One of the great fantasy films, The Thief of Bagdad (1940) is also included on that short list of movies which had long, complicated production histories of false starts, script rewrites, and multiple directors (Ludwig Berger, Michael Powell, Tim Whelan), yet managed to emerge as a special entity, effortlessly carrying off a unique single vision. In this case, that vision belonged to London-based Hungarian producer/ director Alexander Korda. By the late 1930s Korda had amassed an impressive crew of artists and craftsmen around him at London Films' Denham Studios, and much like his American counterpart David O. Selznick had with his production of Gone with the Wind (1939), Korda sought out a property to showcase the talent under his wing. Inspired by the success of his personal discovery - Indian actor Sabu - Korda hit upon the idea of casting the energetic youth in an Arabian Nights fantasy. Sabu was a stable boy for the Maharaja of Mysore when he was discovered by Korda and cast in Elephant Boy (1937) at the age of 13. The success of that film, co-directed by Zoltan Korda and the great documentarian Robert J. Flaherty, led to several more starring roles in Korda productions: The Drum (1938), again directed by Zoltan Korda; The Thief of Bagdad; and perhaps his most famous role, that of Mowgli in the Korda brothers' adaptation of Kipling's Jungle Book (1942). Released in December, 1940, The Thief of Bagdad won Oscars for Special Effects, Color Cinematography, and Art Direction, as well as a nomination for Miklos Rozsa's score. The film also won near-universal praise from the critics. Coming as it did just at the outbreak of World War II, The Thief of Bagdad eventually came to represent for many a cinematic last gasp of Old World innocence, magic, and adventure, forever lost during the horrors of war.
> Alexander Korda was the first film producer ever to receive the honor of knighthood. He first began a career as a journalist and film magazine editor before transitioning into directing and producing. Korda directed such classics as That Hamilton Woman (1941) and The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933), the latter of which became the first British film to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar®. Alexander Korda was born in Hungary and later emigrated to England. His brother Vincent was a painter who lived in Paris, France, and later became an indispensible master of Art Direction. The third brother, Zoltan (known as Zoli), completed the Korda filmmaking triumvirate.
> In 1938, Alexander Korda had a serendipitous meeting with Douglas Fairbanks at a banquet in London's Savoy Hotel. Fairbanks had starred in the 1924 version of The Thief of Bagdad and owned the film rights, which he later agreed to sell to Korda. As film producer, Alexander Korda first brought in Ludwig Berger to direct The Thief of Bagdad, but creative differences prompted Korda to enlist the help of Michael Powell, who joined the brothers Korda in bringing a lavish, technicolor adventure to life on the big screen.
> The elaborate sets for The Thief of Bagdad were built right outside Denham Studios of Korda's London Films. The creative team was given ample space and sun with which to work their magic. Other sequences were filmed on location at Sennen Cove in West Cornwall, for its pristine seashore. Filming those scenes in the spring, the crew was blessed with a cooperative landscape and balmy weather.
> The film's star, Sabu, had in real-life tended elephants at the palace of a Maharajah in India. On the set of The Thief of Bagdad, Michael Powell described Sabu as a spirited youth who "was kind, direct, strong and intelligent." The film's villain 'Jaffar' was played by German actor Conrad Veidt, who had already made his mark on stage and silent screen. Prior to acting, Veidt was an orchestra violinist by profession. Powell described Veidt as an actor who "feared nobody, not even Alex Korda."
> Production on The Thief of Bagdad was interrupted when World War II broke out across Europe. Alexander Korda made good on his promise to Winston Churchill that London Films would produce documentary-propaganda films in support of England and the allied cause. Later, when filming resumed on The Thief of Bagdad, Michael Powell remained in England and passed the directing reins to Zoltan Korda, as production was moved to America including on-location filming at the Grand Canyon.
> The fantastical flying carpet appeared in Middle Eastern myths and folklore predating the Arabian Nights. The myth of the flying carpet was inspired by and a reflection of the importance of the woven tapestry as a highly treasured possession in Middle Eastern cultures. A finely woven carpet is not only prized for its decorative uses, but also for its varied functions and roles. Prayer rugs, for example, create a sacred space for prayer and religious ritual. Larger tapestries, when brought into the open air on rooftops or bare grounds, extend the home sphere and expand the living space in a seamless transition from the indoors to the outdoor landscape.
> During the 6th century, in celebration of his political triumphs, Persian Emperor Chosroes commissioned the work of a magnificent carpet known as the "Spring of Chosroes." It was a large tapestry woven to depict the beauty of springtime with sparkling gems for flower gardens, crystals for rivulets and streams, and pure gold for the earth, which the emperor could literally stroll upon and admire. Thus, in the cold, somber climes of winter, he would still be able to take in a breath of spring each time he stepped upon the shining tapestry.
> In the vivid stories of The Arabian Nights (also known as One Thousand and One Nights), the flying carpet is often associated with a power over the winds used to guide the carpet. The flying carpet also represents a broader, more advantageous point of view, as it allows the passenger to see across the land from the perspective of the sky. In this way a flying carpet not only presents a fantastical mode of transportation but also a gift of wisdom and foresight, all of which the hero or heroine would need on his or her quest.
A young thief faces amazing monsters to return Bagdad's deposed king to the throne.
Based loosely on the poem by Rudyard Kipling, the story follows three fun loving sergeants in British India during the Thuggee uprising.
Half-brothers vie for an Arabian throne and the love of a beautiful storyteller.
A boy raised by wolves adjusts to life among humans.
In the classic Arabian Nights tale, the king of the beggars enters high society to help his daughter marry a handsome prince.
Thief Of Bagdad, The (1940) -- (Movie Clip) Most Complete Completion
Thief Of Bagdad, The (1940) -- (Movie Clip) This Is No Dog
Thief Of Bagdad, The (1940) -- (Movie Clip) Two Thousand Years
Thief Of Bagdad, The (1940) -- (Movie Clip) You Talk In Riddles