Filmsite Movie Review
The Thief of Bagdad (1924)
Pages: (1) (2) (3)
Plot Synopsis (continued)

A Marital Prediction for the Princess, And a Plot to Abduct Her:

An intertitle stated: "The melody of the oriental night dies in the dawn. And it is morning - ." A gong was sounded and an announcement was made from a Palace spokesperson to an assembled crowd below. On the birthday of the Princess when she had became of marriageable age, she would have to choose her husband from three royal Princes who had come to woo her:

It is the birthday of our Princess and royal suitors come from all the East to seek her hand in marriage.

One of the Princess' three handmaiden-slaves (Etta Lee, credited as Slave of the Sand Board), described a prophetic marital prediction. She divined the future with a flat, circular platter or board (with a layer of sand) placed on the floor in front of the Princess:

On the balcony of the Princess, a slave girl reads a fortune -

When the slave girl blew upon the sand, it formed the shape of a rose, and then she interpreted its meaning - she predicted or foretold that the suitor who touched the royal rose bush (or tree) in the garden was going to be the one to wed the Princess:

The sands of Mecca shape a rose. This is the meaning: Thou wilt wed the suitor who first toucheth the rose-tree in thy garden.

Meanwhile, the transformed Thief dreamily thought of the Princess - he remembered her through her purloined slipper, and then approached the imposing gates of the Palace that separated him from his 'love.' The Thief's associate griped about his love-struck master: "'Tis here - 'Tis here - Nizzy noodle! He's turned love-bird." The Thief scaled a lengthy ivy branch high in the air next to the Palace wall to spy upon the Princess and her maid-servant on a balcony. He remarked: "She is a rare jewel, my love-bird." However, his companion reminded him to be more realistic: "Something beyond your reach, you prince of thieves." He then told a tale that suggested the abduction of the Princess - the object of the Thief's intense desire - by drugging her and kidnapping her when she was unconscious:

Yet - once upon a time - a Princess was stolen from a Palace under the very eye of Harun-al-Rashid. They found a way into the Palace and, with a subtle drug, they drowsed her and carried her away.

A Trio of Suitors, Plus Prince Ahmed, Attempt to Woo the Princess:

An intertitle described how a trio of suitors from the East had arrived: "The suitors are at the Palace gates." The first one was introduced:

  • The Prince of the Indies (Noble Johnson)
    "The Prince of the Indies whose palace is covered with an hundred thousand rubies."

The processional entourage of the glum, ugly, scowling, bearded and unsmiling potentate arrived, and presented itself before the Princess on a balcony. She reacted with disgust: "He glowers. I like him not - with all his rubies." One of the Princess' handmaidens agreed: "Allah grant he touch not the rose-tree." She was relieved that he bypassed the rose tree: "He touched not the rose-tree."

As the Thief watched the display of princely gifts and garments, his companion suggested that the Thief should masquerade as a fourth royal Prince (by stealing expensive raiments), and attempt to compete with the other suitors to win the Princess' love - fair and square: "In the bazaars of the sleepy merchants, thy nimble fingers can procure us princely raiment."

The second suitor's procession paraded before the Princess:

  • the Prince of Persia (actress Mathilde Comont)
    "The Prince of Persia whose fathers fought at Feyjoo five hundred years ago."

Again, the Princess reacted with dismay and told her two handmaidens: "He's fat and gross as if he fed on lard." She was thankful he rode past the rose-tree without coming into contact with it: "Praise Allah! He touched not the rose-tree."

In the bazaar ("The bazaars of the merchants..."), the Thief and his associate shop-lifted princely silk garments and other items (including a donkey and a horse) from some of the merchant vendors, to carry through on the Thief's plan to impersonate a Prince.

The third suitor, the skull-faced, evil Mongol Prince (the only one of the three suitors with a name) was introduced:

  • the Mongol Prince
    " Cham Shang the Great, Prince of the Mongols, King of Ho Sho, Governor of Wah Hoo and the Island of Wak."

The Mongol Prince's entourage was the most elaborate. When his procession paused, he whispered to his counselor (K. Nambu) that his main objective was to conquer Baghdad. The ruse of seeking the hand of the Princess was his underhanded means to acquire the city. His porters were actually part of his military force of troops: ("Bagdad is a mighty city. Fail I to win the Princess, it shall be mine by strategy.") The Princess sensed the Mongol Prince's frightening, calculating, and cold demeanor, and hugged her handmaiden with fear: "O horrible! He chills my blood with fear!"

Unexpectedly, a fourth individual (the Thief's disguised associate) rode up on a donkey and introduced another unexpected suitor - with a false title:

  • Prince Ahmed (the Thief)
    "Ahmed, Prince of the Isles, of the Seas, and of the Seven Palaces."

