East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

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In Egypt with Sax Rohmer

saxrohmer1Let’s kill two birds with a stone: today’s the birthday of Arthur Henry Sarsfield Ward, better known to the world at large by his pen name Sax Rohmer – the man who created the original Yellow Peril, Dr Fu Manchu.
A lower-class child that started a career as a civil servant before he turned to writing for a living and claimed to be part of the Order of the Golden Dawn, Rohmer would be 135 today.

His most famous creation, Dr Fu Manchu, first appeared in The Mystery of Dr Fu Manchu, as a serial, in 1912. Two other novels followed,and then the character went on hiatus for about fifteen years, only to return with The Daughter of Fu Manchu in 1928. Continue reading

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The Barbarian, 1933

“In the older days, they’d have built the Nile for you. Nowadays, films have become travelogues and actors, stuntmen.”
(Bette Davis, while filming “Death on the Nile”, 1978)

The_Barbarian_FilmPosterAnd so, on Christmas night, I went and watched The Barbarian, also known as A Night in Cairo. Not exactly a Christmas movie, as we’ll see. The movie features Myrna Loy and Ramon Novarro, and was directed by Sam Wood in 1933.
While the name might not ring any bell, Wood was the man behind the camera for A Night at the Opera, A Day at the Races, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, Raffles, and The Pride of the Yankees, For Whom the Bell Tolls.
Not an amateur, in other words.
The movie is a remake of a previous, silent film, called The Arab (1915), and based on a play of the same title.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I wanted to see the movie because of the reconstruction of the Shepheard’s Hotel in Cairo. Because, true to the Bette Davis quote above, this pre-Code movie was really shot in a time in which the studios recreated whole chunks of exotic locations in their backlot. Continue reading

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Turns out yesterday was Myrna Loy’s birthday.
She’d be 112 years old.
Loy was one of the many black-and-white beauties that completely fascinated me as a kid.
Her role as Nora Charles in The Thin Man and its sequels is the first thing in which I remember seeing her, in a late cycle dedicated by the Italian TV to the Powell/Loy mystery comedies.

51eVjQLu-+L._AC_US218_And as I am, I might as well plug Reid & Wickliffe’s Thoughts on The Thin Man: Essays on the Delightful Detective Work of Nick and Nora Charles, that is a delightful book indeed.

But my veneration for Myrna Loy’s beauty and skill is based essentially on three pre-Code movies that are certainly very much on topic here on Karavansara. Continue reading


Party with the Thin Man

SLING & STONES/ David V Goliath - ILLUSTRATIONOn the 29th of December the Catholic Church remembers Saint David, alias King David, alias The Slingshot Kid.
And as Dave’s my name, I usually have a small celebration – one of my favorite dishes for lunch (I’m the one taking care of the cooking anyway), maybe a few hours spent watching a movie, and a small gift.

Ebooks have been the sort of gifts I give myself these last few years: cheap, varied, and fun.
And no need to wait! Continue reading

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Supporting cast

It sometimes happens that I fall in love with my support characters.

Now, every series should have a handful of characters the hero can call upon when he gets in trouble – as heroes will.
Not properly a sidekick, more like a recurring character.
Think Marcus Brody and Sallah in the Indiana Jones movies.


Such characters provide support, continuity, and quite often an element of comedy that the hero can’t bring himself (being heroic AND funny is hard work indeed, for both hero and author).
More generally, they can voice the feelings and the thoughts the hero, for a number of reasons, can’t.
They can act as conscience, provide wise suggestions, or quite simply hand the hero the tool he needs, when he needs it.

Continue reading