Directed by Raoul Walsh, with Douglas Fairbanks, Snitz Edwards
I had an outstanding night at the movies last week at NU’s Block Cinema. Caught a screening of the Douglas Fairbanks’ silent epic The Thief of Bagdad (1924) which is chock-a-block with towering sets, lavish costumes and decor, a cast of thousands, and state-of-the art special effects that still dazzle and amaze.
As the carefree thief who takes whatever he wants, Fairbanks’ huge smile practically glints with sunlight as he preens and throws back his head with laughter, emoting in the classic silent film era style of body language. He does all his acting with his upper body–lots of huge sweeping arm movements, punctuating every moment with a “ta-da” sort of gesture that trapeze artists favor at the end of a difficult trick. He’s very athletic, scaling balconies to steal his lunch or the affections of a beautiful woman.
The woman in question is a princess who captures the thief’s heart. A contest to win her hand in marriage sets in motion the epic journey through fantasy lands, doing battle with mythical creatures to score the most amazing treasure in all the land, and thereby win the princess. It’s all very exciting stuff, which was made all the more so by the outstanding piano accompaniment of Dave Drazin. I’ve heard him play many times before, but he out did himself on this one, blending beautiful melodies with rousing tunes that perfectly matched the onscreen action. He did a tremendous job and kept up the furious pace throughout the two-and-a-half hour screening. It was really a treat. [*****]