Cast & Crew
In the mythical Arab city of Port Inferno, nightclub owner Ormulu makes a deal with American singer Hazel Moon to allow magicians Peter Johnson and Harvey Garvey to perform at the club if she agrees to meet with Prince Ramo, a seemingly ardent admirer. During that night's badly received show, however, Harvey inadvertently instigates a brawl, and he, Peter and Hazel are arrested and tossed into a jail cell with a deranged derelict. Still determined to meet Hazel, Ramo slips the Americans a loaf of bread with a saw baked inside it, and despite Harvey's repeated blunders, the entertainers manage to escape. The prince then takes the trio to his desert camp and there explains that his uncle, Nimativ, usurped his throne and is a cruel despot. Ramo asks Hazel for help in reclaiming his throne, and she consents on condition that Peter and Harvey, who once helped her when she was stranded, accompany her. After they arrive at Nimativ's palace in Barabeeha, Ramo reveals his plan to the Americans: The fair-haired Hazel is to distract his blonde-crazy uncle long enough for Peter and Harvey to steal the two rings with which Nimativ hypnotizes and controls his enemies. As hoped, Nimativ is immediately taken with Hazel, but when Harvey displays a blatant interest in Nimativ's rings, Nimativ becomes suspicious and hypnotizes all three. Nimativ forces them to reveal their mission and convinces Hazel that she wants to marry him. As he is leaving with Hazel, Nimativ calls Harvey and Peter "termites," and the two imprisoned men suddenly find themselves eating furniture. After Nimativ announces to his court that the next day, Hazel is to become his thirty-eighth wife, Ramo sneaks into her room and breaks her trance by pricking her with a pin. Although angry at Ramo for placing her in danger, Hazel, who is falling in love with the prince, agrees to help him by pretending that she is still hypnotized. Ramo then awakens Harvey and Peter from their trance, and the three men attempt to escape the palace. Ramo is captured, but by claiming to be Hollywood talent scouts, Harvey and Peter talk Bobo, a gargantuan guard, and Teema, Nimativ's first wife, into allowing them to hide in the palace harem. When Nimativ comes to search the harem, Teema, who is jealous of Hazel, feigns ignorance and steals Nimativ's key to Hazel's room. From his hiding place, Harvey then steals the key from Teema, but unthinkingly hands it back to Nimativ when he demands its return from Teema. Once again, the Americans flee, but are captured and thrown into the palace dungeon. Also imprisoned in the dungeon is the crazed derelict, who converses with and "kills" an imaginary friend named Mike. Noise from Mike's "murder" alerts Bobo, and still insisting they are talent scouts, Peter and Harvey once again talk the guard into letting them escape. Finding themselves in the royal clothes closet, the magicians then put on Nimativ's and Teema's clothes. Before they can sneak out, however, Nimativ catches them and attacks Peter, who knocks him out. While Nimativ is unconscious, Peter and Harvey steal his rings, then wake him up and hypnotize him, ordering him to give Ramo back his throne. Before Nimativ can act on the command, he is pricked by a thorn from a rose that Harvey has given him and awakens from his trance. Nimativ demands that Harvey and Peter be executed, but Bobo and Teema, who is also determined to go to Hollywood, conspire to stop the beheading by starting a harem show just as the executioner's ax is about to fall. During the ensuing commotion, Ramo swarms the palace with his men, and Nimativ is routed. After Peter and Harvey send Nimativ, who has been hypnotized into believing he is a dog, to the palace "kennel," Hazel makes plans to remain with a loving Ramo. Harvey and Peter are then chauffeured out of Barabeeha, but soon discover that their driver is the deranged derelict.
J. Lockard Martin
Mary Ellen Popel
Lola De Tolly
Elinor Van Der Veer
Jack "stage" Kenney
Ben Ayssa Wadrassi
J. D. Jewkes
Remington Olmstead Jr.
Daniel B. Cathcart
Lowell S. Kinsall
Standish J. Lambert
Frank B. Mackenzie
M. J. Mclaughlin
William J. Saracino
Robert W. Shirley
John A. Williams
Edwin B. Willis
Classic Comedy Teams Collection - Abbott & Costello, Laurel and Hardy and The Three Stooges Are Featured in CLASSIC COMEDY TEAMS COLLECTION
The Abbott and Costello disc is easily the strongest. The duo was allowed to make one film a year away from their home studio of Universal so during the peak of their popularity they went three times to MGM. Two of those films are in this set and can't be found in the otherwise comprehensive four volume Best of Abbott & Costello (the third film, 1941's Rio Rita, has yet to appear on DVD). Lost in a Harem (1944) shows more of the MGM gloss than Abbott & Costello's usual films even if the story about the two rescuing a blonde singer (B-movie perennial Marilyn Maxwell) and overthrowing an evil ruler is a bit thin. The film makes good use of sets left over from Kismet and there's a song and a half from the Jimmy Dorsey band. Abbott and Costello are generally quite lively with a mix of slapstick and verbal routines, even at one point recreating the classic vaudeville bit "Slowly I Turned." Slightly more predictable is Abbott and Costello in Hollywood (1945), the first film to feature their name in the title. This time the two are show biz barbers who decide that being a talent agent is the ticket to easy money so they promote an Iowa-fresh singer over an established star. The film tends more towards a string of routines though there are some good ones including the two trying to cure Costello's insomnia, him pretending to be a stunt dummy and even a frantic chase at the end. The big missed opportunity was to exploit the Hollywood setting more; there are cameos from Lucille Ball, Rags Ragland and Preston Foster but that's about it.
