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Lost in a Harem

Bud Abbott and Lou Costello in a publicity photo from Lost in a Harem

Abbott and Costello’s  Lost in a Harem  (1944) starring Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Marilyn Maxwell

Bud Abbott and Lou Costello in a publicity photo from Lost in a Harem

Lost in a Harem is one of  Abbott and Costello’s best films, filmed at the MGM studios.   The film has a vaudeville show stranded in the mythical city of Port Inferno somewhere in the East.   Singer Hazel Moon (Marilyn Maxwell, a semi-regular on the Abbott and Costello radio show) gets a job at the Cafe of All Nations, and has the club owner hire the show’s prop men, Harvey Garvey (Lou Costello) and Pete Johnson (Bud Abbott) to put on their magic act. 

Abbott and Costello’s magic act,  although funny, lands them in jail, giving them an excuse to do the Slowly I Turned routine, made famous by the Three Stooges.   A deposed sheikh offers to help them escape from jail in exchange for helping him overthrow the evil despot who stole his throne, Nimativ (Douglas Dumbrille). Nimativ, however, is able to hypnotise people, including Abbott and Costello –  another hilarious bit.   All turns out well, the evil Nimatov is overthrown, and the romantic leads get married – everything happily ever after.

Lost in a Harem, starring Bud Abbott, Marilyn Maxwell, Lou Costello

In addition to  a lot of very funny Abbott and Costello routines, there’s also several musical scenes with the Jimmy Dorsey orchestra (why are they in the desert?   Doesn’t matter as long as they don’t intrude overmuch on the movie, which they don’t), singing by Marilyn Maxwell, and good comic interaction throughout.

Editorial review of Lost in a Harem (1944), starring Abbott and Costello, courtesy of

Lost in a Harem. Locked in is more like it, as the two land in the hoosegow twice, where their timing, repartee and monkeyshines shine. Douglas Dumbrille plays the evil potentate who uses hypnosis against the boys – making this a tale of Arabian daze and nights. The grand wazir orders you to watch!

Funny movie quotes from Lost in a Harem, starring Abbott and Costello, Marilyn Maxwell

Marilyn Maxwell sings in "Lost in a Harem"

Peter Johnson (Bud Abbott): You love her?
[laughs derisively]
Peter Johnson (Bud Abbott): Oh, come on, you wouldn’t get to first base with a beautiful girl like that.
Harvey Garvey (Lou Costello): Yes, I would.
Peter Johnson (Bud Abbott): Did you ever take a good look in the mirror?
Harvey Garvey (Lou Costello): No.
Peter Johnson (Bud Abbott): Why not?
Harvey Garvey (Lou Costello): Why should I hurt my own feelings?
Peter Johnson (Bud Abbott): Never mind!

In Prison

Harvey Garvey (Lou Costello): Have you a reservation here?
Jailer and clerk: No.
Harvey Garvey (Lou Costello): Then I have to take my business someplace else.
[he starts to leave but is restrained by guards]
Harvey Garvey (Lou Costello): I changed my mind. I’ll take the room.
Jailer and clerk: What’s your name?
Harvey Garvey (Lou Costello): Harvey D. Garvey.
Jailer and clerk: Where born?
Harvey Garvey (Lou Costello): Under a sink.
Jailer and clerk: How do you know?
Harvey Garvey (Lou Costello): I heard the water runnin’.

Prince Ramo: [from inside his jail cell] Don’t worry! I’ll get you out!
Peter Johnson (Bud Abbott): [being locked up in a nearby cell] Who’s gonna get you out?

Poko moko!

The Derelict: I know a secret passage that will take us out.
Harvey Garvey (Lou Costello): Swell!
The Derelict: [to Harvey] Shhh!
Harvey Garvey (Lou Costello): [to Pete] Shhh!
Peter Johnson (Bud Abbott): [whispering] Go ahead.
The Derelict: Follow me.
Peter Johnson (Bud Abbott): Go ahead – follow him.
Harvey Garvey (Lou Costello): Okay.
Peter Johnson (Bud Abbott): [impatiently] Go ahead.
The Derelict: Where are you taking me?

The Derelict: Quiet! People will think you’re crazy.
Harvey Garvey (Lou Costello): Oh, and I suppose you’re all right?
The Derelict: Of course!
Harvey Garvey (Lou Costello): Of course?
The Derelict: I have a brother who is crazy –  [screaming]  but I’m all right!
Harvey Garvey (Lou Costello): [gasping] Who told you?
The Derelict: My brother!
Harvey Garvey (Lou Costello): That does it, brother!

The Derelict: Gentleman … He called me a gentleman! Thank you.
The Derelict: [to Pete] Thank you.
Peter Johnson (Bud Abbott): That’s all right.
The Derelict: Those are the first kind words I’ve heard in years. You see I always haven’t been a derelict … [pointing to Harvey]
The Derelict: like you!
Harvey Garvey (Lou Costello): Hey, now, don’t call me those kind of bad names.
The Derelict: Would you like to hear my story?
Harvey Garvey (Lou Costello): No.
The Derelict: Very well, then I’ll tell it to you.

The Derelict: Pokomoko! Slowly I turn, step by step …

The Heroes

Harvey Garvey (Lou Costello): Do I have to especially go now?
Peter Johnson (Bud Abbott): You just split an infinitive!
Harvey Garvey (Lou Costello): Well, I mean that … [feeling his own rear end]
Harvey Garvey (Lou Costello): Does it show?

Peter Johnson (Bud Abbott): We’ve got to outsmart Uncle Nimativ. You go in and outwit him.
Harvey Garvey (Lou Costello): Why should I go out with him? I’m afraid of that man!
Peter Johnson (Bud Abbott): Not to go out with him. Go in and outwit him.
Harvey Garvey (Lou Costello): Why should I go in and go out with him? I mean, he don’t appeal to me!

Trivia for Abbott and Costello’s  Lost in a Harem

  • Douglass Dumbrille and Bud Abbott recreate The Marx Brothers‘ mirror scene from Duck Soup
  • Lou Costello, as he did in virtually all the films he appeared in, makes a reference to his hometown of Paterson, New Jersey.
  • Universal loaned MGM John Grant, the comedy team’s personal gag writer, to script some of their patented pun routines.
  • Overseas program #820 for U.S. troops during the war.
  • The lavish sets utilized were left over from MGM’s Kismet, which starred Ronald Colman, Marlene Dietrich and Edward Arnold.
  • Two songs were written for the movie but not used: I Know It’s Wrong by Gene de Paul and Don Raye and It is Written by Sammy Fain and Ralph Freed. Noche De Ronda written in 1935 by Maria Teresa Lara was recorded but cut from the final release version.

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