The Thief of Bagdad (1924)

Film Review


Release Date: 18 March, 1924

Studio: United Artists

Director: Raoul Walsh

Starring: Douglas Fairbanks, Snitz Edwards, Charles Belcher, Julanne Johnston


The Thief (Fairbanks) takes whatever he wants. Thieves are flogged, but he is not worried, he is too smart to get caught. When he sees the princess, he wants her. He plans to carry her away from the palace. The princess has reached marriageable age, and she will choose her husband from the princes who come to woo her. The Prince of Persia is fat and lazy, the Prince of the Indies is glum and unsmiling, and The Prince of the Mongols is frightening. The Thief masquerades as a Prince and enters with the true princes. A slave girl of the princess swirls the sands of Mecca, and the sand forms a rose. This shape, formed by the sand, predicts that the suitor who touches the rose bush in the garden will wed the princess. As the Thief passes the rose bush, a bee stings his horse, and he is thrown into it. The princess is delighted.

That evening, the Thief climbs to her balcony, and she welcomes him. After he holds and kisses her, he regrets his masquerade. She chooses him for her husband. Remorseful, he tells her the truth. His deception discovered, he is condemned to death. The princess procures his release by giving her pearls to the guards. Her father orders the princess to choose again. The rose persists in the sand, and its prophecy endures. The princess delays the outcome by pledging herself to the suitor who brings back the greatest treasure. The Thief goes to a holy man who gives him hope that he may still win the princess. He must follow a long and difficult road to gain the magic box that is the greatest treasure. The three princes also set out after treasure.

The Prince of Persia acquires a flying carpet. The Prince of the Indies obtains a crystal ball. The Prince of the Mongols travels to a distant land to obtain the golden apple. Meanwhile, the Thief passes through many dangers and difficulties. He goes through fire, fights savage beasts, dives deep into the sea, resists the temptation of mermaids, rides the flying horse, and finally secures the magic box. Throw the dust within the box, and wishes are granted. The Thief wishes for a horse, fine clothes, and a loaf of bread. He rides back to Bagdad. The other suitors meet. In Bagdad, the minions of The Mongol Prince have poisoned the princess. The princes use the crystal to see her, fly to the rescue on the carpet, and cure her with the golden apple. As they consider which treasure is the greatest, the 20,000 soldiers that the Mongol Prince has sneaked into Bagdad seize the city. The Mongol Prince announces that he will wed the princess and celebrate the wedding by boiling her father and the other princes in oil. The Thief arrives before the walls and demands entrance. Denied entrance, he throws dust from the magic box and assembles an army. The soldiers of the Mongol Prince flee. The Mongol Prince tries to kidnap the princess, but the Thief saves her. He seats the princess on the flying carpet. Flying over Bagdad, they kiss happily.


This elaborate production was Fairbanks' only fantasy, set in the exotic and far away land of ancient Bagdad. Most of his other 1920s films have historical, European settings. The Thief is a clever rogue rather than a noble swashbuckler. He gains the princess by learning that happiness must be earned. This concept is the moral of the film. Whatever the setting, Fairbanks is always very watchable; he radiates attractiveness and personality. The film was a personal favorite of Fairbanks.