Ali Baba Goes to Town (1937)

81 mins | Musical comedy | 29 October 1937

Director:

David Butler

Cinematographer:

Ernest Palmer

Editor:

Irene Morra

Production Designer:

Bernard Herzbrun

Production Company:

Twentieth Century--Fox Film Corp.
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HISTORY

The working title for this film was His Arabian Nights . More than eighteen months had passed between the release of Cantor's previous film and this one; during this time, he was one of the top radio stars. Cantor originally was going to make Saratoga Chips , from an unpublished play by Damon Runyon and Irving Caesar as his first film for Twentieth Century-Fox, which paid what was said to be the highest price to date for an unpublished play, $50,000. In 1938, the Ritz Brothers starred in Twentieth Century-Fox's Straight, Place and Show (see below) which was based on the play. According to a HR news item, James Tinling was assigned to direct second unit material to speed up production. According to a NYT article and a pressbook for the film, Ali Baba Goes to Town cost more than one million dollars to produce. The pressbook also notes that the "Old Baghdad" set was built on a twenty-five acre plot. The song "Twilight in Turkey" by Raymond Scott was published and recorded before its use in this film. According to a HR news item, this film, along with Twentieth Century-Fox's Heidi (see below), introduced a new three-tone tinting process, which had been under development for the previous ten months. The process involved a combination of sepia, amber and copper tones for daylight, and blue, orange and copper for nighttime.
       According to news items and information in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department at the UCLA Theater Arts Library, on 27 Aug 1937, propmaker Philo Goodfriend and grip ... More Less

