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Although considered a minor musical in its time, Nancy Goes to Rio (1950)marked important transitions for three of the musical genre's mostmemorable stars. For Jane Powell, it was the last of the juvenile rolesthat had built her popularity at MGM. For Ann Sothern and Latin sensationCarmen Miranda, it marked an end to their associations with thestudio.
Powell had signed with MGM in 1944 at the age of 15 after impressing talentscouts with her surprisingly mature soprano voice on the radio. After twoyears of loan-outs to other studios, she was handed to producer JoePasternak, who had made a star of child soprano Deanna Durbin at UniversalPictures. Durbin had originally been under contract at MGM, but the studiohad released her, only to see her save Universal from bankruptcy in thelate '30s. From that point, studio executives at Metro had been consumedwith finding a Durbin of their own, and Powell fit the bill perfectly.They even bought remake rights to some of Durbin's hits. That CertainAge (1938) became Powell's first MGM picture, renamed Holiday inMexico (1946), followed by a remake of Three Smart Girls (1936)as Three Daring Daughters (1948). In 1950, they remade It's aDate (1940) -- about an aspiring actress who finds herself competingwith her mother (Sothern) for the same role and the same man (BarrySullivan) -- as Nancy Goes to Rio. Complicating matters was thefalse suspicion that Powell's character was pregnant, a bow to the factthat MGM's little singing star was growing up.
She was growing up off-screen, too. She had married former ice skaterGeary Anthony Steffen II a year earlier, and would have her first child in1951. She underwent another rite of passage during rehearsals, when sheraised her arms during a dance number, and choreographer Nick Castlerealized that she had never been told to shave under her arms. Powellwould later write in her memoirs (The Girl Next Door...and How SheGrew) that her mother had never really explained adult life to her.Castle took her aside and explained that it was time she started shavingher legs and under her arms. MGM would finally admit that Powell was anadult with her next film, Two Weeks With Love (1950), in which sheshared billing with her first grown-up romantic interest, RicardoMontalban.
For Sothern, Nancy Goes to Rio marked the end of her longassociation with MGM. Although she had appeared in a few of their filmswhile under contract to other studios, Metro had finally signed her in 1939to play the title role in Maisie, a comic adventure written for thelate Jean Harlow. Sothern starred in six more Maisie films, all ofthem low budget, though they actually were more popular than many of thestudio's A pictures. She also toplined some major films there, includingthe musicals Lady Be Good (1941) and Panama Hattie (1942),though bad luck and bad timing kept her out of some roles that could havethrust her into the studio's top ranks. She finished her contract withUndercover Maisie in 1947. Nancy Goes to Rio would mark herlast appearance at the studio and her final big-screen musical beforefinally hitting the big time with the television series PrivateSecretary in 1953.
Nancy Goes to Rio marked the end of Miranda's tenure at MGM, too,though she had only been with the studio for two films. She had spent mostof her U.S. film career at 20th Century-Fox, helping the studio develop alarge audience in Latin America to replace the European markets lost in the'40s because of World War II. When the war ended, however, Hollywood'sfascination with all things Latin began to decline, and Miranda found herimage as the "Brazilian Bombshell" limited her screen possibilities, eventhough she had been the highest paid entertainer of the '40s. She signedwith MGM for the Powell musical A Date With Judy (1948), in whichher tempestuous comedic presence and exotic musical numbers provided a perfectcontrast to Powell's more homespun charms. For her second MGM picture, shewas just about the only authentic thing about the film's Rio de Janeirosetting. The picture never left the backlot, where most of the landmarkswere painted backdrops. When the film was released, Brazilian audiencescouldn't miss the fact that such well-known landmarks as Sugar Loaf and theCorcovado Mountain were shown almost side by side, even though they'remiles apart in reality. Miranda's big number was the traditional song"Caroon Pa Pa," for which costume designer Helen Rose replaced the fruitthe singing star usually wore in her famous "tutti frutti" hats with tinyumbrellas. Despite getting some of the film's strongest reviews, Mirandahad no future projects at MGM. She would only make one more film, the DeanMartin-Jerry Lewis comedy Scared Stiff (1953), before her suddendeath from a heart attack in 1955.
Producer: Joe Pasternak
Director: Robert Z. Leonard
Screenplay: Sidney Sheldon
Based on a story by Jane Hall, Frederick Kohner & Ralph Block
Cinematography: Ray June
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Jack Martin SmithMusic: George Stoll, Ray Gilbert
Principal Cast: Jane Powell (Nancy Barklay), Ann Sothern (Frances Elliott),Barry Sullivan (Paul Berten), Carmen Miranda (Marina Rodriguez), LouisCalhern (Gregory Elliott), Scotty Beckett (Scotty Sheldon), Hans Conried(Alfredo), Frank Fontaine (Masher).
C-100m. Closed Captioning.
by Frank Miller