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teaser Bagdad (1949)

Everyone involved with Universal's Bagdad (1949) surely knew it was silly stuff and decided to just go for it, and have a good time. Overacting must have been the most sensible way to approach a script like this. An Arabian nights tale, Bagdad casts Maureen O'Hara as an English-educated princess who returns to the desert and her native Bagdad, only to find that her father has been assassinated by mysterious bandits known as the Black Robes, and his tribe scattered. She turns to the Turkish Pasha of Bagdad (Vincent Price) for help, but he is actually in cahoots with the leader of the Black Robes (John Sutton).

A few years earlier, Bagdad might have starred fan favorite Maria Montez, the Dominican beauty who top-lined 1942's similar Arabian Nights, also for Universal. But by this time, Montez had moved to Europe with her husband, French actor Jean-Pierre Aumont, where she appeared in French, German and Italian movies before dying in 1951. She had done much to popularize these kinds of Technicolor escapist films, however, and Universal now tried using Maureen O'Hara, even having her perform some native dances and sing three songs.

In her memoir, O'Hara recalled that "a scorpion stung me a few days into the shoot, but other than that, it was an uneventful experience... It's one of those films that I point to as part of my decorative years, but audiences loved them. Bagdad made Universal a fortune, and Universal purchased part of my contract from Fox as a result of that success." Soon O'Hara was making great movies for John Ford, like Rio Grande (1950) and The Quiet Man (1952), but she also returned to this kind of picture in Universal's Flame of Araby (1951).

In their book on Vincent Price, authors James Robert Parish and Steven Whitney have written, "Every actor has certain films in his career that he hopes will be lost for all time through some kind act of God. One of Vincent's is surely Bagdad, a cloak-and-dagger entry geared to show off the cinematic beauty of redheaded Maureen O'Hara in a juvenile romantic adventure yarn. Price displayed no restraint in enacting the wicked Pasha, a lascivious, avaricious, comic-strip figure. As Price reasoned, 'People love to see a man enjoying his work.'"

Bagdad was shot in the Alabama Hills of Lone Pine, Calif., the same location used for so many westerns and adventure stories over the years, like Seven Men from Now (1956) and Gunga Din (1939). It's impossible to take a bad shot there, and the scenery, costumes and color go a long way toward making Bagdad fun to watch.

The New York Times seemed to agree, declaring, "O'Hara is permitted to look her decorative best in an array of colorful and enticingly designed costumes." As for Price, the reviewer described him in his role as "friendly as a cobra."

Producer: Robert Arthur, Morgan Cox
Director: Charles Lamont
Screenplay: Robert Hardy Andrews, Tamara Hovey (story)
Cinematography: Russell Metty
Film Editing: Russell F. Schoengarth
Art Direction: Alexander Golitzen, Bernard Herzbrun
Music: Jack Brooks, Frank Skinner
Cast: Maureen O'Hara (Princess Marjan), Paul Hubschmid (Hassan), Vincent Price (Pasha Ali Nadim), John Sutton (Raizul), Jeff Corey (Mohammed Jao), Frank Puglia (Saleel).

by Jeremy Arnold

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