Flying Down to Rio is the first Astaire-Rogers film. Technically, it's a Dolores Del Rio-Gene Raymond part, though, as Ginger and Fred are only minor players in it: they get fourth and fifth billing, respectively. And they only get one dance number together - "The Carioca", which was nominated for the Best Song Oscar (it lost to "The Continental" from The Fay Divorcee). But, as always, their dancing is so amazing, they stole the picture from the stars, and the rest is history.
The introduction by Robert Osborne provided us with some interesting facts. Originally, Honey Hale was to have been played by Dorothy Jordan, but just before filming began, she married Merian C. Cooper and retired. In the 1950s, she made three more films, one of which is quite notable. It's The Searchers, in which she played Martha Edwards, Ethan's sister-in-law and great love. (We talked about The Searchers twice. Here is the most recent article.) Her marriage to Cooper lasted until his death in 1973; she died in 1988, at the age of 82.
With Jordan's departure, a new Honey Hale was needed, so the studio turned to Rogers. She and Astaire knew one another - they had met - and dated - in New York City when he worked as a choreographer in play in which she appeared. Though neither was looking for a dance partnership (Astaire had decided not to have another partner after sister Adele retired), this was a one-shot in a minor role. Little did they know they would be making film history.
This TCM Article talks about these facts, as well as another partnership that was formed during the film - Astaire's meeting with Hermes Pan, the assistant choreographer here. It also discusses the magnificent art deco sets - they are of themselves works of art.
The film is also VERY precode. From Ginger Rogers see-through evening gown to the dancers whose dresses are literally blown off while performing on an airplane wing, we get to see a lot of some lovely ladies. Add to that some suggestive lines ("What's this business with the forehead?" "Mental telepathy." "I can tell what they’re thinking about from here.”) and you have a delightfully naughty film.
A quick tip of the hat is due to actor Raul Roulien, who plays Belinha's fiance. He makes Julio so very likeable that, by film's end, you wonder WHY Belinha would pick such a lightweight as Roger, when she has a wonderful, stable, loving guy like Julio at hand. We don't have a lot of hope for that marriage. One suspects Roger will be gadding about once the novelty of Belinha and Rio wears off. However, we think that Fred and Honey will take the band to new heights of popularity (once they get away from Roger and his hijinks.
We leave you with Fred and Ginger dancing "The Carioca":