The Thief of Bagdad

This is the cue sheet for our score to The Thief of Bagdad, as commissioned by Bret Wood and released by Kino Video. The score was compiled by Rodney Sauer, assisted by Susan M. Hall. All of the pieces are in the public domain, but the compilation, the modifications to fit the film, and the recorded performances are copyright Mont Alto, ©2002.


There are several historical scores for The Thief of Bagdad, including Mortimer Wilson's specially-composed score for the New York premiere and the James Bradford "cue sheet" score. But these are by no means the only legitimate scores for the film. Local theater musicians were ultimately responsible for choosing the music for silent films shown in their theaters, so almost every theater had a different score. Perhaps a third of America's movie houses had orchestras, which ranged from three to 25 players. Most theaters would not have used Wilson's score, as they did not have the 100-piece orchestra required. Instead, they would have compiled their own scores from their own music libraries, possibly with the help of James Bradford's cue sheet.

A cue sheet is a list of scenes in a film, with a suggested piece of music for each scene, an approximate duration of the scene, and occasionally comments such as percussion effects to watch for. The cue sheet was sent to each theater several days ahead of the film, so that the music director could select music from his library before having seen the film if necessary. The cue sheet for The Thief of Bagdad is six pages long and contains 64 musical cues.

The Mont Alto score is based on themes recommended by the James Bradford cue sheet, but altered where the suggested piece was not available or where we felt that the story could be underscored more effectively by using different music. We did not treat the cue sheet's recommendations as sacrosanct, but that was never intended by the cue sheet compiler. As James Bradford himself stated on several of his later cue sheets:

A cue sheet's biggest weakness is its brevity. It suggests a piece to use, but doesn't tell the musician when to stop, or how to alter the piece to fit the film better. While Bradford's cue sheet contains 68 cues, Mont Alto's more detailed score uses 73 cues, some of which combine several different pieces, and many of the pieces are rearranged to fit the action better. The Mont Alto score therefore follows the film more closely than a strict reading of the Bradford cue sheet would.

All of the music in the Mont Alto score comes from collections once owned by silent film theater music directors, so although this particular compiled score is our own creation, all of the pieces were available and could have been heard with this film on its initial release.

For helping us unearth rare pieces we'd like to thank the American Music Research Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder, the University of California at Los Angeles, and the Lovejoy Library of Southern Illinois State University. For more information on compiled scores for silent films, please visit Mont Alto's web site at


Note that the first cue on James Bradford's cue sheet is for 2 and 3/4 minutes of "Personnel of Direction, etc." titles that apparently preceded the main title (which is the second cue on the sheet). According to the note below cue 1, these titles did not appear on all prints of the film. For instance, it is missing from the print used for this video release. I suspect it may have originally appeared only at deluxe premiere screenings and not in general release prints.

1. At Screening
a. Azora: Prelude to Act III (Henry Hadley)
b. Priere Hindoue (Irenee Berge).
We could not find Balhama, the music that Bradford recommended for opening the film. So we used two themes that will come up later — the Azora fanfare, used when the princess announces the quest, and Priere Hindoue, which we use as a love theme and storytelling theme throughout the score.

2. "A street in Bagdad"
Arabian Serenade (Otto Langey)
Bradford calls for Balhama again, and it's obvious from his excerpt that a busy-sounding oriental piece is what is wanted. We encountered this many-layered piece while scoring Blood and Sand, and it seemed perfect to use here for the busy streets of Bagdad.

3. Close-up of thief with money
Carnival March of the Gnomes (Wm. Schroeder)
This quirky little march—starting with a five-beat phrase over a four-beat time signature— is labelled "Thief Theme" in the cue sheet, and it recurs five times. The very unpredictable phrasing describes the thief quite nicely. Bradford brings the theme back towards the end of the film (at the title "Out of the Clouds"), but we resisted—partly because by that point in the film we wanted more intense music, and partly because the thief has reformed by then and his thieving days are behind him.

4. "The magic basket"
The Caravan #102 (Gaston Borch)
The original cue sheet calls for a beautiful, hypnotic piece called "Orientale" by Nicolas Amani, but that piece seemed too subdued for this lively magic act, and is also doesn't match the energetic way that the on-screen instrument is being played. We used the Amani piece instead at cue 45 for the Indian Prince's adventure with the giant statue. Gaston Borch was a French-born composer and a student of Jules Massenet who wrote an extensive collection of photoplay music.

5. Priest waves hands
Sunrise and Incantation (Gaston Borch)

6. Douglas grabs rope
Carnival march of the Gnomes (Wm. Schroeder)

7. Change of scene to Mosque
Hindoo Song (H. Bemberg)
Bradford uses this piece only here, but I thought it was a powerful theme for the Holy Man's gentle and sympathetic teachings, so we also used it several times later in our score when the Holy Man takes part in the action.