The working title for this film was His Arabian Nights . More than eighteen months had passed between the release of Cantor's previous film and this one; during this time, he was one of the top radio stars. Cantor originally was going to make Saratoga Chips , from an unpublished play by Damon Runyon and Irving Caesar as his first film for Twentieth Century-Fox, which paid what was said to be the highest price to date for an unpublished play, $50,000. In 1938, the Ritz Brothers starred in Twentieth Century-Fox's Straight, Place and Show (see below) which was based on the play. According to a HR news item, James Tinling was assigned to direct second unit material to speed up production. According to a NYT article and a pressbook for the film, Ali Baba Goes to Town cost more than one million dollars to produce. The pressbook also notes that the "Old Baghdad" set was built on a twenty-five acre plot. The song "Twilight in Turkey" by Raymond Scott was published and recorded before its use in this film. According to a HR news item, this film, along with Twentieth Century-Fox's Heidi (see below), introduced a new three-tone tinting process, which had been under development for the previous ten months. The process involved a combination of sepia, amber and copper tones for daylight, and blue, orange and copper for nighttime.
       According to news items and information in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department at the UCLA Theater Arts Library, on 27 Aug 1937, propmaker Philo Goodfriend and grip Harry Harsha were killed when the "magic carpet," weighing approximately 1,500 pounds, fell on them during a test. Goodfriend had been operating the electric hoist and Harsha was operating the movements of the suspended carpet. Two other property men, J. D. Bowman, who controlled the swaying of the carpet, and Nick DeGenner, who was riding the suspended carpet, were also injured. A coroner's jury, ruling that the deaths were accidental, was unable to fix blame for the accident. The accident delayed the completion of the film, which was scheduled to end 28 Aug. Cantor, who, according to studio publicity, suffered skinned knees, bruised knee caps and strained ligaments from kneeling on the coarse-weave carpet while wind machines blasted him with up to fifty miles per hour winds, was elected as an honorary member of the Hollywood Stunt Men, following completion of the film.
       The scenes of the movie premiere at the end of the film were shot at the premiere of Twentieth Century-Fox's Wee Willie Winkie (see below) at the Carthay Circle Theatre on 25 Jun 1937. In addition to Eddie Cantor, other celebrities introduced at the premiere by Tony Martin were Victor McLaglen, Phyllis Brooks with Michael Whalen, Douglas Fairbanks, Dolores Del Rio, the Ritz Brothers, Jack Haley, Ann Sothern with Cesar Romero, Sonja Henie with Tyrone Power, John Carradine escorting June Lang and Louise Hovick, and Shirley Temple with her parents. According to MPH , the film was offered to exhibitors "in the platinum sepia process coming currently into favor." According to early billing sheets in the legal records, the Allan K. Foster Troupe of Girls and Horses were to perform a specialty act in the film, and Norman Willis, Hector Sarno and Harry Burns were cast as "Arabs." Their participation in the final film has not been confirmed.
       Reviewers remarked on the satiric content of the film. NYT , in an article about the film, noted the film's similarity to the 1931 Fox film A Connecticut Yankee , starring Will Rogers (see below) and called this film "the first instance in which a studio has leveled satire and ridicule at the [Franklin D. Roosevelt] Administration"; MPH noted, "Mr. Cantor personally attends to the chore of burlesquing Mr. Roosevelt's phrases and gestures of public address." Cantor and Twentieth Century-Fox were sued for $1,025,000 in damages by Andreas F. Michael, a writer who alleged that the film was plagiarized from material he submitted to the studio in 1936. According to information in the legal records, Twentieth Century-Fox won the case in 1939. In correspondence concerning the plagiarism charge, Gene Fowler acknowledged that the story grew out of an idea for writing a New Deal comedy similar in formula to A Connecticut Yankee and that he believed that Cantor suggested the idea for the scene in the beginning with the tramps. On 26 Oct 1937, three days before the film's national release, a celebration marking Eddie Cantor's twenty-fifth year as a "prime factor in American entertainment," according to MPH , was scheduled. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
30-Oct-37
---
Daily Variety
28 Aug 37
p. 4.
Daily Variety
1 Sep 37
p. 6.
Daily Variety
16 Oct 37
p. 3.
Film Daily
21 Oct 37
p. 18.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Nov 36
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Jan 37
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Jun 37
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Jul 37
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Jul 37
p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Aug 37
p. 19.
Hollywood Reporter
31 Aug 37
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Oct 37
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Oct 37
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Feb 38
p. 3.
Motion Picture Daily
23 Oct 37
p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald
14 Aug 37
p. 33.
Motion Picture Herald
23 Oct 37
p. 50.
New York Times
23-May-37
---
New York Times
1-Aug-37
---
New York Times
23 Oct 37
p. 14.
New York Times
24-Oct-37
---
Variety
20 Oct 37
p. 12.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
Darryl F. Zanuck in charge of production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2d unit dir
Dial dir
Asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCER
Assoc prod
WRITERS
Story
Story
Story
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
Cam op
Asst cam
Gaffer
ART DIRECTOR
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Asst cutter
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
A.M. painter
P.M. painter
COSTUMES
Cost
Ward man
Ward man
Ward woman
MUSIC
Mus dir
DANCE
Dances staged by
MAKEUP
Makeup
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Prod mgr
Scr clerk
Grip
Prod asst
Props
Props
Follow up man
Tech man
A.M. asst prop man
P.M. asst prop man
Cable man
Wire man
Best boy
Still photog
Publicity
STAND INS
Double for Eddie Cantor
Double for Douglas Dumbrille
SOURCES
MUSIC
"Twilight in Turkey" by Raymond Scott.
SONGS
"I've Got My Heart Set on You," "Laugh Your Way Thru Life," "Swing Is Here to Sway," "Vote for Honest Abe" and "Arabiana," music and lyrics by Mack Gordon and Harry Revel.
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
His Arabian Nights
Release Date:
29 October 1937
Premiere Information:
Hollywood preview: 15 October 1937
Production Date:
late July--early September 1937
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century--Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
29 October 1937
Copyright Number:
LP7779
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA High Fidelity System
Black and White
b&w or platinum sepia
Duration(in mins):
81
Length(in feet):
7,402
Length(in reels):
10
Country:
United States
PCA No:
3640
SYNOPSIS

