Afrita Hanem: The Genie Lady — Egypt, 1951

Egypt as Egyptian movie goers saw it in 1951 (1949?) in Afrita Hanem: The Genie Lady [also known as Little Miss Devil] sings and dances onto the screen in this musical comedy with a magic lantern and a beautiful genie at the center of it.  There is a cave, of course, with an old man who appears and disappears at will, an old house transformed into a palace at the clap of the hands, fine food brought by finely dressed servants and plenty more.  Being a musical there are love ballads sung to maidens on balconies; being a love story bouquets of flowers brought to the object of affection; being a comedy those flowers dumped in the back alley as the swain makes his pleas.  More than that, there is a 30,000 dinar dowry  that must be matched which, with a genie alongside should not be a problem but since she’s the jealous type, it still is.

It’s about as daring as America’s own 1950s Doris Day or Cary Grant movies — though the genie and some dancing girls have thigh high slits in their flowing trousers.  There is plenty of slapstick and the famous Jerry Lewis leap into Dean Martin’s arms when the singer’s goof-ball partner sees the old man for the first time.  Wild over-acting, false bravado and scampering retreats are all part of the mix.   It’s mildly amusing still but more interesting as a musical and filmic history lesson of a little known land for those interested.

Another Henry Barakat production, this time featuring the widely appreciated Samia Gamal in the role of the fetching genie, Kahramana, and Farid al Atrache as the poor but genial singer, Asfour.  Compared to the much more serious Barakat films The Curlew’s Cry and There’s a Man in Our House,  just ten years later, [both reviewed at the links] Afrit is a fun bit of froth — especially if you want to see belly dancing by the experts, or hear the songs of a soulful Egyptian Bing Crosby….

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