Rio (1939 film)

Rio is a 1939 American crime film directed by John Brahm starring Basil Rathbone and Victor McLaglen.[3]

Theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn Brahm
Produced byJoe Pasternak (uncredited)[1]
Screenplay byAben Kandel
Edwin Justus Mayer
Frank Partos
Stephen Morehouse Avery
Story byJean Negulesco
StarringBasil Rathbone
Victor McLaglen
Music byFrank Skinner
CinematographyHal Mohr
Edited byPhilip Cahn
Universal Pictures
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • September 29, 1939 (1939-09-29) (United States)
Running time
77 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budgetover $448,000[2]


French financier Paul Reynard (Rathbone) is sentenced to a ten-year term in a South American penal colony for bank fraud. His wife Irene (Gurie) and Paul's faithful servant Dirk (McLaglen) travel to Rio de Janeiro to arrange for Paul's escape. But once she's landed in the Brazilian capital, Irene falls in love with American engineer Bill Gregory (Cummings). After his escape Paul realizes that he's lost his wife forever to a better man. Seeking revenge, he prepares to shoot Bill in cold blood, but Dirk intervenes and kills Reynard instead.



In July 1938 Universal announced the film would star Danielle Darrieux who they had under contract and who had made The Rage of Paris for the studio.[4] In October Universal said James Stewart would appear opposite Darrieux in the movie and Joel McCrea would play a role intended for Stewart, Destry Rides Again.[5] Later that month there were reports that Darrieux did not want to return to Hollywood. Universal said she was ill and would come back in January when she would make Rio.[6] In January Hedda Hopper reported that Darrieux did not want to return because she did not like the script for Rio.[7] In March Joe Pasternak insisted that no one else would play her role.[8]

Darrieux's return from France kept being delayed so in June 1939 Sigrid Gurie was cast. Filming started 21 July 1939.[9][10] It wound up in September.[11]


The Los Angeles Times called it "a well made melodrama... Rathbone scores heavily... Cummings... received applause lasst night for his work. He should move a lot nearer the top after this performance."[12]

The New York Times said it was "an unmistakable B buzzing like an A" due to Brahm's direction which built "characterization, avoiding the obvious wherever that is possible and digging beneath the externals for psychological elements of suspense and drama... a handful of exceptionally telling sequences... a character gallery of constant interest."[13]


  1. Universal Boosts Budget to Make 44 Feature Films: Large-Scale Productions on Program Outlined for Studio's Coming Season Los Angeles Times 17 Apr 1939: 18.
  2. "United States Court of Appeals For the Ninth Circuit - Universal vs Cummings". Internet Archive. p. 93.
  3. Rio at the American Film Institute Catalog.
  4. SCREEN NEWS HERE AND IN HOLLYWOOD: Danielle Darrieux Will Star in 'Rio' for Universal-Film to Be Made in Autumn New York Times 5 July 1938: 13
  5. Bette Davis Goes Into Artistic Seclusion Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 11 Oct 1938: 10.
  6. SCREEN NEWS HERE AND IN HOLLYWOOD New York Times 25 Oct 1938: 19.
  7. Hedda Hopper's HOLLYWOOD Los Angeles Times 10 Jan 1939: 11.
  8. Hedda Hopper's HOLLYWOOD Los Angeles Times 28 Mar 1939: 14.
  10. By DOUGLAS W CHURCHILL Special to THE NEW,YORK TIMES. (1939, Jul 21). SCREEN NEWS HERE AND IN HOLLYWOOD. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  11. "United States Court of Appeals For the Ninth Circuit - Cummings vs Universal 1944". Internet Archive. p. 565.
  12. 'Rio' Proves Outstanding Melodrama Scott, John L. Los Angeles Times 21 Sep 1939: A9.
  13. THE SCREEN: John Brahm's Direction Distinguishes 'Rio' at the Globe- By FRANK S. NUGENT. New York Times 27 Oct 1939: 31.
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