Aloysius "Al" Babson, a star-struck autograph hound on his vacation to Hollywood, falls out of a boxcar in the desert. Startled to see a horde of Arab riders heading toward him, he runs into an Arabian village, where some riders fall over him. He then awakens in the 20th Century-Fox Film Corp. first-aid room to learn that he has ruined a take in their desert picture, Ali Baba . When a company man offers him money to sign a waiver releasing the company from damages, his nurse Dinah cautions him not to sign, but when he is offered the opportunity to be an extra and to collect autographs, Al excitedly agrees. Dinah gives Al some pain-killing pills and instructs him to take two at twelve o'clock. On the set, Al plays one of the forty thieves hidden in large jars who are to kill Abdullah, the sultan, for Prince Musah, who plans to abduct the sultan's daughter, Princess Miriam. He volunteers to play the thief who remains faithful to the sultan, but when he learns that it is two o'clock, he mistakenly thinks that Dinah told him to take twelve pills at two and takes the large dosage. In his subsequent dream, Al finds himself in Bagdad in the year 937. He is about to be put to death, but when he reveals that his name is Al Babson, he is hailed as the great "Ali Baba's son" and invited to lunch at Sultan Abdullah's palace. In response to the starving people outside the gates, Al convinces Abdullah to invite them to lunch also, thus quelling the rebellion. Al is ... +


Aloysius "Al" Babson, a star-struck autograph hound on his vacation to Hollywood, falls out of a boxcar in the desert. Startled to see a horde of Arab riders heading toward him, he runs into an Arabian village, where some riders fall over him. He then awakens in the 20th Century-Fox Film Corp. first-aid room to learn that he has ruined a take in their desert picture, Ali Baba . When a company man offers him money to sign a waiver releasing the company from damages, his nurse Dinah cautions him not to sign, but when he is offered the opportunity to be an extra and to collect autographs, Al excitedly agrees. Dinah gives Al some pain-killing pills and instructs him to take two at twelve o'clock. On the set, Al plays one of the forty thieves hidden in large jars who are to kill Abdullah, the sultan, for Prince Musah, who plans to abduct the sultan's daughter, Princess Miriam. He volunteers to play the thief who remains faithful to the sultan, but when he learns that it is two o'clock, he mistakenly thinks that Dinah told him to take twelve pills at two and takes the large dosage. In his subsequent dream, Al finds himself in Bagdad in the year 937. He is about to be put to death, but when he reveals that his name is Al Babson, he is hailed as the great "Ali Baba's son" and invited to lunch at Sultan Abdullah's palace. In response to the starving people outside the gates, Al convinces Abdullah to invite them to lunch also, thus quelling the rebellion. Al is soon made prime minister, and he instigates a number of works projects based on American New Deal projects. When Al suggests that Abdullah disband the army, Musah plans, with the connivance of Sultana, one of the sultan's 365 wives, to take over the kingdom, capture the princess, who has rebuked his entreaties, and serve Al's head on a platter. Meanwhile, Al has met and fallen in love with Deenah, who is the daughter of Omar the Rug Maker, a magician, while Princess Miriam and the spokesman for the peasants, Yusuf, also fall in love. Because marriage between a princess and a commoner is not allowed, Al suggests that Abdullah resign as sultan and run for president. Despite Al's attempt to inaugurate a "Vote for Honest Abe" campaign on Abdullah's behalf, the people elect Al president, which leads Abdullah to sentence him to be boiled in oil. Al escapes and, dressed as a veiled woman, enters Musah's camp. Greatly attracted to Al, Musah has "her" dance for him, whereupon Al secures Musah to a post with his veils and escapes to Deenah's house, where Omar is trying out commands to make his carpet rise. Al suggests the word "inflation," and the carpet takes off over Musah's approaching army with Al aboard. He scatters the army with a burning rope, but Musah climbs up, and they fight as the carpet burns. Al knocks Musah off, but then falls off himself. After Al is rudely awakened from his dream, the director of the film shoves him off the set. Later Al goes with Dinah and his autograph book to the front of the theater showing the film's premiere, where actor Tony Martin introduces celebrities, including Eddie Cantor, who is mobbed by autograph seekers. When Cantor waves to an excited Dinah, Al, upset, asks "What's he got that I haven't got?" and rolls his eyes around. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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