Flying Down to Rio (1933)
Astaire reviews with the Designated Dancer #2 Flying Down to Rio (1933)
Flying Down to Rio was a movie intended to showcase the beautiful Dolores Del Rios, but inadvertently created one of Hollywood’s greatest dancing duos.
Astaire was reluctant to have a regular partner again. His former partner sister Adele retired from dancing after marrying, and he felt ready to branch out solo. Astaire had met Rogers previously when he choreographed a dance for Rogers and her partner in a show called “Girl Crazy.” Supposedly they even went on a date or two around this time. Rogers already had 19 films under her belt compared to Astaire’s 1 at the time, hence why she is billed fourth and he is fifth.
So much has been said about their partnership over the years. Katherine Hepburn once said of the Astaire /Rogers pairing, “Ginger gave him sex and he gave her class.” In a way Ginger is the younger, fresher, and yes sexier of the two. The two of them coming together somewhat reluctantly on both accounts created without a doubt a powerhouse onscreen dancing pair.They partnered up in ten films altogether, and the dances and songs throughout them are immortalized because of Fred and Ginger’s performances. Of course Fred is the more technically proficient of the two, Ginger never appears to be competing with him and works her damn hardest to come up to his level. A testament to the hard work she put into her dancing performances is this quote from Astaire himself in 1986.
“All the girls I ever danced with thought they couldn’t do it, but of course they could. So they always cried. All except Ginger. No no, Ginger never cried.”
Astaire was a perfectionist, one of the aspects of movies vs. stage performances that appealed to him was that you could film something over and over again until it was perfect. He went on to partner with many great dancers, but never achieves the type of chemistry that he does with Rogers. And some of this is personal preference, I love the two together, unabashedly. One being a better dancer and the other being the better at acting, it gave them each their time to shine. They balance each other out. Astaire and Rogers never really had to compete against each other. Each had their strong suits and they both knew what they were. They both had a very natural on screen presence and a sort of chemistry that was entertaining to watch.
Dolores Del Rio/Belinha De Rezende
Gene Raymond/Roger Bond
Raul Roulien/Julio Rubeiro
Honey Hale/Ginger Rogers
Fred Ayres/Fred Astaire
We start in Miami. Well they gotta fly down to Rio from somewhere eh?
We see some head waiters looking over the kitchen staff. Annnndddd Eric Blore
Blore is one of my favorite characters from the Astaire/Rogers movies. He only has a small part here, but just wait…….just you wait.
We start with Blore and another head waiter inspecting the staff, he has the ladies turn around to look at their heels? We see that one of the girl’s heels is rounded, so as to make it easier to fall onto her “back”. Ok this was pre-Hays-Code so we see some things in this movie that we’re not going to see again for a while so enjoy it while you can.
Well now we head over to meet the band. Ba da da dum! Ginger Rogers/Honey Hale. Management informs the band that they’ve had several complaints about every single member of the band and would like to remind them that getting “familiar” with hotel guests is strictly forbidden. To which Honey Hale queries while lifting up her skirt, “But what happens when the guests get familiar with us?”
Well management wants to know where the two band leaders are. Honey tells them that they’re coming right down. Out of an airplane? There are quite a few airplanes in this movie. I won’t try to justify any of them.
We see the ‘Yankee Clippers’ all together. With Gene Raymond as Rodger Bond at the helm. Our first song is introduced, “Music Makes Me”. Sung by Honey Hale. Rogers is great. Her voice is spot on. Again some things in this song scream pre-code.
“My self control was something to brag about, now it’s a gag about town.” Rogers had it in her contract that in each of her movies she would receive one solo song. “Music Makes Me” is delightful a tongue in cheek diddy that hints at slightly naughtier stuff.
As the music continues we see our leading man Roger Bond making eyes at all the ladies, then he spots Belinha.
Ayres warns the band, “Hold onto your hats boys, here we go again, the Latino type.”
Holy sleeve puffs!
Being of course seduced by the air in her sleeves he starts dancing with her. Prompting one of Belinha’s friends to query.
“What have those South Americans got below the equator that we haven’t?”
You’re searching too low. It’s all in the sleeves.
A game of telephone ensues throughout the entire hotel until Belinha’s aunt is told that her niece is dancing with a gigolo. Auntie heads downstairs and hands him some money telling him to leave. Roger promptly buys a flower with the money giving the flower to Belinha. Ok, so now I have to start with how much I hate Belinha after watching “Flying Down to Rio” twice within the past week. Not only does Belinha not correct her aunt about Roger being a gigolo, but when he gives her a flower she declares that this particular flower is a weed in her country, and gives the flower away in front of Rogers face. Then after everyone has left she comes back and steals the flower back, WHAT IS THIS GIRLS GAME?!?!?!?!
