Larry Martin (Don Ameche) is an American in Rio, an entertainer performing at a casino with his girlfriend Carmen (Carmen Miranda).
Part of Larry’s show involves a skit poking fun at well-known womanizer Baron Manuel Duarte (also played by Ameche). When the Baron and his wife Cecilia (Alice Faye) attend the show, they’re surprised to find just how realistic the act is.
When the Baron receives a telegram informing him that a contract has put his successful airline business in jeopardy, he swiftly leaves Rio. But someone needs to fill his shoes, in order to confuse the Baron’s business rival, Machado (J. Carrol Naish).
Luckily for the Baron and his advisers, they have the perfect man for the job: Larry, the entertainer with plenty of acting experience who could easily pass for the Baron’s twin.
That Night in Rio was directed by Irving Cummings.
Midnight is one of my all-time favorite comedies and ever since I discovered it, I’ve had a soft spot for Don Ameche. That Night in Rio offers double the Ameche, giving him a dual role, and he’s a ton of fun to watch. It’s almost a triple role: (1) the Baron, (2) the singer, and (3) the singer’s impersonation of the Baron. Ameche’s performance is lively and he’s a great fit, delivering distinct personalities and mannerisms to each of his roles.
Ameche and Carmen Miranda are wonderful to watch together, and the Ameche/Faye pairing works well, too. There are, particularly, plenty of cute scenes between Ameche and Faye when he’s posing as the Baron. A favorite: when he gives her a fancy gift and sweet talks her much more than the real Baron would, baffling everyone.
The airline-saving premise used to establish the foundation for the triple-identity plot is somewhat wacky and thinly-plotted, but the cast makes it work. One more delightful addition to the roster: S. Z. Sakall, who makes every film he appears in more enjoyable!
Songs pepper the film to add to the appeal where the story is lacking. Some of the musical numbers are forgettable, but all are fun to watch and listen to. There are a few stand-outs, like Carmen Miranda’s iconic opening number “Chica-Boom-Chic,” performed with Don Ameche. She would continue to perform this song throughout her career.
On a technical level, the scenes of double Ameche are well-executed. The film also takes great advantage of Technicolor with stunning, bright photography. Purples, blues, greens, reds, pinks, and yellows all pop off of the screen. The photography, art direction, and costume design all come together to create a Crayola vision of Rio.
If you’re in need of a bit of mood-boosting Hollywood escapism, That Night in Rio is the perfect colorful, musical-comedy adventure to tune in for.