Friday, August 15, 2008

An Astaire movie I can recommend

As I mentioned in my first post this morning, I have a tendency to get the plots of the various Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers movies mixed up, because they're relatively similar. The movies, after all, were about the dancing, which is superb; my not giving a stronger recommendation to them isn't out of dislike. It's easier to recommend Fred Astair and Ginger Rogers when they're not the stars of the movie, which is precisely the case in Flying Down to Rio, whick kicks off's Astaire's day at 6:00 AM ET on August 16.

The nominal male star is Gene Raymond, who plays a bandleader who consistently gets in trouble because he's eying the ladies instead of paying more attention to his bandleading duties. He gets wooed by lovely Brazilian Dolores Del Rio (unfortunately, not showing as much skin as in Bird of Paradise), and follows her down to Rio de Janeiro along with his band. Of course, there's another man vying for her attention, leading to an anodyne plot about two men competing for the same woman, and our bandleader using a ridiculous Busby Berkeley dance number to try to win the girl in the end.

However, that finale is one of the big reasons for watching Flying Down to Rio. Our hero organizes a troupe of scantily-clad chorus girls to do their dancing on the wings of biplanes several thousand feet above fashionable Rio, and then parachute down to Dolores and her father. I suppose if that doesn't impress the man you want to be your father-in-law, what will? But even though it's clearly Hollywood fakery, it's still over-the-top fun.

Flying Down to Rio is also the first film that paired Fred and Ginger, and we see them here performing the hot new Brazilian dance of the day. Sadly, it's not the Lambada, but the Carioca. They're quite good, as they always are, and it's easy to see why they impressed the studio execs of the 1930s and quickly shot up to getting leading roles of their own. Technically, Ginger had already been a lead, in smaller movies like Rafter Romance, and getting substantial roles in bigger movies like Gold Diggers of 1933. But Flying Down to Rio was only the second movie for Fred, and he really shines.

Flying Down to Rio is available on DVD, and while it's not as polished as some of Fred and Ginger's later work, it's still a lot of fun.

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