This festive season I've decided to revisit all the Astaire Rogers movies in order. I've never watched them as a whole, one after another but dipped in and out of them over the years and always promised myself that I would one day watch them in the order they were made.
Yesterday I started with Flying Down to Rio, I wonder how much planning went into putting this partnership together the partnership of Astaire and Rogers, they play second fiddle here to Dolores del Rio and Gene Raymond, Raymond doesn't come across very well to me, his type just seems a bit too dated to me, Dolores Del Rio is definetly a first string star and the plot revolves around the lovely Belinha. Ginger is wise cracking and Fred plays an accordian in the band and conducts when his friend, Gene Raymond goes off after the girls. It's basic plot has nothing to set it apart from other vehicles of the day, apart from the fledgling partnership of Astaire and Rogers, a head connecting dance routine and the only dance routine I've seen with aeroplanes. Coming after Hell's Angels, Wings and Lindberg crossing the Atlantic, flying was a hot topic and Rio De Janerio an exotic setting. Fred's character was called Fred Ayres, very similar to his own name, perhaps to capitalise on the fame he already had achieved. According to Fred's filmography this is the first film he made, I'd always thought it was Dancing Lady, no matter, if this was his first movie he scored an absolute hit. Ginger had been playing a similar role in other movies but here she finds her niche which adds more panache to the wisecracking gal that she's so good at portraying. Dolores Del Rio gets a chance to dance with Fred, just a small chance but it was very nice.
The Gay Divorcee and the Fred and Ginger magic is shoved right to the fore, based on a stage play of the same name, it pits Fred falling for Ginger straight away against Ginger who is sore at him for tearing her dress at their first meeting. Also introduced are two other features that are prerequistes of Astaire/Rogers films, that of the delightful supporting players, here we have Edward Everett Horton, Erik Blore and Alice Brady to name three, all playing their crack pot characters so well that the developing confusion and double meanings are easily believeable. The other thing so important thing that spells out a Astaire/Rogers flim is the art deco sets, so stylish with clean lines that appear to imhabit a world all of their own that I would love to inhabit just for a day to wander around. Of course the set pieces of this film are Needle in a Haystack which Fred dances alone and much as I'm a fan of Fred's solo dances it's what he does with a partner in his arms that really makes me melt. Night and Day, he woos Ginger who has been completely resistant to him up to this point and keeps trying to walk away from him but gets blocked by his body whilst he sings the lyrics to her again and again, slowly she weakens, giving in to his charm, his words and his way with her. Watch Ginger's face, so much goes through it as he sings, then watch her body as she dances with him, willing and pliant but ready to match him movie for move. It's utterly charming, a seduction routine, Ginger really does make Fred sexy, it's not just Katharine Hepburn who said that although I would say he is sexy at this point in his career but Ginger makes him really hot. Fred does give her class, not in terms of the fact that she needs him to give her the illusion of class but because in these films she's elevated about the showgirl/shopgirl/streetwise gilr she's played time and again and given a step up in society. Lastly we have the Continental, suggestive, a kiss whilst you're dancing, a set piece, partly danced by Fred and Ginger aand partly danced by a number of dancers, slightly reminscient of Berkeleys number's at Warners, showing the dancers from different angles, making patterns. Fred and Ginger don't dance for long but when they do it's full of joy with Ginger having a scarf in her hand for added effect. The dance is a mixture of many types, I spotted latin, waltz and charleston and I'm no expert but these melded very well into the dance as a whole. 15 minutes went very quickly. The film is finished off by a lovely lot of confusion, all the scenes with the correspondent are well timed and acted, the characters who add to the confusion being amongst the best supporting actors to grace a film. This has always been one of my favourite Fred and Ginger movies because of the freshness, I wonder if I'll still feel this way when I've finished my journey.
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin