#CleanMovieMonth2020 Guest Article: “Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2020) on… Lost In A Harem (1944)” by Neil “The Musical Man” Powell

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The below article was published on Thoughts from The Music(al) Man by Neil “The Musical Man” Powell on July 12 as his first entry in #CleanMovieMonth2020. See the original post here.

Over at The Pure Entertainment Preservation Society, they have been celebrating the month of July as Clean Movie Month 2020, in honor of the beginning of the Breen Code Era (1934-1954), and so, since I have a few movies to work with from that era, I figured I would join in! And to do so, I’ll start in with the first half of today’s Abbott and Costello double-feature, which is their 1944 MGM comedy Lost In A Harem.

In the Arabian city of Port Inferno, a pair of bad magicians, Peter Johnson (Bud Abbott) and Harvey Garvey (Lou Costello), accidentally start a fight in a nightclub that results in the two of them being thrown in jail, along with their blond-haired singer friend Hazel Moon (Marilyn Maxwell). However, they are given the opportunity to escape by Prince Ramo (John Conte), who needs their help (or, more specifically, Hazel’s, but she won’t do it unless Peter and Harvey can go along with her). Once they all get to Ramo’s camp in the desert, he reveals that he needs their help to regain the throne from his evil uncle Nimativ (Douglas Dumbrille), since he is crazy about blondes. However, once Peter, Harvey and Hazel sneak into the palace, Nimativ quickly realizes their purpose and hypnotizes the three of them with his rings. Lucky for them, Ramo sneaks in and sticks them with a pin to break their trance, but he is quickly captured. Peter and Harvey get away, hiding among Nimativ’s harem, but they are soon discovered and captured themselves. They are soon freed (in and out of jail a lot, aren’t they?), but can they manage to stop Nimativ and help Ramo regain the throne?

Even though Lost In A Harem was the second film in Abbott and Costello’s contract with MGM, it had originally been intended to be their first film. However, some of the plot elements from the original script ended up being used in their first film, Rio Rita, and so changes were made to continue on with Lost In A Harem. However, production was delayed nearly a year because of Lou’s bout with rheumatic fever and the death of his son. Between their salaries and the costs of the movie production (although it helped a little that they re-used sets from the 1944 Kismet), the movie proved to be expensive to produce (but it paid off onscreen)!

Of the three films that Bud and Lou made for MGM, I would have to say that I like this one the best. The main reason is that I consider the comedy routines they do here some of my favorites. I love how they interact with actor Murray Leonard as the Derelict, doing the “Slowly I Turned” comedy routine with him near the beginning of the movie, and making it something of a running joke throughout the movie. Makes me laugh every time (just don’t expect me to list the name of the place that shouldn’t be mentioned 😉 )! And it feels just as appropriate when they bring him back for the “Invisible Friend” routine! Between those moments, I just love watching these two! I’ll admit, the music isn’t particularly memorable (for me), but that’s a minor complaint. The hypnosis factor always allows for good comedy (and allows for any acting issues for Jimmy Dorsey and his orchestra)!

This movie was indeed made during the Code era, and it works. Admittedly, from what I have read, the censors were originally worried about the costumes for all the harem girls. Personally, I don’t think there is any problem with it, but, then again, opinions may vary. There is very little violence in this movie, and what little there is is generally comically exaggerated. My own opinion is that this movie is just good, clean fun, and it’s one I enjoy watching every now and then! Certainly one I would highly recommend!

This movie is available on DVD paired with Abbott And Costello In Hollywood (1945) from Warner Archive Collection, and is one hour, twenty-nine minutes in length.

My Rating: 10/10

Audience Rating:

Happy #CleanMovieMonth2020!

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