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date: 22 September 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter explores the fascinating screen journey of The Desert Song (1926), the Romberg-Hammerstein operetta. Warner Bros. released no less than three full-length screen adaptations of the piece, in 1929, 1943, and 1953, and a television version was broadcast in 1955. The chapter addresses the work’s shifting relationships, in terms of world politics, depictions of Otherness, and the interplay between reality and fantasy. The 1929 version was the first full-length screen adaptation of a Broadway musical with all-synchronized sound and it recreated the theatrical original in a nascent medium. However, the 1942 version (a story of Nazi machinations in North Africa) was a piece of home-front propaganda and the hero (played by Dennis Morgan) was no longer a former French soldier but rather Paul Hudson, an American pianist who rides off to continue his fight for justice rather than remain with his beloved French chanteuse, Margot (Irene Manning). Meanwhile, the 1953 Kathryn Grayson-Gordon MacRae version combined elements of the stage musical and the 1943 movie to create a Cold War version of the story for a new political age.

Keywords: The Desert Song, Sigmund Romberg, Oscar Hammerstein, Warner Bros., Kathryn Grayson

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