Movie Break: That Night In Rio, A Pure Classic In Many Ways

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

Sandwiched roughly midway between a 25 year career in movies and television, the woman affectionately known as “The Brazilian Bombshell” shined in the 1940 Fox musical production of That Night in Rio.

The movie was a remake of the 1934 film, Folies Bergerewhich was made in Paris.  Also of note, this movie was a follow-up to the Latin inspired film, Down Argentine Way.

Carmen Miranda (1909-1955) played herself and proudly showed her acting prowess early and often.

With fellow stars as Alice Faye (1915-1998) as the long, lost lover Cecilia and Don Ameche (1908-1993) playing both roles of Larry Martin and aviation tycoon Baron Duarte.  One scene in particular inbetween his suave voice and daring intellect was about halfway through the film as an extended temporary wall was moving without hands.  Optical illusion for some, sure–but there were other funny moments in this film as well:

  • The traders were not acting like today’s traders in the stock market.  One gentleman waved constantly to The Baron standing on a balcony above, smiling the whole time as the banker was getting ready to write another check.  You don’t see that practice at all anymore, thanks to the world of smartphone technology and if any CEO’s still use faxes let alone emails to process multimillion dollar transactions.
  • The way The Baron’s eyes moved while Larry impersonated him in a music number.  That was pretty amazing to see.  Even the four ladies pretending to be secretaries of the era had their lines down perfectly.

Carmen also was a fast talker.  She could get anything she wanted, as long as she was convincing and asked for things the way she liked things to be handled.

And yes, those famed “tutti-frutti” hats that she wore on set became true staples in the fashion industry for decades.  In 1976, according to Wikipedia–a museum in her honor opened its’ doors on the 21st anniversary of her passing.  Most of her garments are on full display near Flamengo Park in Rio–but there are plans to move the collections to a bigger place in the future.

Carmen’s key singing and dancing numbers were on Track 2, her famous “Chica Chica Boom Chic” number along with “Cai-Cai” on Track 16 followed up seconds later by the clever lyrics of “I, Yi, Yi, Yi, Yi (I Like You Very Much).”  Note the movements with how she danced, along with the placement of her eyes.  Sometimes, Carmen could be deceiving, but in a slightly cunning and different way.  She even showed off her physical power as a woman not to miss with–smashing things and trashing nearly all of the Baron’s wardrobe inside his rather expansive closet.

But by the time both Barons straightened out their stock situation and their married lives with one final “oh, let’s forget this whole thing ever happened” routine, all was good again in Rio.

A nice, but short musical medley of every song played in the movie closed out the film.

The film was done at a very brisk and nice pace–not too fast, but the music numbers did not drag on and on like some musicals of the period.

Thankfully, Fox was able to restore the original 1941 B&W production with really excellent color imagery done in 2008.  One of the bonus features demonstrates side-by-side the major differences in both B&W and color restoration.  If you had purchased this movie in 1994, the color images of the background images would have appeared more faint.  But in this version, the whole movie set looked like it was shot in 1961 and not 1941.

The liner notes also talked about that in Carmen’s movie contract, her singing and dancing numbers were done in one take–no editing had to be done.

Other key bonus features included Alice Faye and Don Ameche dancing for over two minutes to the same Carmen Miranda performed at the beginning of the film (but note the very stark difference in color restoration–you can barely make out the water and the marble floors).  There is also a on-screen featurette highlighting Alice Faye’s career.

Carmen would later make a big name of herself in the United States, performing in many venues and also on early TV favorites such as appearing on four episodes of NBC’s Texaco Star Theater and appearing as a mystery guest on an episode of the classic game show, What’s My Line? dated November 18, 1951.

Sadly, after appearing on a 1955 episode of The Jimmy Durante Show, she slipped on stage and would die in her sleep after suffering a heart attack.  Similar to what would happen a few years later with Marilyn Monroe, Carmen Miranda was taken away from this world way too soon at the tender age of 46.

In 1995, Helena Solberg created a documentary culling together hundreds of hours of archival footage simply titled, Carmen Miranda:  Bananas is My Business.

As the original spokesperson for Chiquita bananas, it was no wonder why she had the persona, grace, and comic wit to charm many ladies and gentlemanly fans of that era.

The best way for me as a loyal Brazilian music fan and blogger would be for my loyal fans to simply savor a couple of special quotes said by Carmen herself:

“I have never followed what people say it is ‘fashionable’.  I think that a woman must wear what fits her.  That is why I created a style appropriated to my type and my artistical genre.”

That quote comes from the website,

“I say 20 words in English.  I say money, money, money, and I say hot dog!  I say yes, no and I say money, money, money and I say turkey sandwich and I say grape juice.”
The restored color version of this DVD is available online.  I give it four out of 5 stars as a very good musical number–albeit I am not much of a fan of the musical genre in general.  However, I found this movie to be really exciting and the storylines to be mostly believable–even though ladies usually get away with dressing up as similar people more often than guys in today’s culture.
No question about it, Carmen Miranda was a true mover and shaker in more ways than one.  Next time you are in Los Angeles, look for her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  She definitely earned her superstar status in such a short time, and that’s how I will remember her career.

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