Love & Romance
Stories from Baalbeck Studios
July 11, 2020

The sleeves of the 95 folders of film productions Baalbeck Studios was involved in reflect the influence of the repertoire of Arabic romantic songs, interspersed with political causes – and the hippie culture.

The rich lexicon that appears repeatedly in Arab songs, the prevalence of "heart," "hope," "heart’s eyes," moon," "soul," and "sun," to name a few, spilled over onto the silver screen where musical comedies shot in Egypt and Lebanon, especially Mohamed Selman's, were hugely popular from the 1940s on. On the shelves of the Baalbeck Studios administration, the romance found itself mixed up with political struggles, such as Rida Myasser's "Al Filisteen al-Thaer" and the enduring spirit of the ideals of the 1967 Summer of Love.

On the hand-written sleeves of the folders dedicated to film productions starting in the early 60s that UMAM D&R salvaged from Baalbeck Studios, the word that indeed dominates is "hob" (love); it’s featured a total of 12 times. There is "Ya salam al hob," another Salman title, which was a big hit as was his 1962 film "Marhaba Ayuhal Al Hob" and "Al-Hob al Da’eh," stored between "Al-Ajrass Wal Hob" and Henri Barakat’s "Al Hob Al-Kabir" (1969), starring Faten Hamama and Farid el-Atrash, who also stars in Atef Salem's 1973 film "Zaman al Hob." Albert Naguib’s film "Ayna Hobi," in which Fahd Ballan and Mariam Fakhreddine shared the screen was released in 1968, three years after another Selman film, "Be Amr el Hob."

Whereas Selman's "Baris wal hob," with Sabah in the lead, refers to the capital of love, "Cher Amour" and "Casino des Filles" borrow the most romantic language to seduce local Francophile audiences. The folder labelled "Five Virgins" gives insight into the efforts of an American producer who tried – in vain – to produce a film with Baalbeck Studios in Lebanon.

George Lautner, who came to Lebanon to film "La Grande Sauterelle," a Eurospy-hippie hybrid film shot at various iconic locations, is Baalbeck Studios' one and only co-production with Gaumont, immortalized by Mireille Darc. Financially, it was a disaster…

Released in the wake of the hippie wave, in 1973, the Syrian comedy "My Wife is a Hippie" stars the popular Dureid Lahham. Samir al Ghoussayni's notorious "Cats of Hamra Street" was released two years later and has achieved a bit of a cult status.

A decade later, things were less certain, as the Bendaly family's famous hit wonders "Do You Love Me" and the political films of the late 60s and 70s shifted to action (and survival) mode in the 80s.