The Thief of Bagdad (1940)

105-106 mins | Fantasy | 25 December 1940

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HISTORY

This picture was inspired by a tale from A Thousand and One Nights, author unknown (circa 1450). According to pre-production news items in HR, Vivien Leigh was scheduled to appear in the film and David O. Selznick loaned production designer William Cameron Menzies to Alexander Korda for this picture. Modern sources add that all of the large sets and most of the dramatic actions were shot in England from early spring-late summer 1939. According to another news item that appeared in HR shortly after the war began in Europe, while filming in London, the cast and crew came to work in gas masks which they removed for shooting. Later in Sep 1939, Korda closed down production on this film to begin shooting the propaganda film Lion Has Wings (see entry). In 1940, Korda moved to Hollywood to complete the picture, and according to a news item in HR, the Grand Canyon stood-in for the Arabian desert. Other news items in HR note that Michael Powell directed the spectacle scenes and Tim Whelan took over the direction from Ludwig Berger. Modern sources add that Korda disliked Berger's close, intimate style of filming and wanted a more lavish look to the film. Therefore, Korda hired Whelan to direct the action scenes.
       The film won Academy Awards for Best Special Effects and Best Technicolor Photography. Modern sources credit Zoltan Korda, William Cameron Menzies and Alexander Korda as directors; Tom Howard and Johnny Mills with special effects; William Cameron Menzies, Frederick Pusey and Ferdinand Bellan as associate designers; Robert Krasker as camera operator; David Cunynghame as production manager and Andre ...

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This picture was inspired by a tale from A Thousand and One Nights, author unknown (circa 1450). According to pre-production news items in HR, Vivien Leigh was scheduled to appear in the film and David O. Selznick loaned production designer William Cameron Menzies to Alexander Korda for this picture. Modern sources add that all of the large sets and most of the dramatic actions were shot in England from early spring-late summer 1939. According to another news item that appeared in HR shortly after the war began in Europe, while filming in London, the cast and crew came to work in gas masks which they removed for shooting. Later in Sep 1939, Korda closed down production on this film to begin shooting the propaganda film Lion Has Wings (see entry). In 1940, Korda moved to Hollywood to complete the picture, and according to a news item in HR, the Grand Canyon stood-in for the Arabian desert. Other news items in HR note that Michael Powell directed the spectacle scenes and Tim Whelan took over the direction from Ludwig Berger. Modern sources add that Korda disliked Berger's close, intimate style of filming and wanted a more lavish look to the film. Therefore, Korda hired Whelan to direct the action scenes.
       The film won Academy Awards for Best Special Effects and Best Technicolor Photography. Modern sources credit Zoltan Korda, William Cameron Menzies and Alexander Korda as directors; Tom Howard and Johnny Mills with special effects; William Cameron Menzies, Frederick Pusey and Ferdinand Bellan as associate designers; Robert Krasker as camera operator; David Cunynghame as production manager and Andre de Toth as production assistant. Actor Rex Ingram also appeared in the 1924 version of the story for United Artists, also entitled the Thief of Bagdad, starring Douglas Fairbanks and Julanne Johnston, and directed by Raoul Walsh (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30). Other versions of the story with the same title include the 1961 Italian film directed by Arthur Lubin, starring Steve Reeves and Giorgia Moll, and the 1978 British-French television movie, directed by Clive Donner, starring Roddy McDowall and Peter Ustinov.

