Sunday, January 5, 2014

Doretta Johnson & THE MAGIC CARPET (Columbia, 1951)

Tonight I had the dubious pleasure of watching Lucille Ball's notorious The Magic Carpet, a hilariously bad Sam Katzman Arabian fantasy. Lucille, as most probably know, was toiling under a three-picture deal with Columbia Pictures when Cecil B. DeMille wanted her for his upcoming circus blockbuster The Greatest Show on Earth. Harry Cohn, in true miserly form, refused to let her go and instead held her to her contract and The Magic Carpet, hoping to the end that she would break the contract in disgust and he wouldn't have to pay her. But Lucy and Desi were about to launch their television series and The Magic Carpet, despite its glorious ineptitude, would earn her a hefty $85,000 for five days work and who could turn that down? The rest of course is I Love Lucy history and the onerous Carpet was soon forgotten

As was Doretta Johnson, a dancer and chorus girl who previously had decorated a Bowery Boys movie over at Monogram Pictures but little else. Here, she opens the festivities as the doomed wife if an equally doomed Caliph of Bagdad. Before her untimely demise in the hands of a surly Raymond Burr, Queen Yashima manages to send her infant progeny, and royal heir, away on the wondrous rug of the title. The child grows up to become John Agar and no one leaves the Columbia sound stages for the duration. But at least Doretta (pictured below) had a few lines, which is more than she was given in her previous appearances.   


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