By Barbara Peterson

The Thief of Bagdad--


[The Players] [The Synopsis]

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[Production History] [Notes of Interest] [Video/Laser Disc] [Other Websites]


Conrad Veidt Jaffar, Grand Vizier of Bagdad
June Duprez The Princess of Basra
John Justin Ahmad, the Sultan of Bagdad
Sabu Abu, the Thief of Bagdad
Miles Malleson The Sultan of Basra
Mary Morris Halima, also The Silver Maid

NOTE: For a complete list of actors and the production crew of this film, go to the Internet Movie Database here.


A ship, red sails billowing, cleaves through the ocean waves. On its prow a large, all-seeing blue eye stares out hypnotically. As the ship prepares to dock at the port of a large city the Grand Vizier Jaffar, clad in red turban which also covers the lower part of his face, and white robes over blue pantaloons, makes his way across the deck. The sailors on all the ships sing to aid their work. One sailor's voice rises powerfully over the others.

''I never know why men come back from sea.
The sea is cruel but the sea is clean.
The cause of this vast purity must be
That men at sea are few and far between.
Hardship is all she ever gave me
Yet I ask why men come back from sea?
The sea is cruel but the sea is clean.
Oh, poor brother, how kind you might have been.''

Slaves roll a red-carpet down the gangway and Jaffar descends. His myrmidons form an honor guard, and his veiled servant, Halima, waits for him. Jaffar seats himself in a luxurious palanquin and removes the veil covering his face. ''The princess. Have you got news for me?'' Jaffar asks a series of short questions, ending with, ''the blind man?'' ''He has been found.'' ''Take me to him.''

In the market, a young blind man calls out, ''Alms for the love of Allah.'' A merchant passes by, and tosses a coin into his bowl. When the dog at the beggar's feet barks, the merchant is angered. The blind man explains that his charity must have been false. The merchant checks his coin and discovers it is counterfeit. He tests the dog again and is suitably impressed. ''This is no dog. It is the reincarnation of a tax collector.''

The palanquins of Jaffar and Halima pause before the blind man. Jaffar's lips are curved slightly as he gazes at the beggar. He orders Halima to bring him. Halima speaks to the blind man

Jaffar has arrived at his house, and goes to visit the sleeping princess. The aged doctor tells him that she will wake only when 'the blind man' takes her in his arms. ''Strange that he can accomplish what you with all your powers can not.'' ''I will use him and then cast him aside.''

The blind man is seated in a harem surrounded by ladies, and though they tease him that he is unfortunate because they are unveiled, he sits with melancholy forbearance, staring out into space. They urge him to tell his story.

''I was a king, the son of a king and of a hundred kings....and this dog was not a dog, but a little thief, the little thief of Bagdad.

As he speaks we are transported to the past. We see the thief, a young boy, laughing, his brown eyes darting this way and that in the marketplace. He is a generous thief, he steals two flayed fish only to drop them into the hands of some poor men who had been eyeing them longingly. The thief flees from his pursuers and climbs up to the tallest building, from where he can see the roof of the palace of the King of Bagdad. He watches as the King and Jaffar stride towards the edge of the roof, placing their arms simultaneously on one of the crenelations as they gaze down into the street where one of his subjects is executed.

''Why had he to die?'' askes Ahmad? ''He had been thinking, my lord and master.'' ''Is it a crime to think in Bagdad?'' ''In a subject it is quite unpardonable.'' The King and Jaffar continue their conversation. Ahmad expresses a desire to meet his people, and Jaffar suggests that he follow the example of his grandfather, Haroun al-Raschid. Ahmad agrees excitedly. That night he exchanges his kingly robes for plainer garb, and goes out to wander among his people. Jaffar has been waiting for this moment. He instructs some of his soldiers to arrest the king and throw him into jail, claiming him to be a madman. All of Ahmad's supporters are to be destroyed.

That night, the thief of Bagdad is brought into the dungeon, kicking and screaming and begging for mercy, and under the cover of all this removing the key to the door from one of the jailers. After the jailers slam the door and walk away, the thief bursts out laughing. ''Poor boy, they've driven you mad.'' The thief rolls over to look at the king. ''They just said you were mad.'' The thief displays the key, and much later on that night, they escape. They make off with a small sailing boat and make the three day journey to Basra.

The thief's exuberance and enjoyment of life are not quenched, despite the fact that they haven't had anything to eat for a day. As the wind drives them towards Basra he sings.