Prince Ahmed rode in, majestically mounted on a horse, and was met with a pleasant reaction from the Princess, who hoped he would fulfill the prophecy by touching the rose-tree: "See how he rides - a Prince indeed! 'Tis he would make me happy. Allah guide him to touch the rose." The Mongol Prince was suspicious and turned to his counselor to remark: "There's no such rank nor title." The Mongol Prince's treacherous spy, the Princess' main handmaiden, pointed toward the rose-tree and urged the Mongol Prince to touch it: "Celestial Majesty, the superstition of the Princess centers on that rose-tree. Fail not to touch it."

At that moment, as Prince Ahmed was riding by the rose-tree/bush, a bee caused his horse to buck, and he was tossed into the top of the magical rose-bush. This confirmed the prophesy by the Slave girl that he was destined to be the Princess' beloved suitor, and the Princess appeared delighted and pleased. The Mongol Prince sneered sarcastically at 'Prince' Ahmed:

How tragic, O Prince, if you had been killed and an end put to your illustrious family.

The Balcony Scene: Prince Ahmed With the Princess:

Now after realizing that the Mongol Prince was aware of his deception, Prince Ahmed told his associate: "We must make haste to steal her. The Mongol pig suspects us." Prince Ahmed sprinkled water onto one of the rose petals plucked from the tree (and placed into his waist-belt) before scaling the palace wall to climb onto the Princess' balcony. From below, he overheard her wish to be with him: "Prince of the Isles and the Seas." He jumped onto her balcony and came face-to-face with her, as she ran and coyly hid behind a curtain-veil. When he extended the rose to her, she welcomed him and accepted it. And she told him of the prophesy that had come true: "Behold! Allah foretold thee with a rose." He reacted lovingly by gently and repeatedly kissing her extended hand and kneeling before her as she swooned. They embraced and kissed before she affirmed her desire to be his wife - he then left her presence.

After climbing down from the balcony, the regretful Prince Ahmed told his associate that their situation was precarious because of his masquerade: "We must away from here. 'Twas wrong to come." However, the two were summoned into the Caliph's (Brandon Hurst) presence: "The Caliph awaits the suitors." Meanwhile, the Princess' main handmaiden was seen to be in cahoots with the Mongol Prince. They spied upon the Princess as he admitted that he had two reasons to conquer Bagdad - to possess the Princess and destroy 'Prince' Ahmed: "To possess Bagdad I have now a two-fold reason."

The Caliph's Public Announcement of The Princess' Marital Choice:

During a ceremonial assembly before the Caliph (the Princess' father), the three princely suitors were brought forward: "The Prince of the Indies - The Prince of Persia. The Prince of the Mongols - ." Strangely, Prince Ahmed was there but not announced. The Caliph was introduced as "The Just One, the Holy, the High-Born - the Caliph of Bagdad." He announced that the Princess had chosen her suitor according to custom:

The Princess, according to ancient custom of our House hath made her choice. Let her ring be placed upon the hand of the chosen.

The Princess' ring was placed onto the little finger of the left hand of Prince Ahmed, causing outrage by the other three authentic suitors. The Mongol Prince ominously remarked: "He has not wed her yet." The Caliph summoned Ahmed to step forward before announcing the official decision. He then asked if there were any objections to his daughter's choice from those in attendance:

My daughter's choice and heir to the throne of Bagdad. The word is said. If any have protest, voice it now. When the moon tips the cypress, the betrothal will be consummate in feast. Come.

When the ceremony ended, the Caliph led everyone from the Throne Room to the celebratory betrothal feast, except for Ahmed - who remained behind.

The Discovery of Prince Ahmed's Deception:

Prince Ahmed was recognized by the Princess' main Mongol handmaiden as the Thief who had broken into the Princess' bedchamber and held a dagger to her back. She informed the Mongol Prince's counselor about his true identity:

He is the thief who yesternight did rob the Palace.

The counselor smiled in approval, and then joined the betrothal feast, to report Prince Ahmed's deceptive duplicity to his master, the Mongol Prince. In a public accusation in front of all the Caliph's guests, Prince Ahmed was denounced by the Mongol Prince. Caliph urgently ordered his troops to arrest him:

Mongol Prince: Desecration most foul, O mighty Caliph, hath been wrought upon thy noble House! This Ahmed is but a common thief.
Caliph: This Ahmed who calls himself a Prince, hunt him down!...
Head of Military to Troops: This Arab Prince is but a thief. Seek him out!

Meanwhile, in an emotionally-wrought scene, the remorseful Prince Ahmed met privately with the tearful Princess in a palace garden where he removed his betrothal ring and humbly confessed that he was just a common thief, not a Prince!:

I am not a Prince. I am less than the slave who serves you - a wretched outcast - a thief. What I wanted, I took. I wanted you - I tried to take you - But - when I held you in my arms - the very world did change. The evil in me died. (He noticed her tears) I can bear a thousand tortures, endure a thousand deaths - but not thy tears.

