5 July 2004 | Scaramouche2004
A run of the mill musical except for the obvious addition.
By the time Flying Down to Rio was released in 1933, It was Warner Brothers who had been having the success as far as musicals were concerned.
Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell were the uncrowned King and Queen of song and dance land and in films like 42nd Street, Footlight Parade and Gold Diggers and the later movies Dames and Flirtation Walk they were paving the way for a motion picture genre that would continue in much the same vein for the next twenty years.
With kaleidescope routines expertly directed by Busby Berkeley via overhead cameras, the movie musical was finally taking shape bearing little or no resemblance to earlier dismal efforts like MGM'S Broadway Melody of 1929 or their equally unimpressive Hollywood Review from the same year.
RKO was at the time a struggling studio with huge debts and was on the verge of going bankrupt. However they decided to capitalize on this medium in an effort to pull themselves back into the black.
Flying Down to Rio was in all respects no different to any other of the films they produced at the time and I'm sure this film would have sank into obscurity and be long forgotten had it not been for the movie milestone it boasts.
Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers were cast as only 3rd and 4th billed performers, to all intents and purposes, the token dance act, a novelty. Neither of them had done much before. Ginger of course was beginning to make a name for herself. She had featured in both the fore-mentioned 42nd Street and Gold Diggers and was slowly working her way out of chorus lines into bit parts and the occasional solo number.
Fred had done less still. Already a well known stage star in America and Britain, he had just one previous film under his belt. A natural dancer of extraordinary talent, Fred was signed on as RKO's secret weapon in their efforts to make the best musicals.
However, no matter how dull the storyline to "Rio" is (and it is believe me) it is soon forgotten when Fred and Ginger perform their first ever screen dance, The Carioca, a musical number with Latin- American tempo complete with stunning costumes, guest singers and the very kaleidoscopic shots of which Busby Berkeley himself would have been proud. It is their only dance together in the film and their actual dancing is given very limited screen-time, but it was enough to cause Astaire/Rogers mania.
Forgive the cliche but the rest is history as they say.
So successful were they that they went on to appear in a further nine films together making them one of the most beloved and cherished screen partnerships ever.
Alone the Astaire/Rogers musicals of the thirties saved the studio from closure and they helped push Warner's, Keeler and Powell into second place, at least as far as musicals were concerned.
Astaire is given further opportunity to shine in two stunning solos which will leave the viewer in no doubt whatsoever why he was the very best at his chosen craft.
Complete with the now famous 'girls-strapped-onto-aeroplane-wings' scene and with the added talents of Delores Del Rio and Gene Raymond adding the romance, It all helps to make an otherwise dull film into a legendary silver screen gem.