You look at the terrific number , ‘The Carioca’, from FLYING DOWN TO RIO and can’t help wishing it was in glorious Technicolor. There had been a plan to use color, but RKO , as often happened , was in financial difficulties.
I’d settle for seeing it on the big screen.
Fred and Ginger don’t appear till half way through the number and the lead singer is Etta Moten ( who had memorably sung ‘Remember My Forgotten Man” the same year in “GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933.”
Etta Moten (1901-2004) had a great voice but made only a few film appearances. In 1943 she played Bess in the stage revival of PORGY AND BESS. She was uncredited in Flying Down To Rio, simply referred to as “The coloured singer”.
’Carioca’ literally means ‘From Rio.’
FLYING DOWN TO RIO is remembered for the first teaming of Astaire and Rogers. Ginger had already appeared in 20 films and for the first and only time, got billing above Fred ( who had made a brief appearance in MGM’s Dancing Lady”.)
But as far as billing goes, Ginger and Fred were below Dolores Del Rio, Gene Raymond and even Raul Roulien ( an actor from Rio de Janeiro who sings the beautiful ‘Orchids in the Moonlight’.)
That would of course soon change after the film’s release and film audiences wanted to see more of the two dancers.
This musical actually only has four songs including the title number, but they are all very good – music by Vincent Youmans and lyrics by Gus Kahn /Edward Eliscu. But it was The Carioca that took the country by storm.
Ginger has a line in the film, before she and Fred do The Carioca:
”We’ll show ‘em a thing or three!” And you could argue that dance director Dave Gould challenged Busby Berkeley over at Warner Brothers with his breathtaking staging of The Carioca and the title number.
The chorines,led by Ginger, are actually safely mounted on the wings of planes, but the planes are stationary and suspended inside an airplane hangar, with wind machines , sound effects and back projection of Rio De Janeiro from the sky.
I think it looks spectacular for early special effects.
And in case you are wondering where Fred and Ginger are, here is their sequence in the production number, following on from Etta’s singing.
Alongside the future teaming of Astaire and Rogers, Flying Down to Rio brought together Fred with Hermes Pan who was Dave Gould’s assistant. Later Fred said: “Dave Gould was assigned as dance director but I’d did most of my work with his assistant, Hermes Alan.”
After filming ended, Fred flew to London to appear in “The Gay Divorce.” RKO offered him a contract and the rest is history.