Cairo (1942): Van Dyke’s Musical Comedy Thirller, Starring Jeanette MacDonald and Robert Young

Jeanette MacDonald’s last film on her MGM contract, Cairo, is a middling musical comedy directed by W. S. Van Dyke.

The screenplay was written by John McClain, based on an idea by Ladislas Fodor about a news reporter shipwrecked in a torpedo attack, who teams up with a Hollywood singer and her maid to foil Nazi spies.

Actress Marcia Warren (Jeanette MacDonald), while “between pictures” in London, hires American Homer Smith (Robert Young) as her butler.

Marcia and her maid (Ethel Waters) don’t realize that Smith is a newspaperman, who strongly suspects that she is a Nazi spy.

The real enemy agent turns out to be Mrs. Morrison (Mona Barrie).

The music score is by Herbert Stothart.

Both MacDonald and Ethel Waters sing in the picture. A year later, Waters would have her breakthrough in Vincente Minnelli’s first picture, Cabin in the Sky.

Though poorly received upon initial release, it made a modest profit for MGM. The film earned $616,000 in the U.S. and $581,000 elsewhere, turning a profit of $273,000.

Jeanette MacDonald as Marcia Warren
Robert Young as Homer Smith, aka Juniper Jones
Ethel Waters as Cleona Jones, Marcia’s Maid
Reginald Owen as Philo Cobson
Grant Mitchell as Mr. O.H.P. Boggs
Lionel Atwill as Teutonic gentleman
Eduardo Ciannelli as Ahmed Ben Hassan
Mitchell Lewis as Ludwig
Dooley Wilson as Hector
Larry Nunn as Bernie
Dennis Hoey as Col. Woodhue
Mona Barrie as Mrs. Morrison
Rhys Williams as Strange man
Cecil Cunningham as Mme. Laruga
Harry Worth as Viceroy Hotel bartender
Frank Richards as Alfred
Faten Hamama as Amina


Directed by W. S. Van Dyke
Written by Ladislas Fodor
Screenplay by John McClain
Produced by Joseph L. Mankiewicz (uncredited)
Cinematography Ray June
Edited by James E. Newcom
Music by Herbert Stothart
Production company: MGM
Release date August 17, 1942
Running time 101 minutes
Budget $924,000
Box office $1,197,000


TCM showed the movie on August 16, 2021.