The hotel manager promptly fires the band. Thanks Roger.
Roger gets a message from a good friend of his asking The Yankee Clippers to play at a hotel opening in Rio De Janeiro. Surprise! That’s where Belinha is from. Roger and Belinha run into each other and Belinha is lamenting that there’s some sort of flight mix-up and now she’s going to arrive a day later than expected. Roger says he knows of someone who can give her a ride. Confession time…..
This movie struggles immensely with the burden of two unsympathetic leads. Normally Fred and Roger are flying buddies, moment Belinha comes onto the horizon he dumps Fred telling him to make the band sandwiches.
For the first half of the flight Roger keeps his face hidden because he knows that Belinha would never ride with him. After revealing his identity the plane runs into some mechanical difficulty and they end of stranded on a dessert island. Moment they land Belinha starts hemming and hawing about Roger orchestrating this mishap to seduce her.
Her entitled ‘the world revolves around me’ attitude runs my nerves up a wall and back. There really was an issue with the plane, easy fix. Roger is convinced by his body double/hologram/subconscious other him to hide a part of the plane and make out with Belinha. Beyond physical attractiveness and perfectly matching each other in douchbagginess which could be a sign they are soul mates, there is nothing I like about either of our leads. Who is rooting for this couple? No one. The bright side of this is our fourth and fifth billed stars, Astaire and Rogers stand out in the best possible way. When they aren’t onscreen it feels almost like a waiting game until they appear again.
Halfway through their make out session Belinha pulls away and exclaims, “I don’t know how this happened!” Seriously?
She explains that she has a pre-arranged marriage and can never be with Roger. Roger then decides to spank her? They may win an award for most unrelatable couple of all fucking time.
Next day they awake to be greeted by native savages! Wild men! Cannibals!
Finally everyone gets to Rio.
Roger and his good friend Julio are dressing in the hotel, and Roger is of course talking about Belinha.
“Every time I think about her I want to bite myself, and that’s news!”
It quickly becomes apparent that Julio is the other half of Belinha’s pre-arranged marriage. But for some reason he doesn’t tell Roger.
That night at dinner the Yankee Clippers have their first gig.
A local Rio band by the name of Caroonas opens for the Yankee Clippers.
“Should we play a foxtrot for the American visitors?” Ah hell to the no! You can see Fred’s face fall at how little regard they have for the foxtrot. That’s his dance! However, it’s not a hatred for the foxtrot that causes them to object it’s that this group loves the Carioca. And the Carioca is it, this is the fire where Fred and Ginger were made, born, formed.
We get a nice comedic bit with the Caroonas starting out with a single trumpet and the Clippers sneering at their unimpressive band, then slowly members showing up until it emerges into quite the band.
1-A native of Rio D Janerio
2-A Brazilian dance resembling the Samba, with the foreheads touching.
Fred, “So that’s the Carioca.”
Honey, “What’s this business about the foreheads?”
Fred, “Mental telepathy.”
Honey, “I can tell what they’re thinking from here.”
The Yankee Clippers falls into desperation, how can they ever possibly top this band? Fred will have none of it, if you can’t beat em, join em.
Per Honey Hale, “We’ll show them a thing, or three.”
And here we all have arrived, Fred and Ginger at the beginning. They fit together nicely and compared to other couplet dancers of that time you can clearly see that they’re soaring on a different level. The ease and level they achieve is unlocked within this dance and aspired to by others from that point forward. It would be easy to write off the touching of the foreheads as a cheap gimmick to be different. Honestly though? It adds something. A sort of pre-code sexual vibe within the air that feels a little dirty but just right for the moment. While Fred ever the perfectionist is on top of his game in this dance, Ginger was just getting back into the dancing game. I wouldn’t expect their first dance to be their best, and it isn’t. While I’m not getting flashbacks to Dancing Lady, there are a few moments of Honey glancing down at her feet. Overall, a pleasant dance, with some raunchy undertones that are not to be seen again at the end of pre-code in the Astaire/Rogers movies.
