A Cigarette and a Glass


Director: Niazi Mostafa
Year: 1955
Rating: 7.5
Country: Egypt

One nation's historical cinema that has never received much attention in the West is the Egyptian film industry and in particular from the era that is considered their Golden Age - the 1940's to the 1960's. There just don't seem to be many of these films that are available with English subtitles which is a shame because the ones I have seen are quite wonderful. That was obviously a very different time than today - the films felt modern and classical and a little bit liberated with women drinking, smoking and loving and many of them were musicals with great performances often taking place in smoky nightclubs. They have a resemblance to Bollywood films from that period though the musical numbers are not nearly as elaborate.

This film is a mixture of music, melodrama and comedy that never quite jells but is lifted constantly by the performances of three female artists - Samia Gamal, one of Egypt's great belly dancers, Kouka who was born in Sudan but moved to Egypt to become a singer and the very famous Dalida, who had won Miss Egypt the year before. In this film Dalida is just at the beginning of her career and plays a sultry nurse after another woman's husband. At one point in the film she is at a cocktail party in a lovely evening gown and sits down at the piano and first breaks into song and then does a seductive come-on. She later went on to a tremendous singing career in the West.

I expect this would be considered a weepy woman's melodrama as the Cairo It Girl and cabaret singer Houda (Gamal) gives up her career to marry a young but poor doctor. Love is everywhere. For a while. She has a baby and begins to get a little bored - and her husband is spending a lot of time at work with a nurse clearly on the make. Depressed she starts drinking and doesn't believe her husband is being faithful - and so drinks more - and it all comes crashing down.