Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Ablaze With Thrills!

How cool, in my dream last night I found myself in possession of a colorful flying carpet, which I kept secret and hidden and only brought out when I was all alone. When I was a kid I saw many Aladdin-inspired Saturday matinees, and fell in love with the concept of magic lamps and flying carpets, but worried about whether or not I would be able to keep hold when the possessed rug took off like a bat outta hell. But, I did imagine that it would be great fun to ride one. Well, last night I discovered that I didn’t have to worry about falling off. Turns out that the flying carpet, (the one that exists in my subconscious anyway), came equipped with a nifty invisible sticky substance that enabled me to stay put as I zoomed across the heavens, or merely cruised above town and country.

I went in search of a suitable picture of a magic carpet this afternoon, just imagine how excited I was when I came across this movie poster instead. Lucille Ball was a favorite from my youth, and here she is, pictured in a belly dancer’s outfit! Ablaze with thrills! Aglow with delight! In CineSineColor too! Turns out the movie, The Magic Carpet, was made in 1951, and from what I gather, the film sucked pretty bad. Still, how can you resist a movie that features Lucille Ball as an opportunistic Iraqi princess—such perfect (NOT) casting—right up there with John Wayne playing Genghis Khan in The Conqueror in 1956, or Mickey Rooney playing Holly Golightly’s Japanese neighbor, the ridiculously buck-toothed Mr. Yunioshi in Breakfast at Tiffany's back in 1961? Good grief, makes you realize that we’ve come a long way. Well, perhaps in some respects. Surely, no filmmaker would ever cast a white guy to play an Asian, especially with fake bucked teeth, not in this day and age. How unthinkable.

I got to thinking, what a great idea for a coffee table book—Notable Actors in Bad Roles. What’s up with Sean Connery in Zardoz back in 1974? Okay, granted; HUBBA HUBBA, (he’s a fine example of man flesh), but please, those boots, that diaper, the hair? What in the world was that man thinking? How does he feel about this picture? Not his proudest moment. That’s for sure.

Here’s a quote about the movie, The Magic Carpet, which sparked this post in the first place: Hoping to force Lucille Ball into breaking her contract, Columbia Pictures chieftain Harry Cohn assigned her to the low-budget Arabian Nights escapade The Magic Carpet. Much to Cohn's amazement, the plucky Ball agreed to appear in the film, forcing Columbia to pay her salary until her option ran out. Contrary to popular belief, Ball is not the heroine of the film; in fact, she's the villainess, an opportunistic Iraqi princess named Narah. She aligns herself with the usurping Caliph of Baghdad (Gregory Gay) and his chief henchman Boreg (Raymond Burr), while the true caliph Ramoth (John Agar), unaware of his birthright, performs acts of derring-do as "The Scarlet Falcon." Patricia Medina co-stars as Ramoth's impulsive love interest, who proves to be quite a nuisance for everyone involved and is obliged to spend a good portion of the film in chains and ropes. While Lucille Ball is quite attractive in her harem duds, the viewer cannot help but notice that her bare midriff is often obscured by props and furniture; that's because she was pregnant with her daughter Lucie Arnaz during the filming of The Magic Carpet. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

All Rights Reserved. © 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley.