Princess of the Nile (1954)

 

 

 

 

 

Director:     Harmon Jones

Starring:     Debra Paget (Princess Shalimar/Taura), Jeffrey Hunter (Prince Haidi), Michael Rennie (Rama Khan), Dona Drake (Mirva), Michael Ansara (Capt. Kral), Edgar Barrier (Shaman), Wally Cassell (Goghi), Jack Elam (Basra).

Set in A.D. 1249, Egyptian princess Shalimar tries to rid her country of its Bedouin conquerors. She is forced into a life of intrigue at the court and the market place (disguised as a dancing girl). She forms an alliance with the son of the Caliph of Baghdad. Some reviewers were charmed by the dancing routine of Ms. Paget.

So, was there an Egyptian princess known as Shalimar? Can't find any historical reference to such a person. So, probably not.

 

Spoiler Warning:

"The place Egypt.  The year, 1249 AD.   In the Upper Valley of the Nile, Arabia, Syria and Persia all vowed their allegiance to the Caliph of Baghdad, protector of the faithful and exalted ruler of all Islam.  The battles that rage over this land are constant.  Just now at Mansura an invading horde has been repelled by 10,000 men of Islam.  One of the leaders in the victory is Prince Haidi, son of the Caliph, with his aide Captain Waseem, he journeys toward Baghdad to bring the good tidings to his father.  Here before them lies the ancient city of Helwan on the banks of the River Nile." 

A beautiful dancer named Taura practices her dance routine.  A local named Goghi claps for the performance.  He says he is sick of seeing the soldiers of Bedouin ruler Rama Khan in the city streets.  Taura tells him to get use to it, because those soldiers will be here for a long time.  A musician says and today Rama Khan is coming to the city with more of his filthy assassins.  Goghi says and Rama Khan came here at the request of their own Prince Selim.  Taura defends Prince Selim saying his heart has always been with his people.  The rumor is that the crazed Shaman has Prince Selim under his spell and forced him to seek the aide of Rama Khan. 

Rama Khan arrives in the city.  Rama Khan comes in side by side with Captain Kral.  At almost the same time, Prince Haidi comes riding up.  The two important men say hello to each other.  The Prince says he is anxious to get back to Baghdad to bring his father the news of their great victory at Mansura.  Rama Khan says he has come to this city at the request of Prince Selim to help quell the unrest in the city.  The Prince says he wants to talk to Prince Selim about this unrest in his city.  Khan's men now move forward.  Opponents of Khan throw objects at his soldiers.  Goghi is up on the second floor of a building and he hurls a rock at the wrong guy.  He brains the companion of Prince Haidi and not one of Rama Khan's men. 

Prince Haidi is furious and he quickly pursues those who threw the rocks and other objects.  He runs right into Goghi who starts fighting Prince Haidi with the strong piece of wood he has with him.  The Prince has a sword and he splits the wood into two pieces.  Goghi has to run away.  The Prince looks around for other enemies when Taura takes her knife and stabs Prince Haidi in the left shoulder from behind a curtain.  He grabs her knife hand and holds her.  She says he's one of Khan's men, but the Prince says he is just an innocent visitor new to this city.  Since this man is not an enemy of Taura's, she asks him to please release her or the Khan's men will sell her into slavery. 

The Prince's man manages to get himself up off the ground.  He goes over to his horse to get up and onto the saddle. But now the Khan stabs the Prince's aide.  All this is seen by Taura.  The Prince arrives and finds his friend dead. 

A friend of Taura's tells her that she must not return to the Tambourine for it will no longer be safe for her. Taura changes into a kind of bathing suit and swims to a secret passageway under the wall and into her own chambers.  Her chamber maid says Your Highness, I was afraid something bad had happened to you.  Yes, it seems that the dancing girl Taura is really Princess Shalimar.  Her Highness changes her clothes and returns to her normal life as a princess.  She watches as Khan and Haidi arrive at the palace.  Then she goes into her private pool for some relaxation.

All of a sudden, the evil Shaman shows up near the pool.  That angers the Princess, but the Shaman says matters of state take precedence over one's personal privacy.  He says the visitor that she is preparing herself for is leaving in the morning.  And the Princess is not allowed to leave her quarters.  Oh, how she really hates the Shaman. 

The Shaman now speaks to His Highness saying that Rama Khan has arrived in the palace.  His Highness doesn't remember inviting Rama Khan to his palace.  The Shaman fixes Prince Selim a drink and puts a potion into the beverage.  Then he has His Highness swallow the entire mixture. 

