Little Egypt

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Comedy/Drama, USA, 1951, 82 min.

Synopsis Cyrus Graydon, a tobacco tycoon, visits Egypt in the hopes of bringing to America real Egyptians to populate his Cairo street exhibit, which is scheduled to be unveiled at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. Assisting him are a pasha and an American con man, Wayne Cravat, who are trying to swindle Graydon into financing the phony "Nile Reclamation Project," a plan that they claim will give Graydon more access to the Egyptian tobacco that he has made such a success. After Cravat selects the Egyptian natives who will be transported to Chicago, he and the pasha go to the Café Fez, where they watch the performance of Izora, a beautiful Egyptian dancer with a mysterious past. The pasha, in love, announces his intent to bring Izora with him to Chicago, but Cravat, worried that the scheme will be ruined if the pasha shows up with a café dancer, visits her after the show and convinces her to stay in Cairo, telling her that he is in love with her and will return. The ambitious Izora agrees to stay behind, but then shows up on the freighter bound for America with her troop of beautiful veiled dance attendants. Once in Chicago, Cravat learns that the pasha is still in Cairo because he had been reported to the Egyptian authorities, and he deduces that the ambitious Izora maneuvered the pasha's seizure. Izora tells the assembled press as well as the Graydons that she is an Egyptian princess who has come to Chicago in the pasha's stead, and she is greeted enthusiastically by Graydon's high-class friends and family. At first, Cravat tries to send her away, but then realizes that together they may be able to pull off the scheme. Later, at a party thrown to welcome Izora, Cravat, wishing to secure his position with Graydon, tries to woo Sylvia, the tycoon's daughter, and the fake princess becomes annoyed. To get back at him, Izora flirts with Oliver Doane, Sylvia's fiancé. At the World's Fair, Izora strolls through Little Cairo with Doane and is recognized by the street people, and Moulai, a fortune-teller, threatens her with blackmail. Later, while socializing with the Doanes and the Graydons at the Café Fez, Izora receives a note from Cravat saying that the Nile Reclamation Project is on hold and that Izora must return to Cairo due to important business. When a disgusted Izora lights up a cigarette, Mrs. Doane, Oliver's mother and an advocate for women's rights, is thrilled at this display of freedom and joins her. Izora is convinced that Cravat desires Sylvia, but at a private party thrown in her honor, he explains that his relations with the young heiress are strictly business. Cravat continues to court Sylvia and the newspapers announce their engagement, much to Izora's fury. Izora refuses to accept Cravat's apologies, and meanwhile, the shareholders at the Fair are worried about the lack of public interest in the Cairo street exhibit. Mrs. Doane suggests that Izora perform traditional ceremonial dances at the Café Fez, and Izora, thrilled at the idea, agrees, despite Cravat's disapproval. Before her performance of the "hootchy-kootchy," which she will dance in a revealing costume, Izora explains her intentions to Max, Cravat's sidekick. She plans to embarrass Cravat and expose both their impersonations, hoping that it will bring Cravat, the man she loves, back to his senses. When Izora appears onstage in her "hootchy-kootchy" outfit, the Doanes and Graydons are shocked, and women leave the club in droves. After Izora deliberately provokes a brawl among some sailors, the police arrive and haul Izora to jail for indecent exposure and inciting a riot. Cravat arrives at the jail, intending to send Izora to New York so that he can talk his way out of the fiasco, but Mrs. Doane shows up with her lawyers, claiming that all the city's women's rights clubs support Izora's right to dance. Graydon then tells Cravat that the fair is doing marvellously thanks to Izora, and that he is going to put a picture of the dancing princess in each of his cigarette packages. Although aware that she is not a princess, Graydon dubs her "Little Egypt" and hands Cravat a $100,000 advance check. Izora again performs her sexy dance, but Mrs. Doane, who was only pretending to support the "hootchy-kootchy girl," alerts the police, who again arrest her. In court, Cravat stands by Izora, defending her himself by virtue of an archaic law which allows friends to defend the accused. The prosecution shows a film of the performance as evidence, and Cravat brings in an alleged professor of Egyptology, who testifies that Izora's dances are authentic. The prosecution, however, reveals that the witness is merely a professor at the Antioch Barber College. After Cravat takes the stand and his cover is blown, the pasha arrives as a witness for the prosecution. However, just as he is about to ruin Izora and Cravat's credibility, Izora pretends to faint and a recess is called. During the break, now in-love couple gives the pasha Graydon's check, thus convincing him to support them. When the pasha takes the stand, he claims that Izora is indeed his cousin and an honorary princess, not Betty Randolph from Jersey City, as the prosecution has discovered. Just as the judge calls the case closed, the Egyptian calif arrives, calls the pasha an impostor, and seizes Graydon's check for the Egyptian government. Izora's charges are dismissed, and back at the Café Fez, Izora dances before an overflow crowd, while Cravat watches admiringly from backstage.

Directed by Frederick De Cordova  

Starring Mark Stevens, Rhonda Fleming, Nancy Guild, Charles Drake, Tom D'Andrea, more...

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