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Wheeler & Woolsey - Together Again For The First Time
Like a river in the parched desert, so the lovely señorita known as RIO RITA brings joy to all who know her. But with her brother being chased as a bandit, unwelcome attentions from a brutal Russian general & a new lover who refuses to divulge his true identity, pretty Rita has plenty of problems to distract her.
Florenz Ziegfeld's smash Broadway hit was brought to the screen in this very early movie musical. At times it wheezes quite badly and shows its age. The transitions into the songs look very stagy & artificial. Many of the lyrics, especially sung by the female cast, are completely indecipherable.
But it should be remembered that movie musicals were still in their cradle and the studios only had stage traditions to draw upon at first. So the few innovations showcased here are welcome. Some of the dance numbers are pleasingly elaborate, even including a primitive overhead shot. Occasional outdoor photography helps open up the screenplay, and the early Technicolor featured in the last half hour is a big bonus.
Bebe Daniels & John Boles play the romantic leads. She is saddled with a thick accent & ludicrous script. He appears somewhat awkward & ill at ease. Much better film roles would await them both in years to come.
The real highlight of RIO RITA is the film debut of the wonderful comedy team of Wheeler & Woolsey, who had appeared in the Broadway version. Here, although somewhat gynandroid, they cement what will be their screen personas through 26 films together. Bert Wheeler (1895-1968) plays a young, naive romantic. Robert Woolsey (1888-1938) portrays a shiftless, cigar-puffing conniver. Together, they would make a hilarious comedy team, their partnership only being sundered by Woolsey's untimely death. Today they are all but forgotten.
It is only fitting that pert little Dorothy Lee (1911-1999), Wheeler's perennial love interest, should make the first of her 14 film appearances with the Boys here. This Kewpie-doll-cute actress would become an integral part of the Boys' cinematic success, as well as a constant delight for viewers.
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