8. Huge Drum
La Rancon du Bonheur (Gabriel-Marie)
This piece is an overture consisting of several parts. I initially used the exciting agitato as a "whipping" theme (a thief is whipped here, and Douglas Fairbanks himself is whipped in cue 31), but it proved useful in several other scenes as well. Besides this opening agitato, the slow section of this overture was useful for the cavern of enchanted trees, and the jubilant finale was useful for the flying horse and for the film's ending.

9. Douglas looking at jewel
Bayadere (Gaston Borch)

10. "In far eastern Asia . . ."
Patrol of the Boxers (Irenee Berge)
This scene is treated as a continuation of the previous scene by Bradford, but later he introduces this ominous march as the "Mongol Theme." It works well, so we added it here too, where the emporer is introduced. Irenee Berge was another French-born student of Jules Massenet, who emigrated to the United States. He wrote many photoplay music pieces, as well as concert suites on oriental themes.

11. "Open wide the gates of Bagdad"
Cortege du Serdare (M. Ippolitow-Iwanow)
Another suggestion of Bradford's that works perfectly.

12. Cityscape
Antar part I (Rimsky-Korsakov)
Bradford uses the same piece, but later at the "Beasts and scimitars guard the palace" title. It seemed a shame to have the pompous march of cue 11 continuing under the pretty effect of the transition from day to night, so we start this piece earlier.

13. Thief picks up jewels
Priere Hindoue (Irenee Berge)
We decided to introduce this lovely oriental piece by French composer Irenee Berge as a love theme, as it is less well known, and we could quote it in smaller "bits" than the longer, less flexible Scheherezade movement that Bradford suggests as a love theme.

14. Thief pulls back from Princess
Antar part II (Rimsky-Korsakov)

15. Knife touches maid
Indian Misterioso (Sol P. Levy)
Levy was a prolific photoplay music composer, and one of the founders of Belwin music.

16. Maid screams
Carnival March of the Gnomes (Wm. Schroeder)

17. "The melody of the oriental night. . ."
The Young Prince and the Young Princess, (Rimsky-Korsakov)
Bradford suggests this piece as a love theme but only uses it three times — first here, then when the disguised thief climbs the princess' balcony, and again when the storyteller appears at the end of the film. This music has become so familiar to listeners that we worried it would distract from the film, and so we only use it this once—it is, after all, a beautiful piece, and the slow-fast-slow structure happens to line up nicely with the thief meditating, then striding through the city, then stopping to look at the princess from his perch.

18. Princess sits down
Priere Hindoue (Irene Berge)

19. Giant drum
March of the Gnomes, from Christmas Tree Suite (Vladimir Ribikov)

20. Persian Prince's camel.
Patrol Oriental (Kiefert)

21. "Chan Shang the great"
Patrol of the Boxers (Berge)

22. "Ahmed, Prince of the Islands"
Carnival March of the Gnomes (Wm. Schroeder)

23. Mongol Emporer with rose tree
Yaksha Dance (Irenee Berge)
Bradford continues with the "Carnival March of the Gnomes" until the following scene, but that piece doesn't seem to fit the bucking horse and the veiled threats of the Mongol emporer. Although the published subtitle of this piece is "Dance of the Hindu Gnomes," informed sources tell us that the Yaksha is a more of a vampire than a gnome.

24. Douglas below balcony
Antar part 1 (Rimsky-Korsakov)
Bradford uses his Scheherezade love theme for the entire sequence up to cue 27. We felt there was a significant difference between the beginning — where the thief fully intends to drug and abduct the princess — and the ending, when he decides that he loves her and will not treat her so disrespectfully. So we save the love theme until after Douglas kisses the princess' hand. It is almost uncanny how well Antar tracks the back-and-forth actions of this scene, considering that we made almost no cuts or rearrangements to help it line up. Sometimes a score compiler lucks out!

25 Douglas kisses princess' hand
Priere Hindoue (Irene Berge)

26. Servants in archway
Le Coq D'Or: Theme of the King (Rimsky-Korsakov)

27. Mongol Prince at screen with slave
Le Coq D'Or: Opening Theme (Rimsky-Korsakov)
Another of Bradford's excellent suggestions, this sliding chromatic/diminished chord figure gives a lovely oiliness to the peeping-Tom activities of the emporer. We also added this piece after the emporer captures Bagdad and finally gets to handle the princess up close.

28 "In the throne room"
March and Procession of Bacchus (Delibes)
Bradford recommends this piece, and it works quite nicely. Notice how the close-up of the Mongol emporer appears just as the music gives some odd tritone fanfares.

