FLYING DOWN TO RIO is kooky and downright silly at times but I can't help but love this flick. It always manages to put a smile on my face every time I watch it. It really doesn't pretend to be anything more than the 30's escapist entertainment that it is - something to help keep the audience's mind away from The Great Depression - if only for a moment. But there is also a significant cultural footnote that we can attribute to this film though - we can credit FLYING DOWN TO RIO for introducing the world to the dance team of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire.
Ginger Rogers usually was relegated to second tier actress roles prior to and including this film, but I always thought she had such a tremendous screen presence that she usually out-shined the higher billed actresses. Although Dolores Del Rio gets top billing here, it's Ginger Rogers who will make the bigger impression on the viewer. She also gets to sing a number early in the film wearing a very slinky outfit. It's one of my favorite tunes from the 30's.
It's the same with Fred Astaire. His role is secondary to Gene Raymond's...but it will be Astaire's fancy footwork that viewers will remember. Really, Fred & Ginger only dances to one number here and it's relatively a short scene and played somewhat for laughs. "We'll show them a thing or three..." says Rogers as she gets up to dance with Fred...and boy, do they sizzle on the dance floor. Compare that dance to Fred's dance with Del Rio later - and, well there really is no comparison.
There is only a semblance of a plot here. Roger Bond (Gene Raymond) is a band-leader who always seems to have a hard time getting steady work for his band. He's either flirting with his female audience members...or he's always late for work cause he spends a lot of time flying around in his plane. He has a piano installed inside his tiny two-seater plane...in case, you know - he wants to play music while he's flying around (I told you this movie is rather kooky)!!!
During a gig at a Miami hotel...Bond gets in trouble again when he flirts with a lovely latin girl from Brazil, Belinha de Rezende (Dolores Del Rio). She is daughter to a Rio De Janeiro hotel owner whose hotel is being acquired unknowingly (in a hostile manner) by foreign interests. She is also the fiancee to a wealthy Brazilian, Julio Ribeiro (Raul Rulien) - who happens to be friends with Bond. It's Julio that has a gig lined up for Bond in Rio. Why Bond doesn't know Belinha is another of the film's imponderables - but no point in worrying about it - for the "love triangle" is established :p
The other significant scene is the outrageous flying sequence with chorus girls strapped onto wings of airplanes. It's a scene that a Busby Berkeley could have choreographed if he was high on something. It's 1930's entertainment kitsch at it's best and most memorable...and I mean it in a good way.
I also love looking at the art deco sets and 1930's fashion - which looks terrific on the actor and actresses. It's all photographed in that nostaglic looking light that makes everything sparkle in that 1930's sort of way.
FLYING DOWN TO RIO was released during the pre-code era, so it gets away with some rather risque looking costumes (can you say "cleavage") and suggestive lines or three.
Yep...I love this film.