A female dancer dances in front of Rama Khan.  Prince Haidi is also here.  Prince Selim says to Prince Haidi that he is sorry about what happened to his man.  Haidi says that man was his childhood friend, Captain Hassem.  Rama Khan speaks up saying they will take 100 of the rebels and have them executed.  Haidi rejects the very idea of a mass reprisal.  He wants only the man who killed his friend.  Rama Khan says they did capture a man with the rebels.  They could torture him and get some names of suspects from him.  The captured rebel is Goghi himself.  Haidi tells Goghi to name the man who threw the dagger that slew his friend.  Goghi says that Haidi's friend was struck down by a stone and not a dagger.  Haidi says his friend was first hit by a stone then by a dagger.  The Prince decides to take Goghi as a servant.  His wish is granted.  He says to the servants to give Goghi a bath and some new clothing and then send him to Prince Haidi's quarters. 

And now Princess Shalimar makes her appearance.  She wear a thin veil over her face.  Her father is not all that happy to see her.  The Princess ignores that and says that the Shaman blocked her attempt to tell Prince Haidi how sad she is over the death of his friend.  She notices the blood on his sleeve and asks the Prince if she could personally bandage his wound.  Rama Khan says it would be better for the Shaman to bandage the wound, but Haidi wants to be with the beautiful Princess. 

The Princess and her aides help bandage up Prince Haidi.  And again the Shaman suddenly appears unannounced to say that Prince Selim sent him to make sure Haidi's wound was properly bandaged.  Haidi assures the Shaman that his wound has been properly and he feels so good that he can walk his way to his own quarters without the Shaman's assistance.  The Shaman leaves.

Goghi is done bathing and getting dressed in new clothes.  Now he is tossed into the chambers of Prince Haidi.  There he finds three beautiful women ready to sing and play their musical instruments for the Prince.  Goghi goes ga-ga over the women.  He starts talking to all three women.  The Prince comes into the room.  Haidi sits on the sofa and gets comfortable.  The women are right there to comfort him, but he asks Goghi about the wench he saw who ended up stabbing him with her dagger.  Goghi doesn't want to name the woman, so Haidi threatens to have Goghi stretched on the rack.  Goghi quickly says the woman's name is Taura.  He also says that she is one of the leaders against the Shaman and Rama Khan and his raiders.  Haidi says Goghi will take him to her tonight. 

Taura dances for the clients of the Tambourine.  One of them is Rama Khan with his Captain.  Rama Khan is quite taken with her.  Then Prince Haidi comes in.  The proprietor of the place tries to interest the Prince in a woman other than Taura, but the Prince just tells him to send Taura over to him after her dance. 

The dance ends and Rama Khan asks the proprietor to send over the dancer to him.  The proprietor explains that Prince Haidi has already asked for her presence.  Now he goes over to Taura to tell her to be careful because both Prince Haidi and Rama Khan want her.  She decides to first go see Prince Haidi.  She says her dancing must have pleased him.  Oh, yes.  But he also wants her help in finding the man who killed his boyhood friend.  He adds that it was an Egyptian because the dagger was Egyptian.  He saw the dagger.  Taura, however, says she saw the actual killing.  So Haidi offers her 1,000 pieces of gold to name the assassin.  She says she doesn't want the gold.  She wants his father's troops to come and rid them of the Shaman and of Rama Khan and his raiders.  Haidi insists on having the name now, so Taura says the assassin was Rama Khan himself.

So Haidi marches Taura over to Rama Khan and has her repeat what she told him.  She says that the killer was Rama Khan.  And he killed the Prince's friend because he wanted to turn the anger of the Prince onto the Egyptian people, thus insuring that no Babylonian troops would come to help the Egyptians against Rama Khan.  Moreover, Rama Khan will not permit the Prince's return to Baghdad for he wants no Baghdad troops in Egypt.  Now a sword fight erupts between the two men.  Khan's men decide to help him defeat Haidi.  But Goghi knocks out the Captain by crashing a plant planter into the Captain's head.  Two other soldiers try to attack the Prince, but he knocks one man's head into the other man's head and they both are knocked out.  One of the knocked-out soldiers revives and Goghi and Taura gang up on him and knock him out again.  The other soldier now wakes up and sword fights with Taura.  She stabs the man and then jumps over to fight two other soldiers.  Meanwhile, more and more soldiers are arriving on the scene. 

The Prince retreats to the roof of the building and gets hit on the head and knocked into the canal system below.  To save him Taura jumps in the water, followed by Goghi.  A soldier goes after the Prince but Goghi swims up behind the soldier and stabs him in the back.  They go to the secret passage under the wall and into the Princess's chambers.  And now it dawns on Goghi that Taura is really Princess Shalimar.  The Prince recovers and now knows that Taura is Princess Shalimar.  He says she saved his life, so his heart is hers to command.  The women aides to the Princess come in and tell her that Prince Selim wants to speak to her now.  The Shaman brought the request. 

