The Middle East used to be seen as a fantastic mystical place full of treasures and bright colors. When we think of Egypt we think of pharaohs and beautiful queens and mummies and gold. When people thought of the Arab nations they would think spice markets, men dressed in robes with a sash around their waists and women who were so gorgeous they made fall to their knees. Now we know the realities of the Middle East and all these fantasies are gone. When they fantasies were still alive Hollywood had a great time portraying them. One such film is the nonmusical version of Kismet in ancient Iraq.
A man named Hafiz (Ronald Coleman) is known as the “King of the Beggars.” He is part of a group of beggars who gather around the gate of the city and asks for money from the rich. When he is not begging Hafiz lives in a nice house with his daughter Marsinah. He also goes to see a woman named Jamilla (Marlene Dietrich) at the palace pretending he is a prince from a far off land.
The young Caliph of the city likes disguise himself as the son of the gardener to the palace so he can see how his people live. The Caliph gets into a fight and before he is killed he is saved by Hafiz. Hafiz says that he does not like the Caliph and had he known the man he saved was the one he hated most likely would not have done so. The young Caliph as the gardener’s son is in love with Marsinah and wants to marry her. When he returns to the palace the Caliph summons the Grand Vizier (Edward Arnold) to the palace. The Vizier is a terrible man. The Caliph’s father let the Vizier get away with horrible things. Now the Caliph wants to put an end to the Vizier’s power.
Things happen but I cannot remember exactly what. I got bored of the story and unfortunately stopped paying too much attention.
Ronald Coleman was excellent. The man was such a good actor that he easily got away with playing a man from the Middle East. The character had to be quick and smart and cunning and Coleman played all those aspects wonderfully. Before this I had never seen Marlene Dietrich in a film. She is in the film in the first five minutes and does not come back until forty five minutes later. I died laughing when she first comes on screen because she is singing and all I could think of was Madeline Kahn’s impression of her in Blazzing Saddles. After that all I had in my head was “I’m Tired” and “it’s twue it’s twue”… maybe that was one of the reasons why my attention for Kismet went out the window after a while? Edward Arnold was great as the Grand Vizier. Like Coleman, Arnold was such a good actor he could get away with playing a man from the Middle East. I could not get over how beautifully blue his eyes were I am so used to seeing him in only black and white films.
Kismet was not a terrible film. I just got bored of it after a while and there were some scenes I was just like what on earth is going on here. I would really only suggest watching Kismet for its gorgeous colors, its fantasy like setting, and Ronald Coleman.