The Princess’ Bath

(Last Updated On: April 3, 2015)

An associate who is something of an expert on young girls in film graciously sold some of his hard-to-find titles and gave me some tips on films to review. One of the most charming was a silent film produced in 1917 called Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp. The play was put on by The Fox Kiddies. I figured it was a group of contract child players and sought more information online. But I could find no mention of them nor the names of other films they acted in. Older films tend to resemble a theatrical play and when children put on a school play, they naturally have to play adult roles. In this case, all the major roles are performed by the children surrounded by a supporting cast of adults.

Even though the title character is Aladdin (Francis Carpenter), it feels like events are motivated and orchestrated by the Princess (Virginia Lee Corbin) who is not given a name. Her father, the Sultan, is willing to give his daughter’s hand in marriage to anyone who can present an impressive enough gift. The Sultan’s Magician, the wily al-Talib (Violet Radcliffe) desires her and tries to impress her with some baubles. Insulted, she stomps out protesting that she does not want a husband.

William Fox - Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp (1917) (1)

William Fox – Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp (1917) (1)

She is consoled many times in the film by her loyal handmaid, Yasmini (Gertie Messinger).

William Fox - Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp (1917) (2)

William Fox – Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp (1917) (2)

One day, the Princess leaves the palace to visit the city marketplace. There, she and Aladdin catch each other’s eye. As a pretense for meeting him, she deliberately drops one of her shoes on the street. Aladdin picks it up and approaches her carriage. Beaming at each other, she tells him he may put it back on her foot. They continue to make eyes at each other as he fumbles around with the shoe.

William Fox - Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp (1917) (3)

William Fox – Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp (1917) (3)

While waiting for her mistress, Yasmini entertains the other slaves with a little dance.

William Fox - Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp (1917) (4)

William Fox – Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp (1917) (4)

The Princess is smitten and regales Yasmini with descriptions of this wonderful lad.

William Fox - Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp (1917) (5)

William Fox – Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp (1917) (5)

Al-Talib (left) observes the scene in the marketplace and along with his henchman Omar (Bud Messinger), schemes to manipulate Aladdin so he can woo the Princess himself.

William Fox - Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp (1917) (6)

William Fox – Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp (1917) (6)

Aladdin retrieves the Magic Lamp in a special cave and, in a predictable act of betrayal, is sealed inside. He discovers the lamp’s magical properties, escapes and requests a prize worthy of a princess to present to the Sultan. There is a moment of ecstatic bliss before al-Talib creates a clever deception to get the lamp for himself. When he does so, he turns Aladdin back into a pauper. No longer able to get access to the palace in his peasant clothing, Aladdin tries to sneak in to warn the Princess what has happened. In the mean time, there is a delightful bath scene where the Princess and Yasmini talk about the couple’s happy future together.

William Fox - Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp (1917) (7)

William Fox – Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp (1917) (7)

William Fox - Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp (1917) (8)

William Fox – Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp (1917) (8)

William Fox - Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp (1917) (9)

William Fox – Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp (1917) (9)

Aladdin and the Princess conspire to steal the lamp back and fix everything. They are ultimately successful and we cut to the final scene where there is celebration in the streets and a closeup of the happy couple.

William Fox - Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp (1917) (10)

William Fox – Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp (1917) (10)

William Fox - Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp (1917) (11)

William Fox – Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp (1917) (11)

One of the interesting conventions of this film was the use of color changes to indicate the venue. Palace scenes were processed in purple, outdoor scenes in a golden sepia and dream/fantasy scenes in cyan. I found a copy of the film on YouTube for anyone who wants to check out this amusing melodrama.

4 thoughts on “The Princess’ Bath

  1. As an addition to my previous comment; I have found a review of the original picture on the internet archive site
    https://archive.org/stream/exhibitorsherald05exhi#page/n771/mode/2up/search/%22wonderful+lamp%22 this gives an idea of what the missing forty minutes of film actually involves.
    The next link indicates that as of June 1917 there were plans for eight Fox Kiddies films,only four were made and The Mikado had a name change to Fan Fan. So I suppose I should keep looking to find out why that was, or alternately why the others are not mentioned on the Internet or in books as maybe the other four films were made.
    https://archive.org/stream/exhibitorsherald05exhi#page/n593/mode/2up/search/%22Fox+Kiddies%22
    Lastly a piece that reminds us that censorship was around even in these times as Aladdin and his Wonderful Lamp was censored. Official cut-out made by the Chicago Board of Censors
    https://archive.org/stream/exhibitorsherald05exhi#page/n1005/mode/2up/search/%22wonderful+lamp%22
    C.M. and S.A. Franklin had directed a series of children’s shorts and features for D.W. Griffith prior to the Fox Kiddies and this was called the Triangle Kiddies. The information was found after reading the book Shirley Temple and the Performance of Girlhood by Kirsten Hatch then finding the sources mentioned in the notes section.

    • Very good digging; thank you. It seems all the films in question were made, but not preserved. I was told that Babes in the Woods was converted to VHS but not to DVD as Aladdin was. It is a shame that much of this work may have been permanently lost, but that is the way of things. Thanks again. -Ron

  2. I spent some hours researching the fox kiddies and have found they did other movies. Fox Kiddie Pictures, part of Fox Film Corp, operated in 1917 and 1918 and was directed by brothers C.M. and S.A. Franklin. The two had directed a series of children’s shorts and features for D.W. Griffith which attracted the attention of William Fox who also produced Fox Kiddie Pictures. As far as I could find the other films were –
    Fan Fan (1918)
    Treasure Island (1918) Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves (1918)
    Babes in the Woods (1917) Jack and the Beanstalk (1917)
    and there may be more as I have not spent many hours looking.
    http://www.silentsaregolden.com/featurefolder3/aladdincommentary.html is a good webpage with more info.

    • Wow, thank you for digging this up. From the looks of the opening title, it did feel as though this was some sort of official designation. I will look into these films and please feel free to come forward with anything else you might find out.

      I did a bit more research and found some facts about The Fox Kiddies in a book about the early days of Fox. Go to this link and then go to page 27. There are a couple of film stills from two of the films mentioned above. -Ron

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