Like Abbott and Costello, the Laurel and Hardy disc collects two MGM wartime films but in this case that's a bit past their prime period. Still, Laurel and Hardy bring unflappable good cheer and years of experience that give these films a charm that would certainly have been lacking if anybody else had starred. Air Raid Wardens (1943) opens with a voice-over straight out of Our Town, describing the small community that's about to participate in the war. Laurel and Hardy ran a string of failed businesses and now have been rejected by the military as well they end up as, you guessed it, air raid wardens. Not much to the warden angle so we also get Nazi spies, a stuffy bank president, a short-tempered teamster and even a rambunctious stray dog. There's a nice bit with the two trying to enter a town meeting quietly and an inventive gag with a carrier pigeon. Nothing But Trouble (1944) stretches everything a bit more thin. Seems that there's an exiled teenage king from some operetta country who just want to be a regular boy and play football. Laurel and Hardy befriend him, thinking he's just a wayward kid but not much happens. The film had been pitched a couple of years earlier and at one point involved helicopters and gags by Buster Keaton. None of that is in the final film; the studio must have decided that "Imagine Laurel and Hardy as a chef and a butler" was good enough and less expensive. Though the king's story is mostly padding, you're not likely to forget Stan trying to serve at a high-class dinner party and may even have fond memories of the two trying to grab a steak (actually horsemeat) from the lion's cage at the zoo.
The Three Stooges disc is something of an oddity since the team plays only supporting roles in both films. Meet the Baron (1933) is the more interesting since it's an example of the goofy, anything-goes comedies of the early 30s though admittedly not one of the better ones. The film was designed to put onto screen Jack Pearl, whose recreation of eternal tall tale teller Baron Munchausen had been a radio and stage smash in preceeding years (and would quickly vanish: he appeared in only one other film while his radio career trickled out). With Jimmy Durante as his buddy, the Baron crashes an all-girls college where the janitors are Ted Healey and His Stooges (that's right, not yet the Three Stooges). So you get a lot of running around, recreations of Pearl's radio skits, the Stooges pummelling each other and for good measure about thirty co-eds bathing and singing in an enormous Art Deco shower. Completing the disc is 1951's Gold Raiders, a creaky B-Western that looks like it should have appeared 15 years earlier. It's also an independent production and the only non-MGM film in this set. Gold Raiders shows that with merely a few days on the back lot and minimal editing you can keep an entire film under an hour. An aging, paunchy George O'Brien is the hero (an insurance agent!) trying to keep the local mine from being taken over by an evil landowner. The Stooges are travelling salesmen who help O'Brien but since they're incidental to the story any comedy is fleeting.
Overall the transfers in the Classic Comedy Teams Collection are sharp but the sources aren't always the best quality. Gold Raiders has some abrupt splices, including one that clips off a bit of dialogue. Lost in a Harem has a lot of speckling and in one part noticable print damage (which fortunately lasts barely a second or so). The only extras are a few trailers and subtitle options (English, French and Spanish). Still, the set is inexpensively priced and anybody interested in the films will be glad to have them.
For more information about Classic Comedy Teams Collection, visit Warner Video. To order Classic Comedy Teams Collection, go to TCM Shopping.
by Lang Thompson
Classic Comedy Teams Collection - Abbott & Costello, Laurel and Hardy and The Three Stooges Are Featured in CLASSIC COMEDY TEAMS COLLECTION
Lost in a Harem
The plot has the boys working as a magic act in a traveling international revue stranded in the bizarre city of Port Inferno. Along with cabaret singer Hazel Moon (Marilyn Maxwell), they become caught up in a plot by the deposed desert sheik Ramo to regain his rightful reign from his evil uncle Nimativ. The success of the endeavor is boosted greatly when Costello befriends the chubby number-one wife of the usurper by promising to get her into movies and disguises himself as her to steal the hypnotic rings Nimativ has been using to control his subjects and hold power.
Bud and Lou were paid $70,000 for their first MGM film, Rio Rita (1942), and contracted for this one at $80,000, but they resented the deal Universal had made with MGM studio chief L.B. Mayer for their services. Their pictures earned far more money at their home studio, for which they received a hefty percentage. So the duo and their management team announced they would not report for Lost in a Harem unless they not only doubled their salary but got paid the increased rate retroactively for Rio Rita. Mayer, of course, was livid, but he knew a goldmine when he saw it, and eventually the team got what it demanded.
