“What have these South Americans got below the equator that we haven’t?”
Flirtatious bandleader Roger Bond (Gene Raymond) falls in love with a beautiful Brazilian socialite named Belinha (Dolores Del Rio), unaware that she’s already engaged to his friend Julio (Raul Roulien). Meanwhile, when Bond brings his band — including dancers Fred (Fred Astaire) and Honey (Ginger Rogers) — to Rio for a gig at Belinha’s father’s hotel, he discovers that members of a powerful bank eager to take over the hotel are determined to stop the show from taking place.
Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary argues that despite being fourth- and fifth-billed in their first onscreen pairing (behind top-billed romantic leads Dolores Del Rio and Gene Raymond), Rogers and Astaire “steal [this] film” as they “do their one duet” together, dancing “The Carioca” and “giving off electricity that Raymond and… Del Rio are unable to equal”. He notes that “despite some dull spots and a flimsy plot”, the picture remains “romantic, sexy, and delightfully and inventively kitschy”, with “some tricky camera work, unusual art design by Van Nest Polglase and Carroll Clark, and some creative production numbers” — most notably the “unforgettable” aerial ballet finale featuring “scantily clad chorus girls strik[ing] provocative pre-Hollywood poses on the wings of airplanes in flight”.
Indeed, while “Rogers and Astaire are the main reason this film” has remained in film lovers’ consciousness (most know of it simply as the movie that sparked Astaire and Rogers’ lengthy onscreen partnership), it’s ultimately more “bizarre” than “innocuous”, and offers some unexpected pleasures here and there — such as the use of shadowy silhouettes (accompanied by an unforgettably wonky musical theme) to represent the three “evil” bank members, or the surreal outcome of Del Rio and Raymond’s overnight island stay. Meanwhile, the culminating aerial sequence (complete with one chorine nearly falling to her death!) is certainly worth a look for curiosity-value alone — though it’s not quite enough to raise the film as a whole to the level of “must see” viewing.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Astaire and Rogers dancing the Carioca
- Astaire finding himself unable NOT to dance when he hears band music starting up
- The justifiably infamous “aerial ballet” scene
- Some fun pre-code zingers (see quote at beginning of review)
No, though of course anyone interested in the evolution of the Astaire-Rogers films will want to check it out.