Tourists flock to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s second largest city, to see the giant statue of Christ the Redeemer, dance the samba and cheer their favorite team at Maracanã Stadium, one of the world’s largest football arenas.
The city has also provided the backdrop for many movies, including this weekend’s animated feature Rio, the story of a domesticated macaw (voiced by The Social Network’s Jesse Eisenberg) from small-town Minnesota who follows the bird of his dreams to the carnival city.
Rio has been a go-to location for filmmakers for years. To paraphrase 70s soft rockers Pablo Cruise, “Whoa oh ohh… When my baby’s budget permits, We go to Rio. De Janeiro.” In The Producers, the crooked wannabe embezzlers plan to fly to Rio once they have bilked Broadway out of a million bucks. The city served as the background to Mickey Rourke’s erotic adventures in Wild Orchid and James Bond was famously attacked by the metal-mandibled Jaws on a cable car at the top of Sugarloaf Mountain in Moonraker.
Although shot completely on location at Paramount Studios on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles, Road to Rio, the fifth of the Bob Hope – Bing Crosby “road” pictures, makes good use of stock footage and set decoration to create a suitably exotic setting.
This time out, the guys are vaudevillian stowaways on a Brazilian-bound ocean liner who rescue heiress Dorothy Lamour from an unwanted arranged marriage.
The movie is notable for the music (it contains the last on-screen singing performance by The Andrews Sisters) and Der Bingle’s English lessons to the Portuguese street performers. To help them pass as American he teaches them the hipster phrase, “You’re in the groove, Jackson.”
A grittier look at the Brazillian city is offered in City of God (original title: Cidade de Deus), named after one of the city’s most dangerous neighborhoods. Following the stories of two boys—one who becomes a photographer, another who adopts a life of crime—it was shot on location in the violent favela. Director Fernando Meirelles later said if he knew the dangers of filming in the Rio favela in advance he wouldn’t have made the film.
Finally, a sunnier look at Rio life comes in Blame it on Rio, a 1984 Michael Caine film Roger Ebert described as having “the mind of a 1940s bongo comedy and the heart of a porno film.”
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