I want to be a sailor, sailing out to sea
No plough-boy, tinker, tailor's
Any fun to be.
Aunts and cousins, by the baker's dozen
Drive a man to sea or highway robbery
i want to be a bandit, can't you understand it?
Sailing to sea is life for me
Is life for me

After arriving in Bagdad the hungry travellers make their way to the marketplace and achieve pancakes and honey. They are then startled as everyone in the street starts running for their lives - the daughter of the sultan of Basra is being brought to the palace - and no man may look upon her. Ahmad and Abu gaze at her from hiding, elegant and regal in her palanquin, and Ahmad decides he must see her again. The thief helps him gain entrance to the palace, and Ahmad waits for the Princess in a high tree over a pond. His reflection shows in the water and for an instant the Princess and her ladies believe he is a Genie. The ladies flee, the Princess stays and falls in love. They agree to meet the next night. Ahmad returns to Abu, who had been making plans for them to set sail with Sinbad that night, and tells him that he isn't leaving. Abu decides to remain as well to help Ahmad.

Jaffar, the new sultan of Bagdad, arrives in Basra and is greeted warmly by its elderly, portly, cheerful ruler. The sultan of Basra collects toys. ''I do so prefer these things to my subjects...they do exactly what I often my subjects fail to do exactly what I want, and then I have to have their heads cut off.

Jaffar presents the sultan with a new toy. The pieces of a life-sized horse are assembled, the sultan mounts and pulls the reins and the horse becomes alive. It gallops out of one of the palace windows and into the sky. After his flight the sultan returns ecstatic. '' a bird. I'm the king of birds.'' He must have this horse and promises to give Jaffar anything in return. ''I ask but one thing in return. Your daughter.'' The Princess, who along with her ladies had been watching from an alcove, starts in surprise and shock. She hurries away. Since she'd rather die than marry Jaffar, she decided to flee to Samarkand, where her sister will protect her.

A guard rushes into the chamber where the Sultan and Jaffar are playing chess. They can't find the Princess anywhere, they have only found two beggars in the garden. The Sultan orders them brought in. Jaffar gets a shock. Ahmad, eager for revenge, begs for a sword. He yells his story at the Sultan, 'My eyes winess the truth.' Jaffar's shadow rises behind him as he approaches Ahmad slowly. A shadow falls over Ahmad's face and when it passes he is blind. Abu speaks up, but Jaffar's attention turns to him and he sinks slowly to the floor, to rise as a small dog. ''And this is my curse. You shall remain a dog, and he shall walk through the country of the blind, until I hold her in my arms.''

''And that is how a blind beggar and a little dog came to be travelling through the world. '' Hakima informs Ahmad that the Princess he seeks is within that very house, but she sleeps without waking and calls for the Genie in the pool. ''I was that Genie! Take me where she is!'' Hakima does so. After the blind man has succeeded in waking her, she takes him away, warning that the master might return at any moment, and says she will help him later on to help the princess escape. The Princess has realized that Ahmad is blind, and when Hakima tells her of a doctor who can restore her sight, the Princess follows her a ship in port. It is Jaffar's ship, and they set sail for Bagdad. The little dog had followed the Princess, and is thrown overboard. Jaffar comes to the Princess in the ship's hold. ''I am that doctor. Ahmad will see again, when I hold you in my arms.'' The Princess closes her eyes. ''Take me in your arms.'' Slowly, yearningly, Jaffar embraces her.

On the dock, Ahmad cries out. He can see again! And the dog climbs up onto the shore and as he shakes himself dry turns into Abu. The two friends embrace, but when Abu tells Ahmad that the Princess is on Jaffar's ship, he is sunk in sullen despair. Abu is the boy of action.

In the hold of the ship, the ladies have dressed the Princess in new finery. They leave quickly when Jaffar arrives. He sits down and looks at her with his penetrating blue eyes. Just as his hypnotic control is about to take effect, he lowers his eyes. ''No. No. I have powers that could force you to my will. But I want more than they can give. I want your love. Forget Ahmad. For a man with eyes the world is full of women. Only I am cursed, that I can see only you!'' She breaks away from him and runs out onto the foredeck. Jaffar catches her before she can throw herself into the ocean. ''Ahmad has forgotten you!'' But she sees a ship following them, and (most unfortunately) says, ''Look!'' When she looks round again Jaffar is not behind her, but on the forecastle.

He raises his arms high. ''Wind! Wind! Wind!'' The winds rise and rise and rise. The two sailors in the tiny boat fight desperately for control. The screen is blotted out by the the black clouds and the roiling sea.

Abu wakes to find himself alone on a deserted beach. As he wanders, a tiny figure, Jaffar approaches the Princess again, reproaching her for behaving like a slave girl. ''I am a slave girl.'' ''You can command me.'' Take me back to Basra.'' Without hesitation, Jaffar orders his captain to turn the ship back.