So Princess Shalimar dresses as the Princess.  Rama Khan and the Shaman wait for her.  She arrives and they tell her that Prince Haidi is missing.  They fear he may be on his way to Baghdad and will bring back the Caliph's army to reek revenge on the Egyptians for slaying Captain Hassem.  Princess Shalimar contradicts Rama Khan saying that it is the Khan himself who would be in trouble, not the Egyptians. He asks her if she has been talking to Prince Haidi?  She says no, because she is not allowed to leave her room.  The Khan says they will find Prince Haidi and kill him.  Princess Shalimar asks and what will this cost the Egyptians?  Khan says he wants the Princess's hand in marriage.  Basically, Princess Shalimar says she would rather kill herself than marry him.  She leaves the room. 

The search goes on for the Prince.  Princess Shalimar goes to talk with the Prince still in her quarters.  The Princess tells the Prince that he has to escape now.  She tells Goghi to guide the Prince out of the palace and away to Baghdad.  The Prince doesn't want to leave Shalimar behind, but she insists that he go and she plans to remain here to protect her people.  The two men swim through the canal system in the palace, but the Prince tells Goghi that he has his own plan and will not be escaping to Baghdad.  He plans to get help from the Tambourine proprietor.  If he could get a small band of men together, he could use guerilla techniques to whittle down the force of the Khan. 

Goghi says as a thief himself he has access to the thieves of what is called the Den of Thieves.  They would be willing to help save the Princess in her time of need.  The Prince tells Goghi to take him to this Den.  They use a secret passageway to walk out of the palace.  They run into a dwarf who is the smallest of the thieves. He says he will lead the way to the Den.  The two men follow the dwarf.

They reach the Den of Thieves and the man named Basra complains that no strangers are allowed.  Goghi says that this is no ordinary stranger.  He explains to Basra that he has brought his new master Prince Haidi of Babylon with him.  He's the son of the all powerful Caliph of Baghdad.  Another thief asks what does the Prince want from them?  He wants them to help him rescue Princess Shalimar from the Shaman and Rama Khan.  That doesn't impress the thieves much, so the Prince says that Taura the dancer is also in as great a danger for Taura and Princess Shalimar are the same person.  So now the thieves are all excited about taking out some of the troops of the bad guys.

Rama Khan is busy torturing the proprietor of the Tambourine to make him tell him where Taura is.  The Shaman intervenes.  He gives Babu his secret potion to drink. 

The thieves now start knocking off the guards.

Under the influence of the potion, Babu starts talking.  He says Taura swims from the river wall outside the Tambourine.  She enters through a hidden passageway built into the wall.   The Shaman wants to know why so much secrecy?  Babu says the secrecy is because she is afraid of the Shaman.  He forbids her to leave the palace.  She comes to the Tambourine to keep her people informed of the Shaman's evil plans.  The Shaman is satisfied with what Babu told him.  Now he tells Babu to go with the Captain and show him this secret passageway.  The Captain and Babu leave.

Rama Khan comes to see Princess Shalimar.  He complains that during the night his guards have been attacked without provocation.  Several of them have been killed.  So he has put up notices throughout Baghdad saying that if the killings continue, reprisals will be taken against the local citizens.  

The plan is to test Shalimar.  They want to see if she will come to the Tambourine through the secret passageway to talk to her people. 

The Princess decides she must go to the Tambourine.  She swims into the Tambourine and four soldiers drop a net on her.  The Prince and the thieves check up on the Tambourine and the Prince discovers that the Princess has now been taken captive by the Shaman and the Khan.  As the soldiers start to take the Princess from the Tambourine, the thieves descend on the soldiers and free the Princess.  She is passed off to Goghi and then the Prince takes her from Goghi.  The couple kiss passionately.  Now the three get away by jumping back into the canal.  The thieves do the same to get away.  Captain Kral says he knows where they are going.  They rush to the chambers of the Princess. 

Back in her chambers, Shalimar thanks everyone for the gallant rescue.  The female servants now warn Shalimar that Rama Khan is on his way to her chambers. 

The women servants distract the Khan's soldiers and the thieves knock them all out. 

Rama Khan tells Shalimar the renewed attacks on his soldiers means that tomorrow ten of her people will be publicly executed for every soldier slain.  Shalimar says that it would be better for the Khan if he looked to his own and his men's safety.  For now Prince Haidi goes to see the Caliph of Baghdad and soon the Khan will be facing the wrath of the Babylonians.  Khan makes a countermove saying that when the Babylonians reach Egypt they will find Helwan just a city of the dead.  So now Shalimar makes a deal with the Khan.  If he pulls out all his troops from the city and stays out, she will marry him.  Khan takes that deal. 

