Rio Rita (1929 film)

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Rio Rita
RioRita1929.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byLuther Reed
Produced byWilliam LeBaron
Florenz Ziegfeld Jr.
Written byLuther Reed
Based onthe play 
by Guy Bolton and
Frederick A. Thompson
StarringBebe Daniels
John Boles
Bert Wheeler
Robert Woolsey
Dorothy Lee
Music byMax Steiner
CinematographyRobert Kurrle
(Technicolor)
Editing byWilliam Hamilton
StudioRKO Radio Pictures
Distributed byRKO Radio Pictures
Release datesSeptember 15, 1929 (1929-09-15)
Running timeOriginally 140 min;
Surviving reissue print:
105 mins.
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$678,000[1]
Box office$2,400,000[1]
 
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Rio Rita
RioRita1929.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byLuther Reed
Produced byWilliam LeBaron
Florenz Ziegfeld Jr.
Written byLuther Reed
Based onthe play 
by Guy Bolton and
Frederick A. Thompson
StarringBebe Daniels
John Boles
Bert Wheeler
Robert Woolsey
Dorothy Lee
Music byMax Steiner
CinematographyRobert Kurrle
(Technicolor)
Editing byWilliam Hamilton
StudioRKO Radio Pictures
Distributed byRKO Radio Pictures
Release datesSeptember 15, 1929 (1929-09-15)
Running timeOriginally 140 min;
Surviving reissue print:
105 mins.
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$678,000[1]
Box office$2,400,000[1]

Rio Rita is a 1929 RKO Pictures musical comedy starring Bebe Daniels and John Boles along with the comedy team of Wheeler & Woolsey. The film is based on the 1927 stage musical produced by Florenz Ziegfeld, which originally united Wheeler and Woolsey as a team and made them famous. The film was the biggest and most expensive RKO production of 1929, but it was also the studio's biggest box office hit until King Kong (1933).[2] Its finale was photographed in two-color Technicolor. Rio Rita was chosen as one of the ten best films of 1929 by Film Daily.

Plot[edit]

Bert Wheeler plays a New York bootlegger who comes to the Mexican town of San Lucas to get a divorce so he can marry Dolly (Dorothy Lee). After the wedding, Wheeler's lawyer, Robert Woolsey, informs Wheeler the divorce was invalid, and advises Wheeler to stay away from his bride.

The Wheeler-Woolsey plot is actually a subplot of the film, which stars Bebe Daniels (in her first "talkie") as Rita Ferguson, a south-of-the-border beauty pursued by both Texas Ranger Jim Stewart (John Boles) and local warlord General Ravenoff (Georges Renavent). Ranger Jim is pursuing the notorious bandit Kinkajou along the Rio Grande, but is reluctant to openly accuse Rita's brother, Roberto (Don Alvarado), as the Kinkajou because he is in love with Rita.

Ravenoff successfully convinces Rita to spurn Ranger Jim on the pretext that Jim will arrest Roberto. Rita unhappily agrees to marry Ravenoff to prevent him from exposing Roberto as the Kinkajou. Meanwhile, Wheeler's first wife, Katie (Helen Kaiser), shows up to accuse him of bigamy, but conveniently falls in love with Woolsey.

At this point, the film switches into Technicolor. During the wedding ceremony aboard Ravenoff's private barge, Ranger Jim cuts the craft's ropes so that it drifts north of the Rio Grande. The Texas Rangers storm the barge, arrest Ravenoff as the real Kinkajou just in time to prevent the wedding, and Roberto is revealed to be a member of the Mexican Secret Service. Jim takes Rita's hand in marriage and Roberto escorts Ravenoff back to Mexico for trial.

Production notes[edit]

Release[edit]

Rio Rita was well-reviewed when it opened in theaters, and was a box office success. Photoplay praised it as nearly "the finest of the screen musicals," and that director Reed had done well well with a "difficult assignment."[4] Mardaunt Hall of the New York Times was more overtly disappointed in Reed: "(He) has contented himself in making virtually an audible animated photographic conception of the successful Ziegfeld show," and noted that Daniels, though capable, was "not up to the standard set by Ethlin Terry in the stage version." Hall was otherwise appreciative of the lavish, if thinly-plotted, production.[5]

Preservation[edit]

Five reels of the film are believed to be lost. The print currently circulating (105 minutes) is the re-release version from 1932, which was significantly cut down from the original length of fifteen reels down to only ten reels. This is the print that is currently being broadcast on cable by Turner Classic Movies, which is missing about forty minutes of footage. New York's Museum of Modern Art used to have a print of the original full-length version, but this print seems to have been lost or stolen from their archives. The entire soundtrack for the original film survives on Vitaphone disks. Both picture and sound for at least two musical numbers from the long version are also known to survive ("When You're In Love, You'll Waltz" and "The Kinkajou").

Principal Cast[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Richard Jewel, 'RKO Film Grosses: 1931-1951', Historical Journal of Film Radio and Television, Vol 14 No 1, 1994 p55
  2. ^ King, Susan (Dec 2, 2009). "Warner Archive Releases Early Musicals". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 3, 2009. 
  3. ^ Jewell, Richard B.; Harbin, Vernon (1982). The RKO Story. New York: Arlington House. p. 20. ISBN 0-517-546566. 
  4. ^ Kreuger, Miles ed. The Movie Musical from Vitaphone to 42nd Street as Reported in a Great Fan Magazine (New York: Dover Publications) p 93. ISBN 0-486-23154-2
  5. ^ Rio Rita review at nytimes.com Accessed 17 March 2014

External links[edit]