Saturday, February 7, 2009

Flying Down to Rio - 1933

Since, I enjoyed Carefree so much, I decided to watch Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers' first pairing: RKO's 1933 film Flying Down to Rio. In fact, this movie was Fred Astaire's screen debut, although Ginger had many previous film credits to her name. Fred and Ginger were not the stars of this film, though. The action focused on a love triangle between beautiful Dolores del Rio and her Brazilian fiance (Raul Roulien) and an American bandleader/aviator (Gene Raymond). Fred and Ginger provided some lively singing and dancing in the context of the plot.

The movie features two big production numbers. "The Carioca" is Fred and Ginger's first dance together:

Courtesy of RetroArcaicoRex on YouTube.

The big finale features girls "dancing" on the wings of airplanes:

Courtesy of AnnaMayWongSociety on YouTube.

Both of these productions, and the whole movie, are beautiful, glamorous, and even humorous. This was one movie I really wish could have been in color. Although it was spectacular in black and white, I can only imagine how gorgeous the 1930s costumes would have been in color. This must have been a welcome distraction for the nation at the height of the Great Depression.

Astonishingly, this movie, like It's Always Fair Weather, made mention of Schenectady! A Brazilian bandleader told the American band he had played in Ska-neck-teddy!

This DVD, like the one for Carefree, also included some bonuses: a Three Stooges short and a Warner Bros. Merrie Melodies cartoon, "I Like Mountain Music" from 1933 :

Courtesy of ErgoB on YouTube.

I enjoyed this cartoon because it featured characters from magazines in a drugstore coming to life (but be forewarned - it also has the obligatory offensive racial stereotypes).

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Carefree (1938)

I've gotten a bit behind with posting, but the last musical I watched was RKO's 1938 offering Carefree. I was perusing the library's large collection of musicals on DVD and this one was the first I picked up. When I saw that the cover exclaimed "See them do 'The Yam'" I was hooked! I have to admit I haven't seen many of the Astaire-Rogers musicals, but this seemed like a good place to start.

Although this musical only had four numbers and there wasn't much bursting into song, two criticisms I had about In the Good Old Summertime, I loved this movie. Of course the dancing was great and the Astaire-Rogers chemistry was fun to watch (if only his head wasn't shaped so strangely...). Fred plays a psychiatrist who agrees to analyze his friend's girlfriend (Ginger) who doesn't want to get married. Of course, Ginger falls in love with Fred instead. The friend is played by Ralph Bellamy. It was interesting for me to see him as a young man as I've only seen him playing FDR in the Winds of War and War and Remembrance miniseries.

The Irving Berlin score was thoroughly enjoyable. "The Yam" did live up to expectations. In fact, I don't understand why it hasn't become a classic like "White Christmas" and "God Bless America." There seem to be some copyright issues with posting the songs from the movie on-line, but I've found a nice performance by Clodagh Rodgers from a BBC special:

Courtesy of schwint on YouTube.

Any yam today?

The DVD featured a number of bonuses including a fantastic Warner Bros. cartoon, "September in the Rain." (Please note that this contains racial stereotypes prevalent in the 1930s/40s that would be considered offensive today - please don't watch if you think you might be offended.)

Courtesy of grannyfone1 on YouTube.

The DVD also included a short from a 1941 called "Public Jitterbug No. 1" with Betty Hutton. Oddly, there was no jitterbugging at all.