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.
She is consoled many times in the film by her loyal handmaid, Yasmini (Gertie Messinger).
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.
While waiting for her mistress, Yasmini entertains the other slaves with a little dance.
The Princess is smitten and regales Yasmini with descriptions of this wonderful lad.
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.
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.
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.
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.