Lost in a Harem was initially meant to be the duo's first picture for MGM, and the first draft of the script predated any work on Rio Rita. The original story had the two characters, named Doc and Cozy, thwarting Nazi spies out to steal the formula for a powerful explosive developed by an Oxford-educated Arab prince. The basics of the plot ended up instead in Rio Rita, as Nazi agents tried to sneak bombs across the border from Mexico to the U.S., and a new script for the Middle Eastern story was written with an intended shoot date of Spring 1943. But Costello's illness and the death of his son forced postponement until the following year; by the time this picture began production, the team had not been before the cameras for 15 months, although they had typically made three or four a year prior to that.
Even with the salary dispute settled in Abbott and Costello's favor, the studio did not skimp on the production, although the reported $1,225,000 budget has been disputed since leftover sets from the movie Kismet (1944) were used. But with more than 100 roles, not including extras, costs were still high. Veteran comedy writer Harry Crane was brought in, along with John Grant, who worked on just about every Abbott & Costello script. The two contributed to the screenplay by Harry Ruskin, whose career at MGM included The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946), several Andy Hardy movies and many of the films in the successful Dr. Kildare series. Leading lady Marilyn Maxwell had appeared in one of those Kildare flicks and would play the same character in another a year after this film. The studio reportedly tested its new young British import Peter Lawford for the role of the rightful sheik, Ramo, but decided to cast John Conte, former announcer for CBS Radio's Silver Theater whose film career up to this point had been largely uncredited voice-only roles as "radio announcers." He and Maxwell were married during production (and divorced a few years later). Popular character actor Douglas Dumbrille took on the part of the dastardly Nimativ. Dumbrille had been a favorite foil for such comedians as the Marx Brothers and Bob Hope and appeared with Abbott & Costello in Ride 'Em Cowboy (1941).
Surprisingly enough, Lost in a Harem, despite the innocuous nature of the project, was subjected to close scrutiny by Hollywood's self-appointed censorship board, The Breen Office. The group was particularly nervous about the harem girls' costumes, according to biographers Bob Furmanek and Ron Palumbo in Abbott and Costello in Hollywood (Berkley Pub. Group). The Breen memo read "We urge that you advise the costume department to use extreme care in designing of these costumes. In this connection, please make certain that the dance routines performed by these lightly costumed girls be watched closely in order to avoid any suggestive or sensuous body movements. Otherwise they could not be approved under the provisions of the Code." In addition, the Breen office cautioned "Please make sure you avoid any use of the expression, 'Allah be praised,' or any religious expression that may be taken as a derogatory reference to the religion of the Mohammedans. This is very important."
The harem set included several very large, exotically colored stuffed pillows, which were packed up in a delivery truck at the end of production and brought to Costello's house. When it turned out the pillows were needed for another scene, the props department had to ask Costello to please return them to the studio, with the promise he could keep them when shooting was complete. Costello also managed to keep another souvenir of this shoot - the dress he wore for his classic harem drag bit.
Director: Charles Riesner
Producer: George Haight
Screenplay: Harry Crane, Harry Rsuking & John Grant
Cinematography: Lester White
Editing: George Hively
Art Direction: Daniel B. Cathcart, Cedric Gibbons
Original Music: Jimmy Dorsey, Sammy Fain, Daniele Amfitheatrof, et al.
Cast: Lou Costello (Harvey Garvey), Bud Abbott (Pete Johnson), Marilyn Maxwell (Hazel Moon), John Conte (Prince Ramo), Douglas Dumbrille (Nimativ).
by Rob Nixon
Lost in a Harem
Pokomoko! Slowly I turn, step by step ...- The Derelict
The working title of this film was Harem Scarem. Production on the film, which originally was to start in March 1943 with Desi Arnaz playing the prince, was postponed for a year because of Costello's battle with rheumatic fever. According to an October 1942 Hollywood Reporter news item, Frederick Jackson was first assigned to write the project, but his contribution to the completed film has not been confirmed. Former Abbott and Costello writer John Grant, who received a screenwriting credit on the film, was also a producer at Universal, according to Hollywood Reporter. In early March 1944, Hollywood Reporter announced that David Street, a singer on the Joan Davis-Jack Haley radio show, was being considered for the role of "Prince Ramo." Murray Leonard performed on stage with Abbott and Costello during their vaudeville years. In the film, Leonard, who plays "The Derelict," does the famous crazed killer vaudeville routine, which begins with the words, "Slowly I turn, step by step, inch by inch." Although a Hollywood Reporter news item announced James Clemons as a cast member, playing a "desert chieftain," his participation in the final film has not been confirmed. According to a March 30, 1944 Hollywood Reporter news item, George Hively replaced Ben Lewis as editor shortly after principal photography began. Another Hollywood Reporter news item reported that a "flower number" and a song called "Noche de Ronda" were being prepared for the film, but they were not included in the completed film. According to M-G-M publicity material contained at the AMPAS Library, a "romantic ballad" called "It Is Written" by Ralph Freed and Sammy Fain was composed for the film, but the only Freed and Fain song performed in the picture was "Sons of the Desert." An early March 1944 Hollywood Reporter news item noted that M-G-M voice coach Kay Thompson was hired to "develop" the song and dance routine used in the "Sons of the Desert" number. The exact nature of Thompson's contribution to the final film has not been determined, however.