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Awkward Mix
dougdoepke2 January 2013
Lesser A&C romp. The boys are in Mexico, where they get mixed up with Nazi agents.

This was the boys first production at MGM and frankly it looks like the big-budget studio wasn't sure how to duplicate the team's surging success over at Universal. That whirling car- lift is a heck of an effect, but is more impressive than funny. Then too, operatic singer Kathryn Grayson seems an odd choice for musical interludes in a knock-about comedy. In fact, it's a more high-profile supporting cast than usual, with John Carroll (Ricardo) getting as much screen time as A&C.

There are, of course, some amusing bits as could be expected from the duo (mainly the puns), but the Nazi part is left sketchy without the menace it should have provided Costello's brand of comedy. This also looks like a try-out for the Volusia dancers. Their costumes are eye-catchers, but this is their only movie credit. Of the three MGM productions (Lost in a Harem, {1944}), and (A&C in Hollywood, {1945}), this one in my view is the least. All in all, they really did belong at low-budget Universal where there was less concern with prestige.
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Bud and Lou's MGM debut
bkoganbing7 September 2005
With the money that Abbott and Costello made in their films at Universal to save that studio from going bankrupt, L.B. Mayer decided he wanted some of that himself. So Universal was probably paid a lot of cash to loan them out for the first of three films.

MGM dusted off the old show Rio Rita which was a smash Broadway success for Florenz Ziegfeld in 1927-1928. Universal had filmed it in 1929 with John Boles, Bebe Daniels and Wheeler and Woolsey. Come to think of it, they probably tossed in the rights for Rio Rita in the loan out deal for Abbott and Costello.

All that was retained were the two big songs of the show, the title song and the Ranger song. Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg wrote You Came Along sung very nicely by John Carroll and Kathryn Grayson.

The plot is pretty silly involving some Nazi spies sending coded messages during a broadcast featuring Latino crooner John Carroll. He's got a cheap Mexican accent that really doesn't fool anyone. Why didn't MGM use a real Latino performer like Tito Guizar? I guess we'll never know.

And Abbott and Costello don't get to use any of their patented routines here although they do have some funny moments. MGM did much better by them in Lost In a Harem which is more like the stuff they were doing at Universal.
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Abott & Costello at MGM instead of Universal
vincentlynch-moonoi22 September 2015
Warning: Spoilers
I'm watching several of the Abbott & Costello films that TCM is running, and I began to wonder why I had only watched the collection I already had only once. And watching this film, I finally got it. Abbott & Costello cannot compare to Martin & Lewis, and here's why. It's not the fault of Lou Costello. The man is hilarious, and much more able to combine that hilarity with pathos than Jerry Lewis. The problem is/was Bud Abbott. The main had a very limited talent -- he could feed lines to Lou Costello, he could slap Lou Costello around, he could yell at Lou Costello. But Dean could sing and be the romantic lead. So, you could put Martin & Lewis together in a movie and have a complete film. But with Abbott and Costello, Lou could provide all the comedy, but Abbott could not sing or be romantic or dance or do anything to carry part of the film. And that is very clear in this film.

Don't get me wrong. This is an entertaining film, And the focus is Abbott and Costello. But, most A&C films have to bring in some romance, so here they bring in John Carroll and Kathryn Grayson. In most A&C films they have to bring in some music, so again, here they turn to John Carroll and Kathryn Grayson. As a result, as with most other A&C films, "Rio Rita" becomes a musical-comedy-variety film...and who does that better than MGM with its high production values? But as a result, some focus is thereby shifted away from Abbott & Costello. But, A&C are very funny here, both in terms of Lou's slapstick, and the team's witty dialog.

Due to World War II, the plot of the old musical (by the way, almost every song from the original Ziegfeld production has been eliminated) has been modified to bring in a Nazi spy plot to trigger the action; but it works.

As Abbott & Costello films go, this is pretty good, and well worth a watch.
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Two Guys in Texas
lugonian18 April 2015
RIO RITA (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1942), directed by S. Sylvan Simon, stars those two funny guys from Universal making their MGM debut, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, in a rare case where the movie for which they are appearing is lifted from a Broadway show rather than than the use of an original screenplay. Based on a Florenz Ziegfeld 1927 musical-comedy by Guy Bolton and Fred Thompson, later adapted to a large-scale 136 minute part color motion picture for RKO Radio (1929) featuring Bebe Daniels, John Boles, and the comic antics by Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey, this latest edition, which might have been something for MGM's resident comics, Red Skelton and Rags Ragland, to MGM's credit, acquires the services of Abbott and Costello while the titled character, played by Kathryn Grayson, is one of secondary importance.

