Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Tonight's Movie: That Night In Rio (1941)

This seems to be a week for watching movies from 20th Century-Fox! Tonight I followed CONEY ISLAND, CARNIVAL IN COSTA RICA, and THE LUCK OF THE IRISH with the entertaining musical THAT NIGHT IN RIO, starring Don Ameche, Alice Faye, and Carmen Miranda.

THAT NIGHT IN RIO is in the tradition of other colorful Fox south-of-the-border musicals such as DOWN ARGENTINE WAY (1940) and WEEK-END IN HAVANA (1941). These exotic settings were popular during the early '40s -- and on into the late '40s, as evidenced by 1947's CARNIVAL IN COSTA RICA -- as an escape from anything to do with Europe and the war, and the films also aided our country's "Good Neighbor Policy" seeking to improve our relationship with Latin America. The original New York Times review remarks on the film being part of Hollywood's "campaign to woo Latin America."

Of course, the movies were still filmed on soundstages, sometimes incorporating location stock footage -- though I don't remember them even bothering to do that much for THAT NIGHT IN RIO -- but thanks to the unique Carmen Miranda, gorgeous costumes, and the music, these musicals still managed to convey great Latin atmosphere, albeit very generic and "Hollywoodized." They are basically escapist '40s fantasies, creating a world which might not have really existed but which is tremendously fun to visit.

The plot of THAT NIGHT IN RIO concerns Larry, a nightclub entertainer in Rio (Don Ameche) who is a dead ringer for an aristocratic businessman, Baron Duarte (also Don Ameche). Larry has a temperamental girlfriend (Carmen Miranda), while the Baron has a distant relationship with his beautiful wife Cecilia (Alice Faye).

Circumstances lead to Larry temporarily pretending to be the Baron, and this being a Hollywood musical, he is able to resolve the Baron's business troubles and help the Baron and Cecilia fall in love again.

The film is a lot of fun, and has some good Warren-Gordon numbers, including Miranda's "Chica Chica Boom Chic" and "I-Yi-Yi-Yi-Yi I Like You Very Much." (The dances were staged by Hermes Pan.) My favorite song was the haunting title melody, dueted by Ameche and Faye.

Faye looks particularly gorgeous in this film, wearing gowns by Travis Banton. When she sings the sultry title song, she wears a fur-lined cape and hood, and is seen in beautiful close-ups showing off her blonde curls and blue eyes; W. Franklyn Moshier writes in THE ALICE FAYE MOVIE BOOK that this was Faye's second Technicolor film and "...audiences still fondly recall her first entrance wearing the pale blue evening gown with its hood trimmed in sumptuous fur." Later, during a dance sequence, Faye wears an eye-popping, skin-tight gold lame dress.

The film was the sixth and final teaming of Faye and Ameche. Ameche has a good time playing two different roles, and Carmen Miranda is, well, Carmen Miranda!

The supporting cast includes S.Z. Sakall, J. Carrol Naish, Curt Bois, Leonid Kinskey, Lillian Porter, and Maria Montez.

THAT NIGHT IN RIO is a remake of FOLIES BERGERE (1936), which starred Maurice Chevalier, and it was later remade with Danny Kaye and Gene Tierney as ON THE RIVIERA (1951).

THAT NIGHT IN RIO was directed by Irving Cummings. It was photographed by two great Technicolor masters, Leon Shamroy and Ray Rennahan. The film runs 91 minutes.

THAT NIGHT IN RIO is part of Volume One of the Alice Faye Collection. It's also available as a single-title DVD release. The DVD also contains a Faye-Ameche rendition of "Chica Chica Boom Chic" which was cut from the release print.

This film can also be seen periodically on Fox Movie Channel.


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