For Reel

Flying Down to Rio (1933)
July 23, 2015, 12:02 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Thornton Freeland
3 Stars
Flying Down to RioIt is often said of the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dance routines that they effectively made the on screen romantic chemistry physical. While it is a simplification to say that each number served as a sexual consummation, many of them did. Even if Flying Down to Rio contains less of their dancing and of a lower quality than their usual standard, the scenes in which they do interact are linked to a certain raw sensuality that would eventually be subsumed by a more elegant, playful sensibility in later productions. Their big moment occurs during the “Carioca” sequence, which concerns the dance craze in which the partners touch their foreheads together as they dance. The scene is preceded by a number of innuendos and gags involving the eroticism of it–Astaire quips that it helps the partners read each other’s minds, followed quickly by an unnamed woman pulling away from her dance partner and slapping him. When they finally engage, it is full of the same titillation, as if they were the centerpiece of a grand orgy. Despite the appeal of seeing the origin of the Astaire/Rogers partnership, however, Flying Down to Rio is hugely unmemorable, severely hindered by a stale love triangle involving Dolores Del Rio, Gene Raymond, and Raul Roulien. Raymond never really found a niche despite appearing in many romantic comedies throughout the 1930s, but Roulien does give a sympathetic performance in an admittedly thankless, limp role.


Over the Moon (1939)
May 29, 2014, 11:39 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Thornton Freeland
2 Stars
Over the MoonOver the Moon went into production in 1937 before being shelved for two years. During that period, star Merle Oberon suffered a serious car accident that scarred her for life. Although she would remain a great beauty, makeup and lighting tricks would need to be used for the remainder of her career in order to hide her scars. Just about all this production has going for it is that it is a fascinating glimpse into Oberon’s evolving presentation–one can see drastic changes in her hair and make-up styles from one scene to the next. Beyond that, the project is dead in the water, with director Thornton Freeland blandly staging banal dialogue sequences in-between gratuitous travelogues. Oberon’s co-star Rex Harrison (who had yet to arrive at the peak of his talents) is stiff and wrought with an unintended pomposity. The finished production arrived with good timing in that it followed the release of Oberon’s breakout performance in Wuthering Heights, however it would have been better for all parties involved to have scrapped the material altogether when they had the chance.