There’s a large group number set to this piece of music. At first we get for lack of a better word, the Caucasian group, and afterward the more ethnic group. While yes, segregation is there, both groups are treated equally and the dancing is touted with the same respect for both groups. After Fred sees the locals/more ethnic group start to dance he turns to Honey and says, “Kinda hot, lets try a little of that babe.” We also start off with a Caucasian singer, then moving on to a local one and both singers did respectable jobs.
The Carioca was the spark that lit a powerhouse of a couple and goodness, what a powerhouse.
The dance number itself screams pre-code with see through dresses that are little more than bathing suits, and the dancing…..whew. The foreheads touching brings an added level of intimacy that causes one of the girls to slap the man she’s dancing with, then afterwards resuming their dance. This ensemble number with the lyrics works well, and better than most of the ensemble dances of its time. And when Fred and Ginger took the stage, well, there’s a reason they made nine sequels to the two of them.
Next day we meet The Three Greeks. Who are they? What do they want? What kind of motives do they have? Where are they from? Well probably Greece….but who knows! Nothing is learned about these three except that they want to take over the hotel that The Yankee Clippers are booked to play at. Now I’m all for the ‘less is more’ approach to villainry, but you got give me something.
Roger (not Ginger Rogers, Roger in love with Belinha, Roger), Fred (Fred Astaire/Fred Ayres), and Honey (Honey Hale/Ginger Rogers not in love with Behlinha) set out downtown looking for Behlinha. A task that Honey a likens to,
Roger decides to run off looking for Belinha and off course the moment he takes off Fred and Honey find her in a coffee shop. Fred goes straight up to her to go about setting matters straight. But, before he can literally utter a word Belinha has him thrown…………picked up and thrown………….out of the coffee shop, for daring to speak to her! He didn’t even say anything to her! How did she know he was going to speak to her?!?!?! Maybe he was going to sit there silently?!?!?!?!?!?!
That evening we open on a ball and Fred in a tux, ahhhhh everything must be set right.
Fred and Julio start catching up when GASP!
Fred discovers that Belinha is Julio’s Fiancé, in light of this Belinha and Roger take a stroll together on the patio.
Why don’t I like Orchids in the Moonlight? Because it’s boring and being sung to my least favorite lead of all time? Well, yes and it’s a tango. A tango is a dance of passion and power between a queen and king, not a song you write about a girl that you think is pretty. Julio sings this magical song to Belinha, in response she decides she wants to marry Julio, right away.
Roger shows up and we get our classical love triangle finding out about each other bit. But enough! Belinha! This is pre-code Hollywood! Strong women are the cornerstone of this era! Make a decision! You can choose either one! To be totally honest, I dislike all three of you so if you want to, go ahead choose both! But dagnabit! Choose! Make a decision! Any decision! Decide! Instead of making any sort of decision and without muttering a word implying that she is leaning either way, she runs off to dance with Fred. Which don’t get me started! She throws him out on his heels when he so much as dares to go near her in a coffee shop, but now that she needs saving his presence is acceptable?!?!?!?!?!?! Well, they dance and it’s a nice tango.
Aha, time to learn more about The Three Greeks, or anything at all. Since as of right now their name is pretty much all we’re going on. They have hatched up a plan, a horrible, dastardly, awfully, disgustingly, retchingly……I’ll stop. They’re gonna catch the hotel on a technicality of not having an entertainment permit on opening day, thus causing the hotel to flop without entertainment. A weak villainy move to say the least, and I’m not sure entirely effective. They expect the hotel to go bankrupt in one day? Based on being able to stop one show? Sometimes you see movies that are well thought out, and sometimes you see, “Flying Down to Rio.”
Next day Fred is teaching a mix mash of various ladies to dance. I guess they needed a larger ensemble for the show and pulled ladies off the street. Don’t know, don’t care, Fred is about to dance.
Astaire actually requested that all of his dancing be edited out of this film, he didn’t feel it was quite perfected to his standard. Because I’m so used to seeing the meticulous best of the best of Astaire, it’s quite nice to see something that seems to come off the hand and so naturally. There’s always a playful side to his dance, and more so to this tap scene. It’s short but an enjoyable foray into his pre-superstardom phase. Clearly not his best work. But I get the feeling he could pull of the level he achieved in this number on any given day on any given hour. Even not being up to his usual level, it was above everyone else’s level at the time.
The police show up and we get a funny little exchange between them and Fred. Belinha shows up to sort it all out and we get to see her in a Bikini. I tried to find a picture of her in a bikini, but found some rather odd porn when I tried to image search Belinha, Bikini, Flying Down to Rio.