She wanders in her garden forlornly. Her father goes to her, and she begs him not to send her away with Jaffar again. The Sultan is touched and promises her that she will not go. Never, never, never. Then he utters the unfortunate final phrase, ''Never while I live.'' Jaffar, who has been listening, wastes no time. He constructs The Silver Maid, a many armed, cold lady seated on a throne. She conducts beautiful music emoting from her chair, and when the Sultan of Basra embraces her, she stabs him in the neck. Jaffar, who has been watching from an alcove, comes forward, calling his men. ''Make ready for Bagdad!''

Abu comes across a bottle washed ashore. He opens it, then drops it and stumbles back in fear as smoke pours upward in a thick column. ''Free. Free! Free!'' A voice like thunder smites his ears. The Genie of the bottle, towering over him, resenting his imprisonment for the last 2000 years, has vowed to kill the person who frees him from the bottle. He intends to kill Abu - but the witty young lad tricks him back into the bottle. Chastened, the Genie agrees to grant Abu his three wishes.

Abu wastes his first wish on sausages, and vows to be more careful with his remaining two. He wants to know where Ahmad is, but in order to find out he must steal the All-Seeing Eye. The Genie flies him to the roof of the world. Abu succeeds in dispatching a giant spider and stealing the Eye, which is fixed in the forehead of a goddess. He gazes into the crystal, sees Ahmad trapped on bare mountains, and wishes himself brought there.

Ahmad is delighted to see him, and Abu shows him the crystal. They behold a terrible sight. The Princess is pacing the roof of the palace of Bagdad when she sees a blue rose. The Blue Rose of Forgetfulness. She inhales its aroma and then turns to see Jaffar, his face illuminated by love and desperate hope.

''Who are you?'' ''I don't know. I can't remember.''

''Why have you suffered?'' ''Have I suffered? It seems I was in love.''

''Whom did you love?'' ''I cannot tell. I don't know any longer.

Ahmad can bear it no longer. He thrusts the eye at Abu. ''Why did you give me this. I wish I were dead. I wish I were back in Bagdad.'' Abu, upset at this ungratefulness, unthinkingly retorts, ''I wish you were!'' Ahmad disappears, the Genie laughs and leaves, leaving Abu shouting after him.

The Princess approaches Jaffar, and his face is a study in tragic hope as she says, ''I am in love with you, I have always loved you you, I always shall love with you.'' Just as Jaffar is about to kiss her, Ahmad materializes and yells her name. The spell of the Blue Rose is broken, and the Princess breaks away from Jaffar's grasp. Ahmad fights and kills several guards until he is overborn. Jaffar appears, his love curdled a bit. ''Take them to the dungeon. Chain them on opposite walls. Tomorrow they die the death of a thousand cuts.''

Within the dungeon, the two prisoners reaffirm their love. Ahmad wishes he could apologize to Abu for their last quarrel. Abu, watching this from the All-Seeing Eye, becomes distraught and throws it down to the earth, where it shatters. Immediately the mountains move...they become alive. Abu walks into the tent of many peaceful-faced elderly men. ''Who are you, father of miracles?'' ''This is the land of legend, where everything is possible. We were turned to stone, when we looked with horror upon the evil that men do, when they forget to be a child.'' The ruler of these people presents Abu with a crossbow, and arrows that, when fired for the sake of justice, will not fail to find their mark. And within this land of legend there is also a flying carpet.

Abu begs the carpet to fly him to Bagdad, and it does so. High atop the crenellations, Jaffar gazes with pleasure on the suffering of the Princess, as she closes her eyes rather than witness the death of her King by sword (Jaffar has apparently relented, rather than the death of a thousand cuts, Ahmad's head is just going to be cut off). Jaffar and the people see the flying carpet above them, but the executioner is intent on his duty until Abu fires an arrow into his forehead. Ahmad jumps up, and leaps onto the carpet with Abu. While the people below attack the soldiers, the carpet with our two heroes swoops up to the palace roof. The Princess breaks away from Jaffar and runs to Ahmad. Jaffar mounts the magic horse and spurs it into flight. Abu runs up and fires the magic arrow. Jaffar, anticipating his doom, raises his hands to his forehead before the arrow hits. He falls and the horse, now merely a collection of lifeless pieces, falls with him into the sea.

A rejuvenated Ahmad and his wife speak to his people, telling them of his plans for Abu - he is to go to school, become the wisest of men, and will be his Grand Vizier when he becomes a man. Abu is horrified at this, and takes flight on the flying carpet. He's going in search of more adventure!

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ANSWERED! Conrad Veidt as Jaffar is describing the Princess. ''Her eyes are Babylonian eyes. Her eyebrows like the crescent moon of Ramadan. And her body straight as the aleph. (A letter in the alphabet).

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