Now Shalimar goes to the Prince and the thieves to tell them of the evil bargain she felt she had to make.  This really upsets the Prince.  She asks the Prince wouldn't he have sacrificed his happiness to save his people, if the situation were reversed?  She leaves. 

The Prince goes to see the Princess in private.  They kiss. 

Rama Khan is ready to move out with his troops and his beautiful prize.  As the convoy starts moving out, we see the presence of thieves in the procession.  When the sofa sedan reaches a door, the thieves put down and sedan and whisk the Princess through the door.  The Prince grabs the Princess and hides her behind some curtains.  The soldiers of Khan now pursue the thieves.  Inside the palace, vicious sword fights break out between the two forces.

The Khan and the Prince now start fighting.  The Prince kills the Khan by backing him into a spear thrown partly through a room divider.  But now the Shaman holds a knife to the throat of the Princess.  The dwarf jumps down and onto the Shaman's shoulder.  He stabs the Shaman.  And now the Prince and Princess are united again, but now without the worry of interference from the Shaman or the Khan. 

 

 

The movie is set at the times that the Mamluks took control and ruled in Egypt (1250-1517).  But the story in the movie, however, is not even close to the real story, so there's no sense is really trying to force a comparison.  It's better to just keep in mind that this is a movie where Hollywood went really wild with no attempt to really relate the dates to the actual historical time period.  It's just easier to read about the Mamluks and remember the historical period. 

The movie itself is pleasant to watch.  Especially pleasing to the eye, is the actress Debra Paget who I have by now seen in so many films as a dancing girl that I think she specialized in the roles of dancing girls.  I never tire of seeing her, nor apparently did Hollywood, so I'm not complaining, just observing.  Just have to accept that it's a B movie spiced up with dancing girls. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

 


Historical Background:

 

Islamic governors ruled for many centuries in Egypt:

640- 1250.  Governors of Arab Egypt.

1240-1249 --  As-Salih Ayyub ruled.  He was a Kurdish ruler.  A powerful faction of Emirs, the Ashrafiyya, were conspiring to depose him and replace him with his uncle, As-Salih Ismail.  He had few loyal soldiers so he began buying large numbers of Kipchak slaves, who were available in unusually large numbers following the Mongol invasions in central Asia. They soon formed the core of his army, and were known as Mamluks.  And it would be the Mamluks who overthrew the Ayyubid Sultanate (1171-1252). 

The movie is set in 1249, just before the takeover of the Mamluks. 

1249  --  King Louis IX of France invaded Egypt on the Seventh Crusade.

1249 (November)   --  As-Salih Ayyub dies.  He was the last major Ayyubid ruler of Egypt, and the last to combine rule of Egypt with effective rule of parts of Palestine and Syria.

Other Ayyubid rulers ruled but only briefly, until the Bahri Mamluks eventually took power.

 

 

1250-1517 A.D. -- the Mamluks take control of Egypt. The Mamluks were mostly Turkic, who were mostly from the Russian steppe.

Both the Ayyubids in Syria and the Abbasid Caliph al-Musta'sim in Baghdad defied the Mamluk move in Egypt and refused to recognize widow Shajart al-Dur as a Sultana, but the Mamluks in Egypt renewed their oath to the new Sultana and appointed Aybak to the important position of Atabeg (commander in chief).  She ruled for only 80 days.  She married Aybak then abdicated and passed the throne to Aybak.

1250-1382 -- the first Mamluk dynasty was that of the Bahri. They established a dynasty run by a few families. The Mamluk Empire became the leading Muslim state in the world. An-Nasir Yusuf sent his forces to Gaza to conquer Egypt and overthrow Aybak but his forces were defeated by Emir Faris ad-Din Aktai. 

1250-1257  --  Izz al-Din Aybak was the first of the Mamluk sultans of Egypt in the Turkic Bahri line. 

The most notable sultans:

1260-1277 -- al-Zahir Baybars.

1279-1290 -- al-Mansur Kalavun.

12931294 -- al-Nasir Muhammad

12991309 -- al-Nasir Muhammad.

13101341 -- al-Nasir Muhammad.

1382-1517 -- The next dynasty was that of the Burji, a.k.a. the Circassian (Burji) household of Mamluk rulers. The rulers faced economic decline. The most formidable rulers were:

1382-1399 Barkuk.

1422-1438 al-Ashraf Barsbay.

1468-1496 Qayitbey.

1501-1516 al-Ashraf Kansawh al-Ghawri.

 

 

see The Egyptian (1954)

 

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