The revised plot with special material by John Grant, finds stranded vacationers, Doc (Bud Abbott) and Wishy Dunn (Lou Costello), working at a Texas pet shop, earning enough money for their return trip home to New York. After their boss fires them for losing a customer's dog, Doc and Wishy hide themselves in the trunk of a parked car with New York license plates, unaware that its owner, radio singer, Ricardo Montera (John Carroll), is not heading for New York but coming from New York bound for the Hotel Vista Del Rio to reunite himself with his childhood sweetheart, Rita Winslow (Kathryn Grayson), the hotel's owner. With Maurice Craindall (Tom Conway) acting as manager, with Jake (Peter Whitney),Trask (Arthur Space) and Gus (Dick Rich) as his assistants, Rita acquires further help by hiring Doc and Wishy jobs as hotel detectives. By doing this, the dual not only encounter Nazi spies in their midst, but a crate of shortwave radio concealed inside miniature apples adding to the confusion.

Others in the cast are Patricia Dane (Lucette Brinswick); Barry Nelson (Harry Gantley); and Eve Puig (Marianna). Songs by Harry Tierney and Joseph McCarthy; Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg include: "Long Before You Came Along" (sung by John Carroll and Kathryn Grayson); "Agua Caliente" (sung by Rangers); "The Ranger Song" (Rangers, Carroll and Grayson); "Rio Rita" (sung by John Carroll); "The Brazilian Dance" (performed by Brazilian dancer, Eros Volusia, in her Hollywood movie debut); "Ombres Legeres" (The Shadow Song)" (sung by Grayson); and "The Ranger Song. John Carroll's rich baritone singing is pleasant enough, but his speaking with Spanish accent makes one wish of having either a Ricardo Montalban or a Desi Arnaz in his place. For Kathryn Grayson, a likable screen presence with a fine voice, does have one very dull moment during her operatic vocalization of "The Shadow Song."

As much as the Abbott and Costello comedies are funnier over at Universal than the three they did for MGM, RIO RITA is still quite entertaining, the MGM way. Though not generally known when it comes to Abbott and Costello titles, at least not as forgotten as their once elusive Africa SCREAMS (1949), RIO RITA follows the then familiar pattern of song interludes by romantic leads and amusements by the comics. At MGM, Costello retains his dopey fat guy character as before while Bud, still the straight man who gives the orders, is given a rare chance to break away from his partner from time to time for romancing (mostly off-screen) with an attractive young woman named Dotty (Joan Valerie). While Lou can be naturally funny at times, there are moments where his comedy antics are forced and just plain silly. Routine exchanges between Bud and Lou revolving "Pike's Peke," "$10 You're Not There," and the re-enactment of Wheeler and Woolsey's original "Drinking Pulge" from their RIO RITA 1929 film, are among their finest, along with one with Lou believing he's encountered talking animals. The most notable, though not the very best due to end result, happens to be the one where Lou gets trapped inside a giant turntable washing machine with Bud in his method of helping by pushing buttons, making matters worse. This sequence alone must have been good enough to be included as one of the comedy highlights for Robert Youngson's documentary of MGM'S BIG PARADE OF COMEDY (1964).

Formerly on video cassette, both 1929 (reissue 103 minute print) and 1942 (91 minutes) editions of RIO RITA can be seen and compared whenever it turns up on cable television's Turner Classic Movies. (***)
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"There was nothing secret about the service that I saw."
classicsoncall3 October 2015
Warning: Spoilers
When MGM lost a contract deal to sign Abbott and Costello in 1941, Universal Studios in a conciliatory gesture loaned them out to their movie rival. Universal was willing to put the comedy team in as leads rather than support roles and the boys apparently had a talented agent to wrest them away from the larger studio. MGM was so aggrieved that they almost filed a lawsuit but apparently cooler heads prevailed, with "Rio Rita" the first of three pictures MGM put the boys in.

For fans of Abbott and Costello who have seen plenty of their films, one of the first things you notice here are the absence of their many recycled film bits like 'Slowly I Turned' and 'Who's on First?'. The MGM writing staff did a decent job of coming up with their own funny dialog for the pair like the 'Pike's Peak' gag. Production values run a notch above Universal as well, obviously MGM had a lot more money to spend on extras as evidenced by the rather lavishly costumed Volusia dance number. It would have looked a lot better in color though.

