford were the undisputed King and Queen of Hollywood in the 1920s .... as two of the founding members of United Artists they exercised complete control over both the business and creative ends of their careers.
His movements here are influenced by the mordernistic dance techniques of the Ballets Rousses whose Orientalist decor is echoed in the sets and costumes. Fairbanks is forty-one in this film, incredibly fit, vibrant and beautiful.
Ah yes, the sets, by William Cameron Menzies are still stunning now, costume designer was (gay) future director Mitchell Leisen, the Blu-ray music score incorporated themes by Rimsky-Korsakoff (conducted by Carl Davis), and Anna May Wong is delightfully art deco as the princess's treacherous hand-maiden, in league with the Mongol prince who has his own designs on Bagdad.  It was also of course director Raoul Walsh's first major success - he of course (wearing that eye patch) had many future successes, particuarly in the 1940s with Bogart, Cagney, Flynn et al, in that long career that stretched from 1912 to 1964. 

90 years old and it still delights now and is a Christmas treat for the ages and all ages. It is as visually stunning as say Von Sternberg's SCARLET EMPRESS in 1934.  

After Christmas: Films of the Year, a Jane Fonda mini-festival (I have 4 of hers lined up), more Romy Schneider and Catherine Deneuve, and all those Sondheim LITTLE NIGHT MUSICs (3 stage productions and the 1977 film) ... plus more Arabian Fantasy with Minnelli's KISMET, part of a trio of his including BELLS ARE RINGING. We might start on those HAMLETs and MACBETHs too ... and that 1962 Best Foreign Film of the year: SUNDAYS AND CYBELE.

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