Flying Down to Rio is a 1933 American pre-Code RKO musical film famous for being the first screen pairing of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, although lead actors Dolores del Río and Gene Raymond received top billing. Among the featured players are Franklin Pangborn and Eric Blore. The songs in the film were written by Vincent Youmans (music), Gus Kahn and Edward Eliscu (lyrics), with musical direction and additional music by Max Steiner. During the 7th Academy Awards, the film was nominated for the new category of Best Original Song for "Carioca", but it lost to "The Continental" from The Gay Divorcee, the next Astaire and Rogers film (and their first with top billing).

Flying Down to Rio
Film poster by Harold Seroy
Directed byThornton Freeland
George Nicholls Jr. (associate)
Ray Lissner (assistant)
Screenplay byErwin S. Gelsey
H.W. Hanemann
Cyril Hume
Story byLou Brock
Based on1933 unpublished play
by Anne Caldwell
Produced byMerian C. Cooper
Lou Brock
StarringDolores del Río
Gene Raymond
Ginger Rogers
Fred Astaire
CinematographyJ. Roy Hunt
Edited byJack Kitchin
Music bySongs - Music:
Vincent Youmans
Songs - Lyrics:
Gus Kahn
Edward Eliscu
Max Steiner
Distributed byRKO Radio Pictures
Release date
  • December 29, 1933 (1933-12-29)
Running time
89 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$1,545,000[1]
A couple in traditional pre-code pose
Dolores del Río and Gene Raymond in the film
A movie trailer card featuring two performers
The first screen announcement of the Astaire–Rogers partnership, in the trailer for Flying Down to Rio

The black-and-white film, which had a color-tinted sequence,[2] was directed by Thornton Freeland and produced by Merian C. Cooper and Lou Brock. The screenplay was written by Erwin S. Gelsey, H. W. Hanemann and Cyril Hume, based on a story by Lou Brock and a play by Anne Caldwell. Linwood Dunn did the special effects for the celebrated airplane-wing dance sequence at the end of the film. In this film, Dolores del Río became the first major actress to wear a two-piece women's bathing suit onscreen.[3]

The film follows composer Roger Bond as he falls in love with Brazilian woman Belinha De Rezende, although she is actually already engaged to a friend of Roger's. Roger's bandmate Fred Ayres and Ayres' companion Honey Hales support Roger through various musical misadventures.

Plot edit

Composer Roger Bond (Gene Raymond) and his orchestra are appearing in Miami, with vocalist Honey Hales (Ginger Rogers). Despite the warnings of accordionist and assistant bandleader Fred Ayres (Fred Astaire), Roger is attracted to the beautiful and flirtatious Belinha (Dolores del Río) in the audience. He leaves the bandstand to pursue her.

Dona Elena (Blanche Friderici), Belinha's chaperone, is informed of this, and arranges for Roger and the band to be fired. But Roger pursues Belinha to Brazil, and organizes an engagement for the band at the Hotel Atlântico in Rio de Janeiro, unaware that the hotel is owned by Belinha's father (Walter Walker). Roger persuades Belinha to allow him to fly her there in his private plane, which runs into trouble inflight, forcing a landing on an apparently deserted island. Under the moonlight, she falls into his arms, while admitting to him that she is already engaged.

In Rio, Roger informs his good friend Julio (Raul Roulien) that he has fallen in love, but finds out that Belinha is engaged to Julio. During rehearsals for the Hotel's opening (a brief bit of Astaire tap), Fred is told by police that the hotel lacks an entertainment license. When Roger spots a plane overhead, he comes up with the idea of strapping dancing girls to planes, with Fred leading the band and Honey and Julio leading the planes. The show is a great success and the hotel's future guaranteed. Julio gives Belinha up to Roger while Fred and Honey celebrate.[4][5][6]

Cast edit

Music edit

All the songs in Flying Down to Rio were written by Vincent Youmans (music) and Gus Kahn and Edward Eliscu (lyrics). The dance director was Dave Gould, assisted by Hermes Pan, who went on to become Astaire's primary collaborator.

  • "Flying Down to Rio" – sung by Fred Astaire, danced by Ginger Rogers and the chorus
  • "Music Makes Me" – sung by Ginger Rogers, some general dancing
  • "Orchids in Moonlight" – sung by Raul Roulien, danced (a bit) by Fred Astaire and Dolores del Rio; this became a popular tango song
  • "Carioca" – sung by Alice Gentle, Movita Castaneda and Etta Moten, danced by Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers and the chorus;[7] this is notable for being Astaire and Rogers' first dance together; they dance with their foreheads touching.

Reception edit

Mordaunt Hall, The New York Times critic, praised the lavish production and called it (along with the Walt Disney short The Night Before Christmas) "a thoroughly enjoyable entertainment."[8] The Variety magazine review was less enthused, complaining that "...Rio's story ... lets it down. It’s slow and lacks laughs to the point where average business seems its groove."[9] However, Astaire was singled out for acclaim, asserting "He's distinctly likeable on the screen, the mike is kind to his voice and as a dancer he remains in a class by himself."[9]

According to RKO records, the film made $923,000 in the United States and Canada and $622,000 elsewhere, resulting in an estimated profit of $480,000.[1]

The film was nominated for the 2006 American Film Institute list AFI's Greatest Movie Musicals,[10] and "Carioca" was nominated for AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs.[11]

The film title was referenced by Roxy Music in their 1972 hit single "Virginia Plain" - "Baby Jane's in Acapulco / We are flying down to Rio".

Ella Shohat argues that the way the film depicted Brazilians homogenized them into a pan-Latin American entity that reflected ethnic stereotyping in American film at the time.[12]

Notes edit

  1. ^ a b c Richard Jewel, 'RKO Film Grosses: 1931–1951', Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, Vol 14 No 1, 1994 p. 55
  2. ^ Croce, Arlene (1972). The Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers Book.
  3. ^ History of Sex in Cinema: The Greatest and Most Influential Sexual Films and Scenes
  4. ^ Billman, Larry (1997). Fred Astaire – A Bio-bibliography. Connecticut: Greenwood Press. p. 82. ISBN 0-313-29010-5.
  5. ^ Erickson, Hal (2015). "Flying Down to Rio". AllMusic. Retrieved June 13, 2015.
  6. ^ Green, Stanley (1999) Hollywood Musicals Year by Year (2nd ed.), pub. Hal Leonard Corporation ISBN 0-634-00765-3 page 28
  7. ^ "Flying Down to Rio". Reel Classics. 2009. Retrieved June 13, 2015.
  8. ^ Mordaunt Hall (December 22, 1933). "Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers and Others in a Musical Film -- Walt Disney's New 'Silly Symphony.'". The New York Times.
  9. ^ a b "Flying Down to Rio". Variety. December 31, 1933.
  10. ^ "AFI's Greatest Movie Musicals Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved August 13, 2016.
  11. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved August 13, 2016.
  12. ^ Shohat, Ella. "Ethnicities-in-Relation: Toward a Multicultural Reading of American Cinema". In Lester D. Friedman (ed.). Unspeakable Images: Ethnicity and the American Cinema (PDF). University of Illinois. pp. 215–247. - Cited: 226 (PDF p. 8/18)

External links edit