The setting is the Hotel Vista del Rio in Del Rio, Texas, which wouldn't mean much to most viewers, but that was also the home town of Imus in the Morning's fictional radio character, the Reverend Billy Sol Hargus. Imus hasn't used that bit for many years now, but once you've heard it you remember it.

As for the story, things get muddled rather quickly after the main plot element is revealed. Radio station KPKO is a front for a Nazi fifth column enterprise attempting to smuggle bombs into the country. There's some business about a secret code book and planting information in the radio's broadcast commercials, but not a lot comes of it all. Even the presence of a 'talking' German Shepherd held some potential for Nazi intrigue, but instead the talented canine did an amusing roll-over gag with Costello.

In fact, one could almost make a case for the picture being a musical, but with widely disparate genres in play. There's an early riders on horseback segment doing a Texas Rangers song, while John Carroll and Kathryn Grayson offer up a few tunes as well, with Grayson showing amazing voice control in an operatic number that in all other respects was virtually unlistenable. Things eventually come together to expose the Nazi bad guys in the end, but once it's over, one begins to wonder what the picture was all about.
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7/10 ***½ Abbott and Costello Meet Kathryn Grayson
Doctor_Mabuse122 July 2011
Cast: Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Kathryn Grayson.

Director: S. Sylvan Simon.

Abbott & Costello's three MGM films (RIO RITA, LOST IN A HAREM and ABBOTT AND COSTELLO IN Hollywood) are slicker, more polished and slightly more sophisticated in tone than their Universal series begun with BUCK PRIVATES. They also lack the brash energy that makes those films so enduring in entertainment value.

Even so, one personally finds RIO RITA to be one of the better movies the classic comedy team were associated with. It must, however, be approached with the understanding that it is a Musical with comedy rather than the other way around.

RIO RITA is an updated, entirely re-written version of Florenz Ziegfeld's comic operetta, previously filmed in 1929 with star comics Wheeler and Woolsey repeating their roles from the Broadway blockbuster.

Bud and Lou receive first billing due to their great popularity, but the new production is a primarily a vehicle for pretty young soprano Kathryn Grayson (ANCHORS AWEIGH, SHOW BOAT, KISS ME KATE!) who was then being groomed for MGM stardom as an answer to Universal's Deanna Durbin. Hence the focus is on Grayson who performs several good songs (including two from the original show) and an operatic aria which displays her formidable vocal ability.

Even more than A&C's other early movies, comedy takes rather a back seat to music and romance. Even the dated dramatic situation involving Nazis infiltrating a Western ranch, original to this version, is secondary to the charms of the leading lady.

RIO RITA is, not unlike Abbott and Costello's introductory Musical Comedy film ONE NIGHT IN THE TROPICS, a matter of taste. Fortunately, it is a taste that can be acquired. Personally, one loves Musicals, is fond of Kathryn Grayson and is an admirer of Abbott & Costello; therefore one was thoroughly primed to enjoy this. The movie is recommended to all fans of the comedy team, but some may need several viewings, music and all, to come to terms with it.

Rating: GOOD.
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Superb comedy!
Russell Dodd2 March 2000
Abbott and Costello stranded in a petshop (this part was filmed after the film was completed as Kathryn Grayson's opening number was considered racist and was cut!!) and lose their jobs. They are stranded in a town. Oddly enough, they decide to go their separate ways!! I didn't like this idea. Bud and Lou are supposed to be partners (well for most of their films).

They sneak into the boot (trunk) of famous crooner Ricardo Montera, as they wrongly assume he is going to NY. He is on his way to Vista Del Rio, A radio station in Texas to sing on a live broadcast. Rita, is a big star on the station and has eyes only for Montera, who they had a brief encounter with 10 years previously. He arrives next morning, with the boys still in the back of the car and immediately gets on his horse and rides off to the plains. He grew up with the rangers. Ricardo, not remembering Rita, meets up with her and comes on fresh to her (After a boring song). After, she reminds him who she is, the rangers then appear and they sing the only good song in the movie. Bud and Lou(after an absolutely hilarious - and I mean HILARIOUS!!) routine with the car, find themselves wondering around starving. After stealing fake apples used by the nazi owners (they are really radios), they are more hungry than ever. A waiter lays a table right where they are lying and they eat the food. After the waiters chase them away, Rita tells Lucette, also after Ricardo, that she sent them the food. She then employs the boys as house detectives. The boys have to get Lucette away from Ricardo and the manager has to get a broadcast out that night to fellow nazis in code. This is a hilarious, top Abbott and Costello comedy. There is a good background story and plenty left over for the boys to do many routines and wordplay. If only they made more films of this standard. They did make better films though. The only downside is the many songs. Kathryn Grayson performs a never ending opera number which slows down the pace. The rest of the songs, after 10 years of watching this movie (and STILL laughing) I can sit through.

