A roguish poet is given the run of the scheming Wazir's harem while pretending to help him usurp the young caliph. Kismet (The will of Allah), is the story of a young Caliph who falls in love with the beautiful Marsinah poet's daughter, in ancient Baghdad. Origin : Stranger in Paradise is a popular English song. The melody is an adaptation of the Polovtsian Dances (Prince Igor), popular in Russia.
The movie's neither hopeful in contrived ways, nor hopeless in different contrived ways. Somehow it manages to be wonderful
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Actress is magnificent and exudes a hypnotic screen presence in this affecting drama.
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On paper this is a great cast but on screen it doesn't work because no two cast members seem to be working in the same film. The best voice by a country mile is that of Dolores Gray but it is diametrically opposed to that of Ann Blyth and we can only be glad they had no numbers together, Similarly Howard Keel and Vic Damone are equally poles apart. The last place one expects to find Ted de Corsia is in Baghdad and so on. We're talking serious mish-mosh here and three 'standards' - Baubles, Bangles and Beads, And This Is My Beloved, Stranger In Paradise - are not really enough to save it and, if it comes to that, they're not necessarily the best songs in the film. Vincente Minnelli directs as if he were determined to make something more insipid than Brigadoon and totally erase the charm of Meet Me In St Louis from the memory-banks of cinema-goers everywhere. Well worth missing.
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While not up there with the classic film musicals, Kismet is one of the underrated ones. The complaints that some have for the film are understandable, the script apart from some deliciously witty moments(mainly from Keel and Gray) is somewhat weak and is swamped by everything else, Vincente Minelli's direction at times is cold and hasty- which comes through loud and clear in Gesticulate, very indifferently directed and the weakest song in the film too- and while youthful and suave Vic Damone is rather bland as an actor. There is much to recommend though. The production values are the very meaning of lavish and look gorgeous, the locations and photography are very exotic and who cannot love Delores Gray's outfits. The choreography is spirited and seductive as well as clever and generally tasteful(Not Since Ninevah stands out), and the story is charming enough, a little silly but hardly a bore. There are no complaints to be had with the songs and score, the score is lush and the songs, based on the music of Borodin with clever lyrics, apart from Gesticulate are wonderful. Stranger in Paradise, And This is My Beloved, The Olive Tree and Baubles, Bangles and Beads are the highlights, though Night of My Nights is also lovely. It is a shame about the absence of Was I Wazir? though, though you can sort of understand why it was omitted. The cast are good, Dolores Gray steals the show as a deliciously sultry Lalume, Rahadlakum is a show-stopper. Howard Keel clearly is having the time of his life in his role as Hajj, if at times playing it a little too on the broad side, his beautiful rich voice still sounds great and is one of those voices that is difficult to be tired of. Ann Blyth is too old but is still utterly beguiling and sings beautifully, especially in Baubles, Bangles and Beads and And This is My Beloved. Sebastian Cabot is wonderfully wicked with a touch of buffoonery, though I've always preferred his more distinguished style of acting. All in all, not perfect by any stretch of the imagination but well worth seeing, especially for the production values, the songs, Keel and Gray. 7/10 Bethany Cox
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Given the times we're in and the changing public tastes in music, I'm not sure how well a revival of Kismet as a Broadway show would do today. Certainly the music of Alexander Borodin remains timeless, but a show with an Arabian Nights setting, I'm not sure would go over so well right now.The Broadway show with Alfred Drake, Doretta Morrow, Richard Kiley, and Joan Diener ran for 583 performances in the 1953-54 season and won a Tony Award. As none of those worthy performers were movie names, Arthur Freed recast the film with MGM players Howard Keel, Ann Blyth, Vic Damone, and Dolores Gray and I've sure got no complaints about any one of them.But Kismet has an older an more varied history. It was first presented on Broadway as a straight dramatic play in 1911, written by Edward Knoblauch and providing a career role as Hajj the beggar king for Otis Skinner. He must have done the role a gazillion times on Broadway and in touring companies.Skinner even did two films, a silent and early sound version that I believe are both lost. It then got a film version with Ronald Colman as Hajj and it co-starred Marlene Dietrich, James Craig and Joy Page. Colman spoke the lines in the inimitable Colman fashion, but the music score that Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg wrote was singularly bland.Nothing bland about the themes of Alexander Borodin which Robert Wright and Chet Forrest arranged and wrote lyrics for to provide a far better musical score. Two songs, Strangers In Paradise and Baubles Bangles And Beads were chart toppers in the first half of the Fifties. I well remember as a child hearing both played on the radio a lot.The plot of the story centers around the nimble tongued Keel as Hajj who gets himself involved in palace politics with the Wazir/Prime Minister of the old Caliphate of Bagdad played by Sebastian Cabot and his wife Dolores Gray who's taken a real fancy to Keel. At the same time the Caliph on one of his nocturnal wanderings of legend has fallen for Keel's daughter Ann Blyth. The Caliph is played by Vic Damone. Both plot elements come together for an inevitable conclusion which I think you can figure out.Vincente Minnelli did a great directing this old chestnut, impeccably cast with great musical performers. Songwriting because of who inspired it, doesn't get any better than this.
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I saw this movie version and have always loved it. I also saw the stage version, but who could be better than Howard Keel. I felt like a "Stranger In Paradise." I have always been a movie musical buff and a big fan of Mr. Keel. When I first saw the movie as a child, I felt transported back to that time period (even if it was a Hollywood movie). The beautiful music and romance contained within makes you feel wonderful. And you can imagine all the romance, adventure and "Baubles, Bangles and Beads" you could ever wish for and all in the time and space of this lovely movie with beautiful music. Thank you Howard Keel, Ann Blyth, Vic Damone and company for one of my favorite movie memories.