Like many contract players of the studio era, Carmen Miranda started freelancing once her contract with Fox ended, and after making Copacabana for United Artists, Miranda made two films for MGM, the first of which was 1948’s A Date With Judy. The film was a departure for her in some ways and in other ways it was more of the same.
The movie opens in Santa Barbara, where the high school band is rehearsing for the dance, with Ogden “Oogie” Pringle (Scotty Beckett) conducting and Judy Foster (Jane Powell) on vocals. Oogie’s older sister, Carol (Elizabeth Taylor) thinks the music is too juvenile, so she gets up and purrs out a song like a lounge singer and bores everyone to death.
In all honesty, Carol is a wee bit jealous of Judy, who has a loving home life, which she shares with her parents, Melvin (Wallace Beery) and Dora (Selena Royle), plus her grandpa (George Cleveland) and brother, Randolph (Jerry Hunter). Dora and Melvin have their twentieth anniversary celebration coming up, so preparations for a huge party are in full swing.
Meanwhile, Carol and Oogie’s dad, Lucien (Leon Ames) is very busy and away from his kids all the time, and they can’t help but feel neglected. All things considered, though, they’re good kids, although Carol’s a little spoiled and manipulative. The dress she’s wearing to the high school dance is blue and she can’t possibly be one of a group in a blue dress, so she calls Judy, whose dress is also blue, and tells her pink is her color and blue doesn’t do a thing for her. She also finagles Oogie out of escorting Judy to the dance and sending Jo-Jo (Buddy Howard) in his place.
Judy is so disgusted she heads to the drugstore, where she spies handsome older guy, Steve (Robert Stack) working behind the counter. Steve is a good sport and goes to the dance, but his attention may be divided when he spots Carol.
The grownups aren’t exactly idle themselves. Melvin really wants to be able to rhumba with Dora at their anniversary, so he hires dance instructor Rosita Conchella (Carmen Miranda) to come to his office and teach him. He doesn’t want Dora or anyone else in his family to know, though, so if any of them pay him a visit at the office, Rosita has to hide in the closet. Judy spies Rosita’s purse, though, and she starts getting suspicious.
Thinking her dad is cheating on her mom, Judy tries to make home extra cozy and inviting, with her dad’s pipe and slippers waiting for him by his chair when he comes home. She gives her mom an new hairstyle, and the family is gathered around the piano singing “Home! Sweet Home!” Melvin immediately knows something is up and is more puzzled than delighted.
There’s plenty of intrigue left for Judy, who’s getting ready for a radio show with Oogie and is sort of a corner of a love triangle with Carol and Steve, the latter of whom has a few things to say to workaholic Lucien, who finally gets a clue about how much he’s been neglecting his family. Lucien plans a fishing trip for he and a very confused Oogie, who brings a few of the band members to help him croon “Judalein” under Judy’s window in a very Say Anything kind of moment the night before he leaves.
Since movie like A Date With Judy can’t possibly end unhappily, any snarls will no doubt get worked out and everyone will leave with a song and starry eyes. Oh, and Melvin’s got to show off his rhumba.
A Date With Judy is unfailingly cute and fun, and I mean that in a good way. 1948 audiences thought so too, to the tune of $3.9M at the box office and a ranking of number eight for 1948. It’s a fairly faithful adaptation of the radio show of the same name, which ran from 1941 until 1950, and usually involved Judy getting either herself or someone else out of various jams. The formula worked; a few years after the movie became a hit A Date With Judy was adapted for TV as well and was on the air from 1951 until 1953.
As for our guest of honor, Carmen Miranda, A Date With Judy was a slightly different kind of movie for her, but only very slightly, as more than one of her biographers have pointed out. While her Rosita was another of the same kind of parts she had been playing, which was the affable, exotic singer who performs a couple of specialty numbers and speaks in malapropisms, her wardrobe didn’t follow her typical Americanized baiana formula.
Instead, Carmen was presented in the highest of high fashion, with sharply-tailored dresses, angular shoulder pads, and barely-there headresses, although her hair, or at least her wig, was still elaborately braided. Her dresses were also heavily-sequined and decorated, which must have been cumbersone to perform in, but she still has her typical platform shoes so that part must have felt familiar. She looks really beautiful in this movie, and her co-stars, especially Jane Powell, enjoyed being onset with her.
Carmen’s reprieve was brief, though, because in her next movie at MGM, Nancy Goes To Rio, she’s back in the baiana costume. And dancing with clowns. Oh well.
At this point in her career, Carmen was a fixture more than a curiosity. People expected her to be the way she was, and I have to wonder how much in favor of this she actually was. There was much more to her than the heavy costumes and exaggerated movements. Still, it’s always fun to see Carmen in film, and MGM certainly showcased her unique persona in a fun way.
For more of the Luso World CInema Blogathon, please see Le at Crítica Retrô and Beth Ann at Spellbound With Beth Ann. Thanks for hosting this, ladies–so glad you brought it back. Thanks for reading, as always, everyone, and I hope to see you on Tuesday with another post…
A Date With Judy is available on DVD from Amazon.
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5 thoughts on “Carmen At MGM”
Fantastic review! “A Date with Judy” is a cute, harmless film I enjoyed watching. Indeed, it was a mixed bag for Carmen Miranda, as she had a different wardrobe but her character construction was more of the same. I’m glad to know Jane Powell and others enjoyed being around her on set.
Thanks for taking part in our blogathon!
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You’re very welcome, Le, and thanks! It’s always a pleasure.
Carmen Miranda has SO much charisma, that she dominates even the images you posted. I admire her to no end for that.
Also, this film looks like a really good time. Thanks for the recommendation!
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You’re very welcome, Ruth–hope you can see it! 😊
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