This 1953 Egyptian musical is sprawling, heterogeneous, and somewhat uneven, but it’s worth seeing for the lively performance of child star Fayruz and for director Anwar Wagdi’s close attention to class differences. Fayruz has been compared to Shirley Temple, but as the title character, an unwanted child adopted by a struggling street musician, she reminds me more of the charming teenage hustler played by Katharine Hepburn in Sylvia Scarlett. Dahab and her adoptive father are often reduced to begging, and Wagdi uses composition and camera movement to contrast their ragged figures with the elegant rich, but when the pair suddenly hit the jackpot, Dahab’s biological father tries to reclaim her in an update of the King Solomon tale. The film’s music, dance, and humor maintain a high level of energy, and the musical numbers are well integrated, making the concocted story seem almost natural: this is less a statement about social inequities than a big, brash variety show. Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Friday, May 21, 6:00, 312-443-3737.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still.