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Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Desert Song (1943)

An American journalist (Dennis Morgan) in Morocco has another identity. He is also the masked El Khobar, the rebel leader of a tribe of desert Riffs fighting against their French oppressors. The 1926 operetta by Sigmund Romberg was a huge hit and had several revivals on Broadway. This is the second film version, the first was 1929 and there would be yet another remake in 1953. Directed by Robert Florey (THE COCOANUTS), the plot has been adapted to be more topical with the addition of Nazis using forced Arab labor to build a railroad for their nefarious purposes. Most of the songs have been jettisoned and the film comes across as a typical 1940s exotic adventure flick rather than a musical. Indeed, the songs often seem extraneous. But shot in gorgeous three strip Technicolor, it's certainly an eye popper and there's one scene, when Bruce Cabot takes Irene Manning to a local Arab dive that is a visual feast (with some nice choreography by Leroy Prinz) and a good example of how to edit a scene. With Faye Emerson, Gene Lockhart, Marcel Dalio, Victor Francen and Lynne Overman providing unnecessary comedy relief.

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