When a traveling vaudeville show becomes stranded in the Middle East, their singer, Hazel Moon (Marilyn Maxwell), takes a job at a local cafe. Two of the show's prop men, Peter Johnson (Bud Abbott) and Harvey Garvey (Lou Costello), are hired as comedy relief, but their act unfortunately initiates a brawl. The two men, along with Hazel, wind up in jail (where Abbott and Costello perform the famous "Slowly I Turned" routine with a crazy derelict [Murray Leonard] with Pokomoko as the trigger word). They encounter Prince Ramo (John Conte), a sheik, who offers to help them escape if they agree to help him regain the throne that his Uncle Nimativ (Douglass Dumbrille) had usurped with the aid of two hypnotic rings.
After escaping jail, Peter and Harvey join Ramo and his desert riders and hatch a plan to have Hazel seduce Nimativ, as he is quite vulnerable to blondes. Once Nimativ is distracted, Peter and Harvey plan to retrieve the hypnotic rings to facilitate Ramo's reclamation of the throne.
Peter and Harvey enter the capital city, posing as Hollywood talent scouts, and meet up with Nimativ. He is quickly enamored with Hazel and manages to hypnotize Peter and Harvey, who then reveal their plans. They are imprisoned (and encounter once again the derelict, who this time lives through vivid imaginations with clear sound effects from a door, a piano and a broken glass), while Hazel is hypnotized into being one of Nimativ's wives. After Ramo helps the boys escape, they enlist the aid of Teema (Lottie Harrison), Nimativ's first wife, by promising her a movie career. Harvey then disguises himself as Teema, while Peter dresses up as Nimativ. They manage to steal the rings during a large celebration and turn the rings against Nimativ, who abdicates the throne. Ramo again becomes ruler, with Hazel as his wife, and the boys return to the United States with the derelict as the driver.Bud Abbott as Peter Johnson
Lou Costello as Harvey Garvey
Marilyn Maxwell as Hazel Moon
John Conte as Prince Ramo
Douglass Dumbrille as Nimativ
Lottie Harrison as Teema
Lock Martin as Bobo (as J. Lockard Martin)
Murray Leonard as The Derelict
Adia Kuznetzoff as Chief Ghamu
Milton Parsons as Crystal Gazer
Ralph Sanford as Mr. Ormulu
Jimmy Dorsey and His Orchestra as Themselves
Lost in a Harem was filmed from March 22 through June 3, 1944, mainly using leftover sets from the 1944 production of Kismet.
Despite the fact that this motion picture was filmed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer before In Society for Universal Pictures, it was released at a later date. It is also the second of three films that Abbott and Costello made on loan to MGM while under contract to Universal, the other two being Rio Rita and Abbott and Costello in Hollywood.
Jimmy Dorsey and his orchestra perform several musical numbers, the first of which backs Maxwell singing What Does It Take early in the film.
Douglass Dumbrille's character's name, "Nimativ", is "vitamin" spelled backwards.This film was banned in Morocco, and Syria required that it be edited before it could be shown there.
In this film, Abbott and Costello perform the famous "Slowly I Turned" routine with Murray Leonard. Here the trigger word is Pokomoko.
In this film, Abbott and Costello also perform their routine from episode 6 of The Abbott and Costello Show, "invisible friend". The invisible friend's name in this film is Mike.
Warner Bros. released the film on DVD, along with Abbott and Costello in Hollywood, as a double feature-disc on November 21, 2006.