Duchess of Idaho

Duchess of Idaho is a musical romantic comedy produced in 1950 by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Directed by Robert Z. Leonard, it was the fourth film pairing Esther Williams and Van Johnson. It was filmed at the MGM Studios lot and exteriors shot in Sun Valley, Idaho.[2]

Duchess of Idaho
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRobert Z. Leonard
Produced byJoe Pasternak
Written byDorothy Cooper
Jerry Davis
Sid Fields
StarringVan Johnson
Esther Williams
Music byAlbert Sendrey
George Stoll
CinematographyCharles Edgar Schoenbaum
Edited byAdrienne Fazan
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • July 14, 1950 (1950-07-14)
Running time
98 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$4,236,000[1]


Christine Riverton Duncan (Esther Williams) attempts to play matchmaker for her lovelorn friend Ellen (Paula Raymond) by pursuing Douglas J. Morrissen, Jr. (John Lund), the man Ellen loves, all the way to Idaho. There, Christine decides to play a joke on Douglas. After boarding his train to Sun Valley, Christine wins the man's affections and then shocks him with hints that she expects a commitment. Once she's in Sun Valley, however, things become problematic when Christine falls in love with hotel bandleader Dick Layne (Van Johnson). During her time in Sun Valley, Christine wins the title of "Duchess of Idaho" in a dance contest.



In November 1947 it was announced Esther Williams would appear in a film set in Sun Valley, The Duchess of Idaho. Dorothy Cooper and Jerry Davis were assigned the script.[4] Robert Cummings was originally mentioned as a potential male lead[5] but the role went to Van Johnson, who had made three films with Williams before. A film unit left MGM on 21 August 1948 to shoot second unit at Sun Valley. Ricardo Montalban was announced as the third lead.[6] Filming was pushed back when Williams fell pregnant. Then it was announced Cummings and Janet Leigh would support Williams and Johnson.[7] These roles would be played by John Lund (borrowed from Paramount) and Paula Raymond.

In her autobiography, Million Dollar Mermaid, Williams called this a "re-hash of the Esther Williams formula: the mismatched lovers plot. It was enough to give one a case of cinematic deja vu."[8]

This marked Eleanor Powell's first film appearance in six years as well as her last film appearance. Williams reported that Powell had practiced her cameo's routine until her feet bled, claiming that it had to be perfect.[8]

Lena Horne's contract with MGM also ended with this film, though she would make several more MGM musical appearances later in the decade.


  • Let's Choo Choo Choo to Idaho; Written by Al Rinker and Floyd Huddleston; Sung by Van Johnson, Connie Haines and The Jubilaires
  • You Can't Do Wrong Doin' Right; Written by Al Rinker and Floyd Huddleston; Sung by Van Johnson and Connie Haines
  • Of All Things; Written by Al Rinker and Floyd Huddleston; Sung by Connie Haines
  • Baby Come Out of the Clouds; Written by Henry Nemo and Lee Pearl; Sung by Lena Horne

Deleted performances

Several musical numbers filmed for the movie were cut from the theatrical release. The deleted songs were:

These performances would later surface on a special DVD packaged in a 2004 box set of the That's Entertainment! films.

Box office

According to MGM records the film earned $2,851,000 domestically and $1,385,000 foreign, making the studio a profit of $921,000.[1]

Critical reception

Cue magazine found the film to be "a big, beautiful bore. The comedy is rapid and the pace is sleepy."[2]


  1. The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
  2. Davis, Ronald L. (2001). Van Johnson: MGM's Golden Boy (1st ed.). ISBN 978-1-57806-377-2. Retrieved 2010-01-07.
  3. Hanson, Patricia King; Dunkleberger, Amy, eds. (1971). "Duchess of Idaho". The American Film Institute Catalog of Motion Pictures Produced in the United States: Feature Films, 1941–1950. Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 657. ISBN 0-520-21521-4. OCLC 468239657.
  4. DARMA AND FILM: Adler to Act Dancaire; Williams Saga Picked Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File); Los Angeles, Calif. [Los Angeles, Calif]14 Nov 1947: A11.
  5. Garnett, McCarey Build Two Sagas for Screen Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File); Los Angeles, Calif. [Los Angeles, Calif]27 May 1948: 19.
  6. Sam Wood Will Direct Stewart, June Allyson in Monty Stratton Life Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File); Los Angeles, Calif. [Los Angeles, Calif]03 Sep 1948: 17.
  7. Ruth Roman Chosen as Lead With Berle Hopper, Hedda. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File); Los Angeles, Calif. [Los Angeles, Calif]01 July 1949: 18.
  8. Williams, Esther (1999). The Million Dollar Mermaid: An Autobiography (1st ed.). ISBN 978-0-15-601135-8. Retrieved 2009-12-11.
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