FLYING DOWN TO RIO (1933) B/W 90m dir: Thornton Freeland
w/Dolores Del Rio, Gene Raymond, Raul Roulien, Ginger Rogers, Fred Astaire, Blanche Friderici, Walter Walker, Etta Moten, Roy D'Arcy, Maurice Black, Armand Kaliz, Paul Porcasi, Reginald Barlow, Eric Blore, Franklin Pangborn, Luis Alberni, Jack Goode, Jack Rice, Eddie Borden
In Rio, a beautiful young woman (Del Rio) must choose between two men. This musical marks the first time the legendary dance team of Astaire and Rogers appeared together in a film. All in all, the movie's pretty corny, but the dancing is tops. Songs include "The Carioca" (which Fred and Ginger dance to briefly, offering a promise of what was to come) and the title tune. Wait till you see those chorines dance on airplane wings as Fred sings on the ground below them!
From The Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers Book by Arlene Croce: "Flying Down to Rio is famous for Fred Astaire and the Carioca. For Astaire, it was a triumph against all the odds. Fifth-billed, cast as long-suffering best friend, saddled with Herkimer Jerkimer lines like 'Hold onto your hats, boys, here we go again' or an all-purpose 'Yeah!' he nevertheless made an impression so strong that he could be ignored no longer. He arrived at a time when movies needed him most.
"The Pioneer Period in movie musicals began in 1933. Producers in that year told themselves that with the onset of hard times the public wanted escapist entertainment. But a dull static musical is no more escapist than a documentary on breadlines. They were able to make musicals acceptable again because, technologically, the movies has advanced at a great rate. There was now a free and almost mad spirit in the musicals that began to come forth from the studios. It was a great period because material improvements were converted into a style; one might even say that for a time the improvements were the style.
"The pioneer spirit fairly leaps off the screen in Flying Down to Rio. The plot is little more than pretext, and the movie was as hastily assembled as it looks. It's an Astaire-Rogers movie only in the sense that the two of them are in it --- it really belongs to prehistory along with Dancing Lady and the twenty-odd films that Ginger Rogers made before it. But it is, in its own modest way, stupendous. It reverberates with the romance of modern communications, it crackles with technological pride. You get the feeling that its makers are testing the medium with an almost abstract delight in its possibilities. ...
"If Astaire seems to be playing an adolescent version of himself, it's because the studio couldn't think of new things for him to do --- they gave him old things, or no things at all. As a member of Gene Raymond's band, he is equipped with an accordion, the instrument he played in The Band Wagon --- only he doesn't play it here. He always seems to be stumbling into or out of awkward situations, and the sight of Dolores Del Rio clearly terrifies him. He acts like somebody's brother. Not Ginger Rogers', though --- and she isn't even somebody's girl. To anyone who knows the Astaire-Rogers films that followed [for example, TOP HAT and SWING TIME], the lack of a relationship between them is most unsettling. Rogers might not have been in the film at all if Dorothy Jordan, who had been cast, hadn't decided to marry Merian C. Cooper, the head of the studio, and go off on a honeymoon rather than dance with Fred Astaire."