Rio Rita

Overview

Rio Rita, an expensive filmization of the legendary Florenz Ziegfeld-produced Broadway musical of 1928, was the first major production for fledgling RKO Radio Studios. Bebe Daniels plays Rita, an Irish-Mexican girl with thick Hispanic accent who oversees a large ranch near the Mexican border. Rita's brother Don Alvorado is suspected of being "The Kinkajou," a notorious bandit. On the trail of the Kinkajou, an undercover Texas Ranger John Boles falls in love with Rita, much to the chagrin of a wealthy but despotic...
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Overview

Rio Rita, an expensive filmization of the legendary Florenz Ziegfeld-produced Broadway musical of 1928, was the first major production for fledgling RKO Radio Studios. Bebe Daniels plays Rita, an Irish-Mexican girl with thick Hispanic accent who oversees a large ranch near the Mexican border. Rita's brother Don Alvorado is suspected of being "The Kinkajou," a notorious bandit. On the trail of the Kinkajou, an undercover Texas Ranger John Boles falls in love with Rita, much to the chagrin of a wealthy but despotic landowner Georges Renavent. The villain arranges to make it appear that the Ranger is the Kinkajou, prompting Rita to consent to marriage with the cad in order to save her lover's life. The true identity of the Kinkajou is revealed at a lavish costume party, filmed in early Technicolor. Counterpointing the main plot are the antics of Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey, comic carryovers from the original Broadway show. Wheeler is in Mexico to arrange a quickie divorce so that he can marry his true love Dorothy Lee. Woolsey is Wheeler's shady lawyer, who learns too late that he can't make the divorce stick. Wheeler and Woolsey have some of the film's best moments, including a riotous drunk scene and a closing musical number wherein they slap one another as their girlfriends sing inanely into the camera. Rio Rita not only made oodles of money for RKO it was being regularly reissued throughout the 1930s, but it solidified the popularity of Wheeler and Woolsey, who'd become the studio's biggest comedy stars of the early 1930s. 1929's Rio Rita was withdrawn from circulation when MGM bought the rights for a 1942 remake, this one starring Abbott and Costello. Available only for museum screenings during the past five decades, Rio Rita has recently been released on videocassette, with its rare Technicolor sequence intact.
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Craig Butler
Although Hollywood in the early years was notorious for buying a hit Broadway musical and jettisoning most of the score for the film, Rio Rita, one of the earliest stage musical adaptations, is remarkably faithful. It's an odd hybrid of musical comedy and operetta (and not really successful as either), and it's undoubtedly creaky and primitive to modern audiences. Its stage origins are very clear, as there is not enough effort made to take the play's scenes and reconfigure them for the screen, although there is some location shooting that helps open up the piece. There are also some very disconcerting moments when the sound very clearly does not match what is being sung onscreen (as in "The Rangers' Song.") The script is so much nonsense, but the score is attractive. Most importantly, Bebe Daniels brings life, vitality and ingenuity to the film, carrying much of the picture all by herself; the woman clearly knows what kind of commitment is necessary to make a musical work. John Boles is less effective as her paramour, seeming frequently ill-at-ease. Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey will likely provoke differing reactions -- many will enjoy the chance to see legendary comedians like this at work, while others will find their humor dated if not occasionally offensive. Extravagantly produced, Rita is an interesting curio with a star performance that helps overcome its many weak spots.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 12/1/2009
  • UPC: 883316224816
  • Original Release: 1929
  • Rating:

  • Source: Warner Archives
  • Presentation: Pan & Scan
  • Time: 1:42:00
  • Format: DVD
  • Sales rank: 58,804

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Bebe Daniels Rita Ferguson
Sam Nelson McGinn
John Boles Capt. Jim Stewart
Fred Burns Wilkins
Bert Wheeler Chick Bean
Don Alvarado Roberto Ferguson
Robert Woolsey Lovett
Dorothy Lee Dolly
Georges Renavent Gen. Ravenoff/"Kinkajou"
Nick De Ruiz Padrone
Stanley "Tiny" Sandford Davalos
Sammy Blum Cafe Owner
Ben Corbett
Fred Scott Ranger
Technical Credits
Luther Reed Director, Screenwriter
Victor Baravalle Musical Direction/Supervision
William Le Baron Producer
Pearl Eaton Choreography
Willaim Hamilton Editor
Lloyd Knechtel Cinematographer
Robert Kurrle Cinematographer
Russell Mack Screenwriter
Max Ree Art Director, Costumes/Costume Designer
Max Steiner Score Composer
Harry Tierney Score Composer
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