29. Anna Mae Wong enters
Antar part II (Rimsky-Korsakov)

30. Cut to banquet hall
Antar part III (Rimsky-Korsakov)

31. Cut to Banquet hall again
La Rancon de Bonheur (Gabriel-Marie)

32. Ape keepers
Elegie (G. Lubomirsky)

33. Sultan and Princess
Azora (Henry Hadley)

34. "Morning"
Nocturne (Ignace Krzyzanowski)

35. Douglas in mosque
Hindoo Song (H. Bemberg)

36. Procession leaving gate
Patrol of the Boxers (Berge)

37. Douglas with priest
Prière Hindoue (Berge)

38. "A day's journey from Bagdad"
Fete Arabe (Irenee Berge)

39. "The hermit of the defile"
Le Coq D'Or (Rimsky-Korsakov)

40. "In Bagdad—the pavilion of the princess"
Hindoo Song (Bemberg).
Bradford's suggestion -- Korsakov's "Song of India" -- seemed too familiar for a minor scene. The earlier mosque music seemed much more appropriate.

41. "The first moon"
The Dance of the Harpies (Henry Hadley)
Bradford wanted plenty of Wagner for Douglas's adventures, but I find familiar classics are often distracting. And besides, there are so many exciting but unknown pieces available, like this lively dance from Henry Hadley's pageant The Atonement of Pan, originally composed for the secretive Bohemian Grove in 1912.

42. "The second moon"
Three Arabian Dances—Bedouin (Montague Ring)
Montague Ring was the pseudonym of Amanda Ira Aldridge (1867-1956), the daughter of a Black American Shakespearean actor and Countess Amanda von Brandt of Sweden. She lived in Britain and composed several suites of light music, and also was a voice teacher whose students included Marian Anderson and Paul Robeson.

43. "The third moon"
La Rançon du Bonheur (Gabriel-Marie)

44. Giant bat
La Rançon du Bonheur (Gabriel-Marie)

45. "The fourth moon"
Oriental (Nicolas Amani)
Bradford originally called for a largo maestoso from Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherezade. But the eeriness of this scene, perhaps affected by the senseless destruction in 2001 of the real-life statue of Buddha that served as a model for this fantasy one, seemed to call for a more meditative approach.

46. "The fifth moon"
Scheherezade (Rimsky-Korsakov)
Bradford used one piece of music (Mendelssohn's Fingal's Cave) for this entire sequence (up to cue 51). But we couldn't ignore the extreme changes from a stormy sea to a calm sea floor, a battle with a creepy underwater crustacean, and the defeat of a bevy of enticing mermaids by the thief's love token, so we divided it into five separate cues.

47. Douglas floating to the bottom
A Cryptic Sea Tale, from Peleas and Melisande (Sibelius)

48. Douglas reacts to offscreen mermaids
Oriental (Nicolas Amani)

49. Close up of ring
Priere Hindoue (Irenee Berge).

50. Back to the sea floor.
Scheherezade (Rimsky-Korsakov)

51 "The abode of the wingèd horse"
La Rançon du Bonheur (Gabriel-Marie)

52. "The sixth moon"
Ballet Suite #4 Orientale (Armand-Vesey)

53. Magician presses on rock
Chinese-Japanese (Otto Langey)

54. Fisherman runs away
Patrol of the Boxers (Irenee Berge).

55. "The Citadel of the Moon"
Antar part I (Rimsky-Korsakov)

56. "The end of the sixth moon."
Chinese Japanese (Otto Langey)

57. "A day's journey from Bagdad"
Fête Arabe (Irenee Berge).

58. Prince waves hand over crystal ball.
Chinese Japanese (Otto Langey)

59. "Spread the magic carpet!"
Yaksha Dance (Irenee Berge).

60. "The learned doctor"
Azora Prelude Act II (Henry Hadley)

61. Hermit's hut.
Orientale (Herbert Haines).

62. Princess gives apple to dad.
Azora Prelude Act II (Henry Hadley)

64. "Through the night"
Patrol of the Boxers (Irenee Berge)
It seemed odd to me that Bradford did not bring back the Mongol Theme during the emporer's triumph, so we added it here. Once the panic starts in the population, we shift to something more active.

65. "The mongols are taking the city!"
Agitato con Moto (Gaston Borch).

66. "The courier of the dawn"
Le Coq D'Or (Rimsky Korsikow).

68. Douglas at oasis
(a) Agitato con Moto (Gaston Borch).
(b) La Rancon du Bonheur (Gabriel-Marie)

69 "Open wide the gates of Bagdad!"
The Furious Mob (Zamecnik).
I agree with Bradford that this is the perfect piece for the thief's recapture of the city. But he starts it much earlier, at the title "Bagdad is in the hands of the Mongols!" with the result that the cheerful march in the middle underscores the Mongol general's threats about boiling people in oil. By starting here, the more celebratory music comes at an appropriate spot in the film, after the enemy is on the defensive.

70. Mongol maid stops executioner.
Antar part II (Rimsky-Korsakov).

71 Douglas covered with invisibility cloak.
The Furious Mob (Zamecnik).

72. Douglas picks up princess
(a) Priere Hindoue (Irenee Berge).
(b) The Furious Mob (Zamecnik).

73. Carpet takes off.
La Rancon du Bonheur (Gabriel-Marie)