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The Desert Song (1929) DVD

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The Desert Song (1929)


Roy Del Ruth


Harvey Gates (screenplay), Oscar Hammerstein II (play)


John Boles, Carlotta King, Louise Fazenda

After literally inventing the movie musical with The Jazz Singer, Warner Bros. purchased the motion picture rights to the evergreen Sigmund Romberg/Oscar Hammerstein II 2nd operetta The Desert Song. Although the results looked like a photographed stage play (a common failing of early-talkie songfests), the unforgettable Romberg-Hammerstein tunes (The Riff Song, One Alone, the title number) more than carried the day. John Boles stars as The Red Shadow, the Robin Hood-like leader of the Riffs and the bane of the existence of General Bierbieu (Edward Martindel). The good General has another cross to bear in the form of his nerdish, lily-livered son Pierre, who is likewise despised by heroine Margot (Carlotta King). Little does anyone suspect that the wimpy Pierre and the dashing Red Shadow are one in the same! Myrna Loy is exotica personified as the Red Shadow's native sweetheart Azuri (her navel-exposing harem outfits must be seen to be believed), while comedy relief is supplied by "nance" comedian Johnny Arthur as effeminate reporter Benny Kidd, and Louise Fazenda as Benny's rambunctious assistant Susan. Partially filmed in Technicolor, this version of The Desert Song, and its 1943 remake, were long withheld from distribution due to the rather lukewarm 1953 version, likewise produced by Warner Bros., which starred Gordon MacRae and Kathryn Grayson. A "pocket" version of The Desert Song, the 2-reel musical The Red Shadow, was released by Warners' short-subject subsidiary Vitaphone in 1933, with Alexander Gray and Bernice Claire in the leading roles.

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