Look out for the best bit: Lou trapped inside a giant washing machine!! Abbott and Costello fans will certainly not be disapointed with this movie.

There was something so special about the films they made in the early 40s that I just can't define! Wonderful!
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Rio Rita (1944) **1/2
JoeKarlosi16 May 2011
Abbott and Costello were huge stars over at Universal Studios during this time, and this was the first time they made a movie for another studio (MGM) during their peak years. The results are quite good as far as the comical shenanigans of A&C are concerned -- they engage in some pretty laughable situations and were really spot-on at their game here, having energetic fun; I wonder if they were trying harder to show that they could be just as good for a rival studio other than their own? But unfortunately it isn't all roses. MGM was noted for their musicals, and there is a lot of singing trickled about here -- though unlike some of the more upbeat ditties from the Andrews Sisters in the Universal movies, these interludes are cringe-worthy. I mean there's some downright AWFUL singing to be endured in RIO RITA. The worst is a lengthy cadenza performed by one of the lead ladies. Just brutal. Too bad, as this could have been a good solid vehicle for Bud and Lou. **1/2 out of ****
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Abbott and Costello and Absolutely Nothing Else
LeonLouisRicci2 April 2015
The Haughty MGM Studios had to Have it All. Borrowing Abbott and Costello from Universal, because the Comedy Team was a Big Hit, the Studio Managed to Cobble Together a Number of Elements in this Awkward Amalgamation of Opera On a Ranch, and Nazis Out West, and Set A & C Loose Among this Bizarre Combination.

None of it Works. There is an Awful Lot of Awful Singing with Crooners on Horseback and Operatic Scale Sliding. The Comedy Team's Routines are OK and Quite Amusing with Slapstick, Sight Gags, and Word Play.

But the Combination of Bud and Lou with the Other Parts Never Come Together. The Nazi Threat is Hardly Realized, and the Ranch Setting is Never Used for Any Advantage. The Love Interest is Never Interesting and the Only Thing Worth Watching is When Abbot and Costello are On the Screen. Everything Else is Embarrassing at Best and Atrocious at Worst.
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A weaker attempt, but still enjoyable.
www11256 April 2011
Warning: Spoilers
For me, this film is a weaker attempt compared to the films Abbott and Costello were making at Universal. This fact is actually shocking, because MGM was one of the biggest and most important studios around at that time, and comedy wasn't new for them. The opening scenes in the pet shop are hilarious, and the film has its share of funny jokes, such as the car repair shop, and the washing machine scenes. However, I think the scene where the donkey(having swallowed a Nazi radio) sticks its head in the window, and speaks in Hitler's voice, is my favorite in the film. I always crack up laughing at that moment, and Lou's comment, "I've heard your voice, but this is the first time I've ever seen your face."
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Abbott & Costello at MGM
utgard146 April 2015
Bud and Lou tangle with Nazi spies in Mexico. The Nazis are led by suave Tom Conway. This is a loose remake of a 1929 Wheeler and Woolsey picture. I haven't seen that and likely won't anytime soon since I don't care for Wheeler and Woolsey much. This is also the first of three movies A&C did for MGM. None of these were among their best movies and this is easily the least enjoyable of the three. Nice cast backing up the boys but far too much focus on the bland romance between Kathryn Grayson and John Carroll, a poor leading man I've never been a fan of. He uses a particularly laughable Latin accent here. Also too much singing! And it's that "opera-y" type singing, too. You know what I mean - deep bass from the guy and high soprano from the girl. Not my thing. As for the comedy, it's pretty by-the-numbers Abbott & Costello material. A few good lines and gags but nothing for the career highlight reel. The car spinning gag ("Push the button!") is probably the movie's best scene and that's in the first twenty minutes. For die-hard A&C fans or fans of Ms. Grayson's singing. Everybody else would be advised to find one of the many superior Abbott & Costello films to watch.
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MGM ruins yet another comedy team!!
MartinHafer14 August 2009
During the 1920-1940s, MGM made a ton of wonderful films. However, when it came to comedies (especially comedy teams), they really were inept. Here is the track record: With Laurel and Hardy, Hal Roach Studios released films through MGM and MGM didn't touch the productions. When they did a MGM films without Roach, it resulted in THE AIR RAID WARDENS and NOTHING BUT TROUBLE--two of their worst films.

