Ali Baba Goes To Town (1937)

  • Ali Baba Goes To Town (1937)Directors: David Butler
  • Actors: Eddie Cantor, Tony Martin
  • Writers: Harry Tugend, Jack Yellen
  • Producers: Darryl F. Zanuck
  • Studio: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Aloysius (Eddie Cantor), a homeless movie fan hired as a Hollywood extra, imagines that he’s in ancient Baghdad and is mistaken for the son of Ali Baba. Much of the topical humor of this big budget major Fox musical fantasy is about the Depression, Roosevelt and the New Deal. Roland Young is the Sultan and Virginia Field is his Princess daughter. The Sultana (Louise Hovick aka Gypsy Rose Lee) plots with her brother Prince Musah (Douglass Dumbrille) and Ishak (John Carradine, all in black with a strange top hat).

Parts are fun and funny, and being a Cantor movie, it includes a blackface scene. All of a sudden he “blacks up” and sings “Swing Is Here To Stay” backed by African tribesmen musicians who speak with nonsense Cab Calloway lyrics. The (large) Peters Sisters also sing and dance and Jeni Le Gon dances. The other black characters are slaves. Cantor also appears in drag. Also with Tony Martin, The Raymond Scott Quintet (they had a hit that year called “Dinner Music For A Pack Of Hungry Cannibals”), Warren Hymer and Stanley Fields as tramps, and Lee J. Cobb!

There’s a big Hollywood premiere ending with footage of major Fox stars and Aloysius (Cantor) watching Eddie Cantor sing. Carradine also plays a lawyer on the film set and himself, escorting Lang and Hovick to the premiere. The long fantasy section was originally tinted sepia. During the filming of a magic flying carpet scene two prop men died. An Ali Baba Goes to Town clip is in Day of the Locust (1975).

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