The young Caliph likes to dress up as well. He disguises himself as a humble gardener’s son so he can wander about the city and find out how the people really feel.
While he’s disguised as the gardener’s son he meets Hafiz’s daughter Marsinah and they fall in love.
For her whole life Hafiz has been making plans for Marsinah. He wants her to marry a prince. He schemes endlessly to bring this about.
But first he’ll have to get rid of the Grand Vizier’s current mistress, the formidable Jarmilla (Marlene Dietrich).
So we have lots of people pretending to be something they’re not which should provide plenty of laughs and plenty of opportunities for romantic complications.
One problem is that Hafiz clearly lives entirely in a world of fantasy. He can be very amusing with his shameless lying and impostures but it also makes him kind of creepy and pathetic.
A much bigger problem is that we’re supposed to be rooting for the idealistic young Caliph in his power struggle with the wicked Grand Vizier. We’re supposed to want the heroine to end up marrying the handsome young Caliph. But there’s just no way we want any girl to end up with that dishwater-dull pompous nonentity of a Caliph. We just know that a woman would have a much happier life with the wicked Grand Vizier because he’s a really fun guy, he’s witty and amusing, he adores women and pampers them and indulges them.
So I found myself really wanting the bad guy to win. I was really hoping that something totally horrible would happen to the hero, the young Caliph, like maybe being sold into slavery.
I suppose in a way I could get behind the idea of the Caliph and Marsinah marrying because they’re such dreary sanctimonious characters and it would be poetic justice for them to make each other’s lives miserable.
Generally speaking I adore these Arabian Nights movies and I just love adventure romance mixed with comedy in an exotic setting. The 1944 Kismet is, sadly, the dullest movie of this type that I’ve encountered so far. It just doesn’t come to life.
To see this sort of thing done well check out Arabian Nights (1942), The Desert Hawk (1950) or Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves (1944).