Sunday, August 01, 2021

Tonight's Movie: Flying Down to Rio (1933) at Mess Hall Market

Last night we had a fun evening attending what was described as a 1930s Drive-in Fly-in Movie Experience hosted by the Art Deco Society of Los Angeles.

The event, screening an aviation-themed double bill of FLYING DOWN TO RIO (1933) and LOVE ON THE RUN (1936), was actually held here in Orange County, atop a parking structure next to Mess Hall Market in Tustin. KNBC News in Los Angeles previewed it with an article last week.

There was a great view of the historic WWII-era Tustin airship hangars from our vantage point, a perfect tie-in with the evening's aviation theme.

The hangars were built in 1942 and remain some of the largest wooden structures in the entire world. A video documentary may be found here, and Huell Howser also filmed a show there.

Here are some photos of the hangars:

Before reviewing the film, here are a few more photos. When we arrived there were several cars in line ahead of us at what proved to be quite a well-attended event.

It was fun to watch the blow-up screen go up. I thought the photos might be of interest to others, as so many similar drive-in opportunities are available these days, and the photos give an idea of what might be expected at other pop-up style screenings.

I was pleasantly surprised by the size of the screen and the crisp picture quality. The tent up shielding the crew from the sun came down before the movies started.

Waiting for darkness to fall:

There was a good turnout! There were some additional cars outside the view of this photo.

The very nice giveaway drawing prizes:

And a photo prop themed to the evening:

In the interest of a full report, there were some organizational issues which I would anticipate will be resolved prior to future events. The advertised concession stand with popcorn and soda didn't appear, and the complimentary candy being passed out never made it to our car.

More significantly, issues with the sound system meant that the first film started 45 minutes late, which caused us to decide to skip the second feature, as it wouldn't have been over until after midnight. Communication with the audience during the delay, if the FM channel providing the pre-movie music could be used, would have been appreciated.

Our FM channel had occasional static mixed in with the soundtrack. (I'd note this hasn't been an issue for our radio at the Post 43 Drive-In in Hollywood.) That said, the picture quality was excellent.

I'm sure for any event like this there is a steep learning curve. Despite the hiccups we had a very good time, and I would definitely attend a similar screening in the future.

On to FLYING DOWN TO RIO! I've seen the other nine Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers countless times and I assumed I'd also seen this one, though I didn't remember it. However, the title isn't in my viewing record, which dates from when I was about 11, and it seemed completely unfamiliar. Is it possible this was my first time to see a Fred and Ginger movie?!

As many film fans will be aware, this was the first teaming of Fred and Ginger, and they're actually in supporting roles, with the stars of the film being Dolores del Rio and Gene Raymond.

Gene plays Roger, a ladies' man band leader who falls for beautiful Belinha (del Rio) at first sight during a Miami engagement. However, her aunt (Blanche Friderici) is determined to break them up...besides which, Belinha is already engaged to Julio (Raul Roulien).

Everyone ends up at a Rio resort, where Belinha will have to make up her mind between Roger and Julio...but first, Roger's friend Fred (Astaire) stages a gigantic airborne show for the guests, with dancers strapped to airplane wings!

I generally like this kind of romantic comedy and have enjoyed several of Raymond's other '30s RKO films, but he and del Rio are pretty bland in this one.

The movie comes alive when Astaire and Rogers (as the band's singer, Honey Hale) are on the screen. Their peppy personalities add zing to any scene they're in.

Astaire and Rogers only have one big dance number, "The Carioca," but their chemistry and that dance were enough to launch them into their own series of musicals starting with the following year's THE GAY DIVORCEE (1934).

The other "indoor" musical numbers, including the parts of "The Carioca" which don't include Astaire and Rogers, feature dancers staged similarly to Busby Berkeley numbers -- Berkeley's greatest Warner Bros. musicals came out the same year -- but are missing any special "something extra" to make them noteworthy.

The "airplanes" number at movie's end is memorable if only because it's so insane! Dancers strapped to the plane and to each other doing Berkeley-style choreographed if it would actually be possible given the wind forces they'd be facing, among other things. (Could the planes have even taken off?!) It's a slice of crazy good fun and makes the movie worthwhile along with Fred and Ginger.

FLYING DOWN TO RIO runs 89 minutes. It was directed by Thornton Freeland and filmed by J. Roy Hunt. The score was by Vincent Youmans, Gus Kahn, and Edward Eliscu.

FLYING DOWN TO RIO is available on DVD in the Astaire & Rogers Collection Vol. 2, in a TCM Collection, or from the Warner Archive.

Finally, I recently joined the Art Deco Society of Los Angeles.  For anyone interested in supporting the Society's preservation work and events, membership info is here.


Blogger SimpleGifts said...

So glad you finally got to see this movie. FLYING DOWN TO RIO was my introduction to classic film. My first job after college was as the activity director at a nursing home (pre-videos). Once a month, I took the "L" train downtown to the Chicago Public Library and checked out a 16mm copy of FLYING DOWN TO RIO, and then showed it to the residents. It was the only film they wanted to watch because it joyously transported them back to their youth. It was lovely watching the film with them monthly -- I never tired of seeing it (and I learned how to thread a Bell and Howell projector!). Best, Jane

12:19 AM  
Blogger Lynn Rutledge said...

I haven't seen this one yet, but definitely will now after reading this. I just checked out the photos on IMDB, and #22 shows Raul Roulien piloting a small plane with only one seat. And there's Ginger straddling the top of the plane behind him, looking through binoculars. What fun!

SimpleGifts, that's a wonderful story about the nursing home residents.

10:15 AM  
Blogger dfordoom said...

This post ticks all my boxes. Fred and Ginger, plus drive-ins, plus art deco. I do love art deco.

7:51 PM  

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