Casting Call

August 22, 1953 — Richmond Times-Dispatch

The Mossadegh Project | January 27, 2022                    

The 1953 coup in Iran

A droll editorial on the coup in Iran in The Richmond Times-Dispatch newspaper (Virginia), with their casting choices for a Hollywood style dramatization.

‘Thousand-and-One Nights’ Drama In Modern Dress

IF it were possible to forget its serious take on the fabulous fantasy of a tale from ‘A Thousand and One Nights’ in modern dress. The plot (still thickening) the characters the events to date — are made to order for light opera. All that is needed is the combined talent of a Gilbert and a Sullivan. They alone could do justice to the piece.

For a cast, we would suggest SCHNOZ-EOLA DURANTE [Jimmy Durante] as the harsh but tearful despot MOSSADEGH; [Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh] handsome GORDON McCREA as the SHAH; [Mohammad Reza Pahlavi] CYD CHARISSE as beauteous QUEEN SAROYA; [sic—Soraya Esfandiari Bakhtiari] and BEATRICE LILLIE in the role of PRINCESS ASHRAF, “the strong-willed twin sister of the Shah” (She would wear tartan slacks of course and king-size hornrimmed sunglasses). [Ashraf Pahlavi]

The plot and counterplot of the play that has riveted the attention of a worldwide audience during the last fortnight needs no revision. First the royalist plot to topple old Mossy from his sickbed throne. It backfires (shouts and cries of Mossy’s mob offstage). The airborne flight of the young monarch and bride to fabled Baghdad where Mossy’s ambassador with the incredibly appropriate name of Mudhaffer Alaam gives his erstwhile monarch the cold shoulder and fishy eye.

The unknown whereabouts of shrewd tough General Zahedi. [Cesar Romero as Fazlollah Zahedi?] The calm before the storm in the bazaars of Tehran. Then General Z gives the signal that unleashes the successful royalist coup d’etat (sounds of street fighting and cries of “long live the Shah” offstage). Next the climactic (?) scene which a news dispatch described tersely: Mossadegh clad only in pink pajamas limped into Zahedi’s office leaning on a cane. The Shah’s Premier leaped from his chair and walked toward Mossadegh with outstretched hand. “Peace be with you” said Zahedi . “And with you be peace”, weakly replied the 76-year-old Mossadegh. [age 71]

In the meantime with the air age aiding time-unity of the play the young Shah leaving his Queen in Rome arrives by plane in Baghdad. There old Mudhaffer Alaam waits with the gladhand — but is given the royal brushoff making his name Mud for short.

Has Mossy come to the end of his rope? Does he still have an ace up the sleeve of the pink pajamas? Will the back country tribesmen loyal to the tearstained dictator and goaded by Malenkov’s Tudeh leaders descend upon the capital to turn the tables once again? [Russian Premier Georgy Malenkov] You will find the next installment in a still-to-be-written chapter of history.

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Related links:

Things Move Fast | Daily Press (St. Marys, PA), August 22, 1953

Corruption in the Zahedi Government | CIA Report, June 14, 1954

Whither Iran? | Detroit Free Press, August 21, 1953

MOSSADEGH t-shirts — “If I sit silently, I have sinned”

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