When the Palace's sword-wielding guards approached, the Princess urged Prince Ahmed to hide: "Quick! Hide thyself. If thou art found with me, they will be merciless." As he stood frozen in his tracks, she lovingly and gently took his hand and placed the ring in his palm before revealing her true love for him: "I love you." She backed away and hid behind a bush, as the military guards seized and arrested the Thief. She witnessed his surrender and capture. He was led to the Caliph in the feast room for the pronouncement of judgment.

The Thief's Punishment and Escape:

The Caliph angrily pronounced a gruesome sentence to punish the Thief for false impersonation of a Prince:

Caliph: Thou dog! What torments can we devise for thee! Flog him!

From her vantage point, the Princess watched in horror and distress as the Thief was stripped to the waist and brutally flogged. The Caliph then ordered his gruesome death - dismemberment by the fearsome giant ape guarding the palace entryway: "Fling him to the ape! Let him be torn to pieces."

Secretly, the Princess arranged for him to be released, freed and smuggled out of the palace, by offering her pearls as a bribe to the guard troops, delivered through one of her loyal handmaidens: "A pearl to every guard. Have him placed in safety through the secret panel into the streets." The Thief was thrown out of a secret panel or door into the street. He momentarily glanced at the Princess' ring on his finger to remind himself of how close he had come to marrying the Princess.

The Princess' Pledge to Her Suitors - A Quest For Treasure:

Shortly later, the Princess was summoned by her father and sternly ordered to choose a different husband:

Caliph: She shall choose again....Choose! I command you. (The Princess collapsed and refused) I myself will make the choice. (He slowly walked off)
Princess' Handmaiden-Slave: (suggesting to the Princess) Betray not the sands of Mecca. Gain time. Defer the outcome.

The Princess' handmaiden, the Slave of the Sand Board, cleverly suggested a solution to her impossible dilemma. She could delay or defer her choice and buy some time, in order to keep the rose-prophecy in the sand intact.

The Princess rose up and halted her father's departure, and then presented a challenge to her suitors with a future promise. She pledged herself to the one suitor who went on a grand quest or journey and brought back "the rarest treasure" after "seven moons":

Princess: Send them to distant lands to seek some rare treasure. At the seventh moon let them return. Who brings the rarest treasure I will wed.
Caliph's Counselor: When marriage plans have gone amiss, The seventh moon betokens bliss.

The Caliph happily agreed with the Counselor and his daughter's proposal.

The Thief's Transformation:

The next "Morning," the stunned Thief awakened on the street, where his associate found him and suggested abducting the Princess: "Come, if you still wouldst steal her. I have found a way through the tunnels of the tigers." But the Thief would have none of it. They watched as the other three Princes departed from the Palace - to set out on their quests to find "treasure" over a period of seven moons:

The Princes will return at the seventh moon bearing treasure. The one who brings the rarest wins the Princess.

The Thief despaired that he could win the heart of the Princess. Simultaneously, the Princess bemoaned the loss of Prince Ahmed, but she was encouraged by her handmaiden who believed that the rose prophecy was still strong: "Lose not thy hope, the rose persists, and something good will come of this." The Thief stumbled into the mosque entryway to kneel before the Holy Man that he had earlier mocked and scorned, to the disgust of his associate:

Turned lily-white he now goes mewling to the mosque. Bah!

The kindly Holy Man saw the Thief's pain and depression, and encouraged him to find hope in his life by seeking treasure and happiness. He asserted that the humble Thief could earn a new life by transforming himself into a Prince, acquiring the love of the Princess, and changing his fate and fortune:

Holy Man: Thou art wounded.
Thief: In heart and soul. (He glanced down at the ring) I love a Princess.
Holy Man: Make thyself a Prince. Allah hath made thy soul to yearn for happiness but thou must earn it....And so - on the bedrock of humility thou canst build any structure. Come with me and I will set thy feet on the path that leads to treasure beyond thy dreams. (At the Palace's outer gate) At the end of the way is a silver chest that doth contain the greatest magic. Thou must be brave. Go now. Control thy destiny.

The Thief split the Princess' ring in half with his sword, then handed one part to the Holy Man: "Give this to her who hath already my heart."

At the same time, as the Mongol Prince was departing from the palace, he advised his counselor to stay behind and prepare his devious military plan to conquer Bagdad, by smuggling his army inside the palace's walls: "Stay you in Bagdad. I will send soldiers under guise of porters bearing gifts. Build me an army within the walls." His plan was to conquer Bagdad one way or the other - by winning the Princess or by conquering the city.

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