Top critical review
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Something for musical collectors
on 6 August 2010
Carmen Miranda, Vivian Blaine, Perry Como and Phil Silvers in a Technicolor musical with Cole Porter music - what could go wrong? Well, quite a lot, actually.Originally written for Ethel Merman, the show had a respectable run on Broadway, but when Fox bought it they threw out most of Porter's tunes and had new numbers written. The book is unremarkable: three cousins (Miranda, Blaine and Silvers) inherit a dilapidated Southern mansion which with help from the military they convert into a house for army wives, and then decide "let's put on a show right here...." - not exactly original! This wouldn't matter if the musical numbers were good, if the film had been entrusted to an experienced director (Irving Cummings, Walter Lang and Busby Berkeley had helmed previous Fox musicals),and if they had employed a good choreographer and costume designer - if only! There are compensations: Vivian Blaine struts her stuff very engagingly with "About 80 miles outside of Atlanta" and shows what a talented musical performer she can be(the song was reprised several years later by Mitzi Gaynor in "Bloodhounds on Broadway"), and Perry Como is impressive with "I'm in the middle of Nowhere", but Carmen Miranda is given poor material, the choreography for the dance numbers (by Nick Castle) is dire, and the costumes are the most tasteless anyone could imagine.Admittedly in 1945 good leading men were in very short supply, most of them being in the forces by then, but Fox were really scraping the bottom of the barrel with Michael O'Shea. So, not one of the great Fox musicals!
However, there is a big bonus in the extras; a four-part documentary tracing the career of Carmen Miranda "The Girl from Rio". The DVD, a good transfer, by the way, is worth getting for this alone.