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A THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS (director: Alfred E. Green; screenwriters: Richard English/Jack Henley/Wilfred H. Petitt; cinematographer: Ray Rennahan; editor: Gene Havlick; music: Marlin Skiles; cast: Cornel Wilde (Aladdin), Evelyn Keyes (The Genie, Babs), Phil Silvers (Abdullah), Adele Jergens (Princess Armina), Dusty Anderson (Novira), Dennis Hoey (Sultan Kamar Al-Kir, father of the princess/Prince Hadji, the evil twin brother), Rex Ingram (Giant), Gus Schilling (Jafar), Philip Van Zandt (Grand Wazir Abu-Hassan); Runtime: 91; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Samuel Bischoff; Columbia Pictures; 1945)
“Silly escapist romantic fantasy film that’s played with a wink and a nod.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An attractive looking but buffoonish satire on the Arabian Nights directed by Alfred E. Green (“Top Banana”/”Dangerous”/”The Jolson Story”) and written by Richard English, Jack Henley and Wilfred H. Petitt. The handsome Hungarian-born actor Cornel Wilde makes for a pleasing Aladdin, despite looking like a fool in his Oriental zoot suit, in his first starring role. Wilde made the 1936 U.S. Olympic fencing team and spoke six languages, which gives him a leg up for his dashing role in this silly escapist romantic fantasy film that’s played with a wink and a nod. What Wilde can’t do very well is sing, so his singing voice is dubbed by Tom Clark.

The plot is set one thousand years ago in Arabia. It has the Aladdin, a crooning vagabond, falling in love with the sultan’s half-naked beautiful blonde daughter, Princess Armina (Adele Jergens), and attempts to win her heart with the help of a jealous redheaded vamp-like genie named Babs (Evelyn Keyes). Phil Silvers plays Abdullah, the anachronistic modern jive-talking comical sidekick of Aladdin, who is also a pick pocket. The ending has the thoroughly obnoxious Silvers singing in Frank Sinatra’s voice in a harem of appreciative fans. Rex Ingram, who played in The Thief of Baghdad (1940) as the giant Djinn, has a cameo as the giant. Dennis Hoey not only played the good sultan Kamar Al-Kir but his evil twin brother Prince Hadji, and played both without any particular distinction. Philip Van Zandt plays the Grand Wazir, Abu-Hassan, who conspires with Prince Hadji to overthrow the sultan. He had better lines in The Three Stooges episodes.

The laughs are hard to come by and are more unintentional than intentional.

It was nominated for Oscars for Art Direction (Stephen Goosson, Rudolph Sternad and Frank Tuttle) and Special Effects (Lawrence W. Butler and Ray Bomba), the only two features of the film that had any worth. Columbia’s lavish and lively production had great Technicolor and elaborate sets on the lot, which to a certain degree cover up for its inability to tell a good story.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”