Flying Down to Rio

John Parker July 12

Flying Down To Rio (1933). Jon suggests that this perspective of Latin America is different than that in the two previous films, and he’s right. Mariachi bands and dancing in the Acapulco sun give way to Latin rhythms in supper clubs that feature professional dance orchestras that were prevalent in the era leading up to World War 2. Distinct Latin rhythms prevail, meaning syncopated-African-originated Brazilian sambas and tangos. Camilo and Jon’s “conservative honour society” that we saw in Zorro is not constantly on the defensive but more fun pursuing in their tropical paradise. The female lead, herself a dark and very rich Brazilian, is so much fun that she needs to be chaperoned day and night by French-speaking relatives. Luckily for us she does get a few break-away scenes that include a dance, a silly ride in an airplane that incudes an even sillier being stranded on a deserted island, and a skin revealing beach outfit that might have been racy for the 1930s. Other Brazilians dance the Karioka in the supper club or on primitive airplanes and sing Brazilian love/folk songs without microphones. My favourite is the Brazilian band that knows this music so well that it is in full siesta mode right up until the moment it performs.

Rio, with its many famous sunny beaches and fun institutions, like soccer and Mardi Gras, even Portuguese language, is the perfect backdrop for Fred Astair’s and Ginger Rogers’ hapless band that plays when it can considering its success is constantly hampered by its leader’s short attention span. Fred and Ginger get ample dance time and adapt quite well to the new rhythms and surroundings. They eventually participate in the cause to save the lead’s father’s new hotel from floundering due to “Latin” shady business practices. Mayors and bankers all fall under the influence of corruption from the competition, giving a real “south of the border feel.” The lead’s wealthy father prevails thanks to the help of Fred Astaire and the band and, of course, the airborne dancers who do some truly amazing stunts for a 1930s film, albeit very little actual flying was involved. The lead has fallen for the ridiculous band leader, blond hair, youthfulness and all; they are married high in the sky as the original fiancée, well-mannered, bold and certainly more deserving after leading the airplane dance corps to help rescue dad’s hotel, parachutes back to earth. I’d change the title to Flying Dancers Over Rio.


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