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The Thief of Bagdad

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Long, long ago, before there was a Saddam and before there were Bushes, Baghdad was the center of Eastern enchantment, most notably recorded in the collection of stories that we know as The Arabian Nights.

Scheherazade was the plucky and imaginative lady who saved her skin night after night by telling spellbinding tales of Sinbad, Ali Baba and Aladdin, and their flying carpets, magic lanterns and fantastic voyages. Another of the tales concerned the efforts of a lowly peasant in the once-glittering city of Baghdad and his efforts to win the heart of a beautiful princess.

The Thief of Bagdad [sic] is an old story, to be sure, and this Saturday, July 26, a filmed version from 1924 will be screened at the North Carolina Museum of Art's outdoor film series. The upstart director Raoul Walsh directed this project in full thrall to the spectacular Art Deco fashions of the day, and the film stars Douglas Fairbanks as the young hero.

Fairbanks was one of the greatest romantic stars of the silent era, but unlike Gary Cooper, for example, his career didn't survive the transition to sound. Consequently, his achievements--both onscreen and off, for he co-founded United Artists with Mary Pickford and D.W. Griffith--have largely been forgotten.

To provide the music, the museum has engaged the services of Ben Model, the house accompanist for New York's Museum of Modern Art. Tickets are $6 for the general public, $4 for NCMA members and $3 for children. Showtime is 9 p.m.

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