Bagdad Diorama: Dolls, Characters, Costumes, Oh MY!

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Now the really fun part. With only long week to go, I had to come up with costumes and finished characters. Early on I established that I needed The Thief, the Princess, the Magic Carpet, the Evil Handmaiden, the Evil Mongol Prince, and maybe some common people. 

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The Thief of Bagdad story is basically the Aladdin story we are all familiar with. Here the Thief tries to return something to the Princess he stole before he steals her heart. Without sound, the actors had to evoke every thought and feeling in their face and exagerated gestures. Make up and costumes were very much a part of this.

Once the city was pretty much done, I knew at first what the Thief would look like on the flying carpet with his Princess. I actually took this photo from the movie as a screenshot as they flew along the city scape. How can you smile while flying through the air 40-60 feet above the ground by wires?

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The carpet was also a character in this scene, but look at that smile through her veil. No wonder Julanne Johnston was considered a great actress. Doug (the Thief) is magnificent in that cape---oh how I wanted to know the colors of this scene. I imagined the carpet in reds, her in blues and him...I had no idea.

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In 1924 there was no such thing as color film, but there was color printing---and this cardboard cutout for the theatre was done in gorgeous color. This is where I took my inspirations from. Everything revolved around that cape.

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Here's the couple before they take off and make their get-away on the carpet. 

Gold crushed velvet for his shirt-and of course the trademark Fairbanks bare chest...and that grin. She's young and adorable and dripping with jewels on shiny fabrics.

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They zoom up a staircase with the carpet's fringe waving in the air...this maybe a bit tricky.

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I have two of these girls, and I chose the one with longer hair---which I could not make curl for anything. But it was long and dark and flowing and she had an open mouth smile. She's a TNT I put on a MTM body.

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 Here she is in black and white and in color! Her pantaloons are actually from some 'doll' genie outfit(thrift store find), not sure if it's Barbie or Disney. I duplicated the color for the top with turquoise covered in one layer of the gold sheer. Trims and accents were kept minimal with and some added jewelry.  I upped her coloration, ruby lips, and eye shadow and of course 1920's rouge. 
I used Golden Flow acrylics...very smooth and easy to use, I'm not sure at this point if it's removeable, more on that later if I ever decide to remove it.

I needed a jointed body on a male doll with an open mouth smile to catch Douglas Fairbanks personality.
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I actually have three of this guy with various hair treatments. I thought the face structure would work for Doug.

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Since I had the color picture of Doug---I enhanced the doll with pain, he's a Stephan doll that is jointed, I really needed Doug to be posable.  And of course those bright blue eyes---and a snub nose... a pretty good match for Douglas Fairbanks. Here he is in his bare-chested glory.

The red cape will be a post on it's own, at this point it was just a piece of red cloth waiting to be stenciled. Nothing like leaving the best for last!

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Another character was the Carpet that Flies. 

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From the movie, I saw the original was patterned carpet in some scenes. So, I searched for something colorful  with contrasts and definitely Persian. Printing the carpet on paper as large as I could go, roughly 8x10.5.. this ended up being the perfect size to support the dolls.

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Of course I MP'd this to some textured fabric and added two coats of MP on the top. At this point I'm into my second quart of Modge-Podge for the entire project. I trimmed the edges off, cut a piece of thin masonite to fit and glued it on over the fringe glued to the edge.

I drilled holes in the two front corners and the center back for wires and also holes to wire the dolls onto the 'flying' carpet. Tilted and posed the Thief and Princess do look like they are flying through the air (suspended from the wood panels on the sides and back behind the main tower! (By 10# fishing line with wire in it)

Now the supporting characters. 

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Who could believe Lynn Manuel Miranda as a Meanie Mongul Prince. 

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He had the best facial structure and coloring for the Evil Prince. I honestly don't know where I got the gold outfit, other than I think it was in a bag of thrift store doll clothes. Perfect for the Evil Prince...and the colors worked for the overall scheme. I added jewelry, gold leggings and a Mongol leather hat.

 Face painting on the doll was done with the Golden Flow paints again. I'm hoping it can be removed...but the doll is aged and made fearsome at this point. The character had many costumes in the movie and head pieces, I chose to simplify his look a bit for this one scene in his defeat.

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Next in Cast listings was the Evil Handmaiden

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My fingers weren't up to beading an entire costume---so I used a length of ribbon in silver gray tones and accented it with silver black fringe. Her hair piece was made from the same ribbon MP'd on to silver card stock, attached with glass head pins and a bobby-pin into the back of her knotted hair.

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She's a BMR 1959 doll with purple lips I redid in coral. I added more rouge and pouty cherry red lips of the 1920's. I will probably leave her lips as this, now.


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She also needed a guard to stand over her 'Meaness;.

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The four principals in the story in black and white. 

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The two guards were fashioned after this closeup from the movie.

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They are older Ken's, one a skater 

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and another Ken. They were fun to paint and design the costumes...tricky- the boots with the exaggerated toes.

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The breast plates are MP'd scrapbook paper, some shiny fabric around the waist and wrapped cone shaped turban hats. The Pantaloon pants are of black chintz scraps and  made from a Chelly-Wood altered pattern.

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Before painting, you can see they are pretty normal looking. I Added some shiny tape armbands and some wicked looking swords (shiny tape on cardstock) and you have a couple of threatening looking dudes to keep tabs on the evil Handmaiden and Mongol Prince.

While the movie was filled with hundreds of extras, I only had room for two, an old peddler and a woman to be amazed by the flying carpet.

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The Peddler is another Stephan doll, jointed, stuffed to look fatter and with a beard and costume in earthy tones. His wares are pieces of copper and aged brass on a striped carpet.

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A woman dressed in muted patterns of dark and textured fabric with a gold belt stands in the background.

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I chose to remove her face scarf, as she is waving to the Princess and Thief. She's a playline doll my son bought for $1 at a thrift store. 

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Can you imagine working on a movie like this?

I think I can...as I dream in fabrics, Modge Podge, and pints of paint.

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My Final display at the National Barbie Doll Collectors' Convention in Rosemont, Illinois. Entered in the "Scene from a Silent Movie". (I was the only entrant in the category, but received a First Place and a perfect score.) 

Thanks so much for you interest and may all your 
Magic Carpets and Dreams FLY!

My information sheet posted on the outside wall!

NOTE: Photos in this blog series from the actual movie and photos from the sets are from various movie sites: TCM, Books, Blog articles, Pinterest and the Internet in general. My apologies for not siting exact locations. I did research for months and simply stashed images and did not keep a record of the sources. Apologies to all sources, I will be happy to give credit. 

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2 comments:

  1. We can all tell lots of work and love went into this Sandi! Great job:@)

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    Replies
    1. Thanks again, Lynn. It was fun and well, now to clean the shop---the doll's are all screaming for attention!

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