In her first act of usefulness the entire film she interprets what the police are saying to Fred. The police inform The Yankee Clippers that to perform they will need an entertainment permit, and you need the Mayor to sign the permit, and the Mayor is out of town. DAMN YOU THREE GREEKS! YOU ARE MASTERMINDS BEYOND THE FATHOMS THAT THE IMAGINATION CAN DELVE!!!!!
You forgot about boy genius Roger (again not Ginger Rogers, Roger the movie Roger), he remembers one of the best television shows ever made that was unforgivably canceled after one season.
Ummmmmmm the other one.
YOU CAN’T TAKE THE SKY FROM MEEEE!!!!!
Roger decides to take this performance to the air! The girls are sub-sequentially strapped to the planes. We get a lot of crotch shots and close ups on the female anatomy, even Honey punching a girl for so much as disagreeing with her. Clearly this is all pre-code stuff. While researching The Hays Code I found this great website that explains pre-code better than I ever could . Check this site out pre-code.com.
They don’t have their review up on Dancing Lady yet, but Flying Down to Rio is on there.
Roger decides at the last minute that he can’t fly the planes for the number leaving Julio to take over for him.
The gimmick of strapping the girls to planes and having them dance from there sounds interesting. Honestly though? It doesn’t work. You wouldn’t even be able to see these girls properly from the ground, since their strapped to the planes the ‘dancing’ is really arm waving. I feel robbed of my big musical ending number. We get a lot of close ups on girls without bra’s and very short shorts/skirts. Alas, I am not a teenage boy, so it in no way makes up for the lack of dancing in this scene.
During this whole airplane/arm waving fiasco Roger meets up with Belinha and tells her that he is leaving, and that she should marry Julio. Belinha in her typical fashion has nothing to say about the matter. They part ways with a kiss which Julio spots from above.
The planes number ends and everyone at the hotel loves it. A success! The Three Greeks are hit on the heads by three bottles. I’m not even going to bother.
Julio runs from his plane to Belinha and declares that he is taking her on her honeymoon. She scoffs, “Don’t you have to be married to go on a honeymoon?”
Julio takes her up on a plane and we see Roger is also on the plane! A minister comes out to marry Julio and Belinha, and Belinha is on board with it. Then last moment Julio tells Belinha that she should marry Roger and he then parchutes off the plane. Belinha has not said anything one way or the other about what she wants. But eh, Roger didn’t jump out the plane, so he’ll do.
Flying Down to Rio was the perfect movie to launch Fred and Ginger. I never thought about how they became famous. I mean, Fred honestly doesn’t have the looks that they desired back then. And while Ginger is better than many dancers, but she is certainly not the best. How did this movie create them? It’s not a good movie. Not by a mile. The leads, particularily Belinha are so unrelatable and dull, and uninspiring to the point where Fred and Ginger appearing onscreen felt like being rescued from nails on a chalkboard. The chance happening of Astaire and Rogers coming together to do a dance sequence for a film that was so ridiculous in a bad way, showcases their chemistry and it’s all anyone remembers about this film.
After “Flying Down to Rio”, Astaire sent a note to his agent about Rogers. “I don’t mind making another picture with her, but as for this team idea, it’s out! I’ve just managed to live down one partnership and I don’t want to be bothered with any more.” The overwhelming response to Fred and Gingers partnership persuaded him to do a few more movies with her, a few or you know nine.
When you watch this movie it’s really a waiting game until we get to see Fred or Ginger. They are full force in this movie when they are given screen time. And they outshine everyone around them.
That point is for Belninha in the tango with Fred. Otherwise Roger and Belinha would have earned a zero.
Supporting Characters 17/20
If it were merely Ginger and Fred I would have probably gone the full twenty, but Julio has to be included in this bracket as well. While I do like his bit of badassery of setting up a wedding for Belinha with someone else and then jumping out of a plane, other than that he was just as bad as our leads.
It’s hard to grade a villain/villains that are only seen as shadows, and who are taken out by a bottle being broken over their head. But I’ll give them each a point.
Almost as bad as the leads.
The Carioca was flat out a wonderful duet, and then ensemble piece. As a matter of fact look at that poster below. Their dance in this throwaway movie was impressive enough to be used as an advertisement. The two of them set new standards in the land of Hollywood on the dancing front. Fred’s tapping while trying to teach the new chorus girls was excellent as well. The music was decent, I liked the Carioca and the song Flying down to Rio was a jolly good time.
Final Score 36