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Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Classic Film Review: Kismet (1955)

Kismet tells the story of Hajj (Howard Keel), a beggar poet who finds himself in favour with the Wazir (Sebastian Cabot) whilst unwittingly scuppering his beloved daughter Marsinah's (Ann Blyth) romance with the Caliph (Vic Damone). Complicating matters further is the fact that Hajj is himself attracted to the Wazir's wife Lalume (Dolores Gray). How will he get out of this situation alive?

On the surface, this film has everything: a brilliant cast, luscious costume, vivid sets, Vincente Minnelli at the helm with help from Stanley Donen and it came out of the illustrious Freed Unit at MGM. However, there's something missing. Perhaps the problem is that the film meanders and, while it has a few amusing moments, there's a lot of dross included. Howard Keel is at the height of his powers but it doesn't translate to a brilliant film. The two songs that have endured from this score - 'Stranger in Paradise' and 'Baubles, Bangles and Beads' - are easily the best of the bunch. Some of the dance sequences are over-long and add very little to the plot and Vic Damone is no prize-winning actor. I would say, that Ann Blyth and Dolores Gray make up for these deficiencies to some extent. In my time-honoured fashion of finding actresses who only made a handful of films the most engrossing, Dolores Gray captured my heart and all of my favourite scenes contained the character of Lalume.

Maybe it's me. Maybe to others Kismet is a brilliant film. However, I just got the sense that it was made by numbers, with all of Minnelli's artistic flair but without the love that you need to make that work. I wanted very much to like this film but I just couldn't.


Anonymous said...


I enjoyed reading your critique of Kismet. If the movie was pared down a tad, it could have so much better. If you would like to see more of Dolores Gray watch the Kelly/Donen musical "It's Always Fair Weather". Her numbers are sensational.

CharmedLassie said...

Thanks for the comment!

I'll definitely watch It's Always Fair Weather at some point. I'm already obsessed with Gene Kelly's rollerskate number from it and anything I can get my hands on starring Dolores Gray is very welcome.