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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
11 Oct 1940
p. 3
Film Daily
15 Oct 1940
p. 7
Hollywood Reporter
1 Mar 1939
p. 4
Hollywood Reporter
13 Jun 1939
p. 4
Hollywood Reporter
6 Jul 1939
p. 9
Hollywood Reporter
25 Jul 1939
p. 9
Hollywood Reporter
18 Sep 1939
p. 3
Hollywood Reporter
13 May 1940
p. 4
Hollywood Reporter
24 Dec 1940
p. 2
Motion Picture Herald
22 Mar 1941
p. 88
Motion Picture Herald
19 Oct 1940
p. 34
New York Times
14 May 1940
p. 5
Variety
16 Oct 1940
p. 16
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Assoc dir
Assoc dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITERS
Scr and dial
Scen
PHOTOGRAPHY
Assoc photog
FILM EDITORS
Supv film ed
SET DECORATOR
Percy Day
Scenic backgrounds
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus dir
Mus score
SOUND
Sd dir
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
PRODUCTION MISC
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor dir
Prod design in color
SOURCES
SONGS
"I Want to Be a Sailor," words and music by Miklos Rozsa.
SONGWRITER/COMPOSER
DETAILS
Release Date:
25 December 1940
Premiere Information:
London premiere: 19 Dec 1940
Production Date:

Copyright Info
Claimant
Date
Copyright Number
Alexander Korda Films, Inc.
11 November 1940
LP10040
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
105-106
Length(in reels):
12
Countries:
United Kingdom, United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

As the Princess slumbers while awaiting the blind man whom she loves, Jaffar, the evil magician who desires her, sends his aide to lead the blind man to his palace. At the palace, the man reveals that he is Ahmad, the King of Bagdad, and relates his life story and that of his dog, the prince of thieves: After being betrayed by his vizier, who is the same treacherous Jaffar, Ahmad is imprisoned and meets Abu, the boy thief. The pair escape and flee to the city of Basra, where Ahmad falls in love with the beautiful Princess, but their romance is shattered by the shrewd Jaffar, who offers the Sultan a winged horse in exchange for his daughter. When the Princess runs away rather than marry the dreaded Jaffar, the magician eliminates his rival by blinding Ahmad and turning Abu into a dog. His story finished, Ahmad is led to the sleeping Princess by Jaffar's aide. Awakened by her lover Ahmad, the Princess is then kidnapped by Jaffar, who sails away with her after restoring Ahmad's sight and Abu's body. Ahmad and Abu follow, but their small craft is destroyed by the winds that Jaffar commands. Shipwrecked, Abu finds a bottle and releases a genie who grants him three wishes. The genie leads Abu to Ahmad, but the boy squanders his last wish by cursing Ahmad to return to Bagdad. The genie complies, and in Bagdad, Jaffar arrests Ahmad and the Princess and sentences them to death. As the two await execution, Abu is rescued by "the legendary ones" and is presented with a bow of justice. Commandeering a magic carpet, ...

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As the Princess slumbers while awaiting the blind man whom she loves, Jaffar, the evil magician who desires her, sends his aide to lead the blind man to his palace. At the palace, the man reveals that he is Ahmad, the King of Bagdad, and relates his life story and that of his dog, the prince of thieves: After being betrayed by his vizier, who is the same treacherous Jaffar, Ahmad is imprisoned and meets Abu, the boy thief. The pair escape and flee to the city of Basra, where Ahmad falls in love with the beautiful Princess, but their romance is shattered by the shrewd Jaffar, who offers the Sultan a winged horse in exchange for his daughter. When the Princess runs away rather than marry the dreaded Jaffar, the magician eliminates his rival by blinding Ahmad and turning Abu into a dog. His story finished, Ahmad is led to the sleeping Princess by Jaffar's aide. Awakened by her lover Ahmad, the Princess is then kidnapped by Jaffar, who sails away with her after restoring Ahmad's sight and Abu's body. Ahmad and Abu follow, but their small craft is destroyed by the winds that Jaffar commands. Shipwrecked, Abu finds a bottle and releases a genie who grants him three wishes. The genie leads Abu to Ahmad, but the boy squanders his last wish by cursing Ahmad to return to Bagdad. The genie complies, and in Bagdad, Jaffar arrests Ahmad and the Princess and sentences them to death. As the two await execution, Abu is rescued by "the legendary ones" and is presented with a bow of justice. Commandeering a magic carpet, Abu flies to Bagdad just in time to rescue Ahmad and slay Jaffar with an arrow of justice.

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GENRE
Genre:


Subject

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

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.