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Film / Kismet (1944)

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Kismet is a 1944 film directed by William Dieterle, starring Ronald Colman, Marlene Dietrich, and Edward Arnold. It is a theatrical adaptation of the stage play Kismet.

Colman plays Hafiz, a beggar who styles himself "King of the Beggars". He does well enough at begging, liberally supplemented by thievery, that he has a house and a servant to take care of his daughter Marsinah (Joy Page). At night he goes about pretending to be the "Prince of Hassir". That's how he meets and falls in love with Jamilla (Dietrich), a Macedonian in the harem of the villainous Grand Vizier (Arnold).

Also while out and about at night as the "Prince", he meets a handsome young man (James Craig) who says he's the son of the gardener at the Caliph's palace. What Hafiz doesn't know is that the gardener's son is actually the Caliph himself, that the Caliph, like Hafiz, enjoys going out at night and pretending to be someone he's not. And the other thing that Hafiz doesn't know is that the Caliph has fallen in love with his daughter Marsinah.

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Tropes:

  • "Arabian Nights" Days: Baghdad when it was the center of the world, a hub of trade, with a Caliph that ruled over all Islam. (And who likes to go out amongst the people in disguise, which the Caliph did often in The Arabian Nights.)
  • Badass Boast: Hafiz makes several of these. "When my royal blood is up, no one can deny me, and no one does!"
  • Bedlah Babe: All the harem girls in the standard bra-and-gauzy pants outfit that dance for the Vizier and Hafiz.
  • Body Paint: Nearly 20 years before Goldfinger, Jamilla goes out for her dance in front of the vizier and Hafiz painted gold—but only on her legs. (It was supposed to be a pair of tights made of very fine gold chainmail, but the whole thing fell apart and she decided to paint her legs instead.)
  • Did the Research: The court dancers are American twins Beatrice and Evelyne Kraft, but their dance is authentic. They have clearly received formal training in deva dasi style, perhaps from Xenia Zarina, an American ballerina who traveled through Southeast Asia and India to study the traditional dances with renowned teachers.
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  • Die Laughing: The vizier is cackling when Hafiz grabs a scimitar and plunges it into his side.
    Hafiz: He died laughing, excellency.
  • Gorgeous Greek: Macedonian to be precise, as Jamilla is clearly a foreigner in Baghdad's court as an harem queen.
  • King Incognito: The Caliph likes to go out at night among his people dressed as a commoner.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Hafiz's expression when he yields his daughter to the Grand Vizier and again at the moment he realizes that the Caliph had intended to marry Marcinah all along is heartrending.
  • Off-into-the-Distance Ending: Hafiz, Jamilla, and their train, on the way to Hassir after the Happy Ending.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Hafiz and his sidekicks have stolen some fancy clothes, but the cops are chasing them. Hafiz dives into a public bath. When the police come in, he expresses outrage, claims to be the "Prince of Hassir", and winds up getting an audience with the Grand Vizier. And when he claims to have had three elephants parked outside that were stolen, he gets three elephants.
  • Roofhopping: How Hafiz escapes from the palace and makes his way to the vizier's house to rescue his daughter.
  • Storybook Opening: A storybook unfolds as a narrator (an uncredited Frank Morgan) introduces the characters by turn, even establishing that the Vizier is the bad guy. "When you know him better, you won't wonder that she wandered."
  • Street Performer: Hafiz spices up his begging by performing magic tricks for rich passersby. This is often an excuse to get close so he can pick pockets, however.
  • Title Drop: "It was the hand of fate—kismet!" So says Hafiz when talking about how he and Jamilla met. The caliph uses the same word in the next scene when talking about falling in love with Marsinah.
  • Unishment: Well the caliph can't just do nothing after Hafiz tries to murder him. So the caliph exiles him from Baghdad—to the province of Hassir, where he shall be prince, thus becoming the "Prince of Hassir" for real. And Jamilla will go with him. Hafiz is in a pretty good mood as he leaves town.
  • Wham Line: For Hafiz at least, when the Caliph drops the bomb on him after the assassination attempt fails.
"Before this fool's execution, I want him to hear something. You were told of a royal wedding today. That wedding will still take place. I've combed the corners of Baghdad for this man. And while he was plotting with my enemies, I was arranging to make his daughter queen of the empire!"
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The first part of the film prominently features Hafiz' little dog, whom he hugs affectionately in the first few scenes, and who clearly has his own adventures in the Baghdad streets. However, he's absent in the second half, and when Hafiz and Jamilla prepare to ride off into exile the little dog is not seen. However, a good-sized caravan of camels and wagons follow them, obviously holding their belongings and furnishings for their new home, so you can figure the dog is just safely stowed in a carrier.
    • Likewise, you don't see what happened to Marsinah's faithful servant Karsha. No doubt she (along with the kittens she's seen caring for at the beginning) was brought to the royal palace in style, to be Marsinah's attendant and friend forever.
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