Arabian Nights (1942) Movie Review

By: Alex Phuong (Two Beers) –

Disney’s animated classic Aladdin is among the most beloved films of all time.  Filled with magic, splendor, and spellbinding music, it is no wonder that it has an enduring legacy.  Even though many people are familiar with the story of “Aladdin” (specifically the Disney version), some people might not be aware of the origins of this compelling tale.  The Arabian Nights remains one of the greatest collections of stories from world history, and Walter Wanger produced a spectacle of those fanciful tales in 1942.

A Toast!
The recipient of four Academy Award nominations, this film really is a sight to behold!  The production design and cinematography are sumptuous, the score is incredible, and Walter Wanger vividly adapts some of best stories of all time into a one-and-a-half hour spectacle.  There actually are a lot of similarities between this film and the box-office smash hit Aladdin (2019) in terms of visual design, including the costumes that Maria Montez wore to play Sherazade (which actually look a lot like the costumes that Naomi Scott wore for her role as Princess Jasmine).  Like many aesthetically beautiful films produced during the Golden Age of Hollywood, this film remains a classic full of splendor.
Beer Two
Even though this film features “Aladdin” as a character, John Qualen looks way to old to play that part.  Disney was smart to cast Mena Massoud as the title role in the 2019 remake because his charm helped make the live-action remake earn more than $1 billion at the global box-office (not to mention his great on-screen chemistry with Naomi Scott, especially when they sang “A Whole New World” together).  Sadly, when it comes to Hollywood productions from both the present day and way back when, age actually does matter (especially the ages of both fictional characters and the actors and actresses who would play them).
Verdict
Walter Wanger’s career tragically fell apart after producing the (in)famous remake of Cleopatra (starring Elizabeth Taylor) in 1963.  Wanger never won an Oscar, and, ironically, his only nomination was for producing Cleopatra.  Nevertheless, Walter Wanger still had a long career that had lasted for decades, and Susan Hayward personally thanked him when she won her only Oscar for her leading role in I Want to Live! (1958).  Wanger’s production of Arabian Nights will hopefully have film audiences under the spell of the alluring Sherazade, just like when these timeless tales were told long ago.

Arabian Night(1942) Bonus Drinking Game

Take a Drink: every time the name “Sherazade” is spoken
Drink a Shot: for every epic battle scene and/or crowd fight
And Have an Exotic Drink: for the glamour and the seductive power of the visual design of this Technicolor classic

About Alex Phuong

Alex Andy Phuong earned his Bachelor of Arts in English from California State University-Los Angeles in 2015. His love affair with cinema began after discovering Turner Classic Movies in the summer of 2004. His favorite film director is Woody Allen, and his favorite movie star is Kate Winslet.

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