With Buster Keaton, he was a genius during the silent era. His first MGM film, the CAMERAMAN, was pretty good. But, then they soon began making sound films, they got the brilliant idea of pairing Keaton (a brilliant physical comedian) with Jimmy Durante (a loud and brash comedian). This mix naturally didn't work and they all but abandoned physical comedy. This effectively ruined Keaton's solo career.

With the Three Stooges, the studio didn't know what to do. So, they let them go after making a few bizarre films, like DANCING LADY, where the Stooges played solo acts in a Clark Gable and Joan Crawford film.

With the Marx Brothers, although A NIGHT AT THE OPERA and A DAY AT THE RACES were classics, soon the studio put them in insipid formulaic films like THE BIG STORE and AT THE CIRCUS. Gone were their wild and crazy earlier style of films and many believe their films with Paramount (DUCK SOUP, HORSE FEATHERS and others) were their best and most consistent films.

With Abbott and Costello, after a long string of very successful films with Universal, they were "loaned out" (i.e., bought for several films) to MGM. This resulted in three rather bland films. MGM decided the team was a flash in the pan and returned them to Universal--after which, the team went on to make many very successful films.

So, the fact that I wasn't impressed with RIO RITA is no big surprise--the MGM folks simply had no idea how to make this type of film and spent very little making it. This is very surprising that with the success of Abbott and Costello in their previous films. That MGM (a very high-class studio) would make such a cheap looking film was amazing and it was much cheaper than the films the team did with a much smaller Universal Studios. For example, in the bad segment at the garage near the beginning of the film, you can see the seam in the "sky" and the sound is terrible--like they are filming in a warehouse--which is what they seemed to be doing throughout the film. To make things worse, they used very cheap background paintings. Why, oh why, didn't they do any location shooting? The total effect is pretty claustrophobia-inducing though still watchable.

Aside from bad sets, the film features a lot of singing--and awful lot of singing. I guess the studio saw it more as a Kathryn Grayson and John Carroll film instead of an Abbott and Costello one. MGM can't completely blamed for this, as all but one of their previous films at Universal had too much music as well. As to the humor, while Bud and Lou seem game, the routines aren't particularly good or inspired. Having them in a very contrived plot involving Nazi agents in Mexico(!) also didn't help.

Overall, watchable but that's all. A definite comedown from their prior films.
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Abbott & Costello battle Nazis on a dude ranch
a_chinn6 July 2017
Corny but likable Abbott and Costello comedy about the duo working at a dude ranch and discovering a Nazi plot (this was filmed during WWII after all). Most of the the comedy is their usual Who's-On-First-like word play and like a lot of Marx Brothers and other comedy pictures of the time, this one features several musical numbers. You also have Tom Conway and Kathryn Grayson, so there's a solid supporting cast, for this otherwise forgettable but entertaining enough of Abbott and Costello picture.
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Abbott and Costello diluted
sryder@judson-il.edu24 February 2004
This was Bud and Lou's only film for MGM, which was their good fortune. It's surprising that Universal Studios, for which A and C were prime money-makers, would have lent them out. They must have sent someone to Universal in exchange. Most of the team's Universal films, no matter how silly the premise, were usually tightly constructed around their personalities and abilities, which were mostly a series of set pieces within a flimsy plot, except The Time of Their Lives, when they portrayed characters in the story line, without any of their routines. Many consider this their best film, though I don't agree, despite its departure from their formula. At any rate, MGM showed itself unable to use their talents to the foremost, as was the case in their use of the Marx Brothers in their three last MGM films. There are several excellent routines, but they are submerged in a tedious and unbelievable plot of romance and espionage. MGM was developing Kathryn Grayson (who does not get star billing) as a contract player, and would probably have taken advantage of A and C's box office appeal to showcase her. Unfortunately, her performance is quite wooden; though perhaps she could not do much with the material given. Later on she developed at least a degree of charm, if not strong acting talent, in some of MGM's large-scale musicals, especially Show Boat. If you are an A and C fan, make good use of your fast-forward.
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