Flying Down to Rio:Aviator and band leader Roger Bond is forever getting his group fired for flirting with the lady guests. When he falls for Brazilian beauty Belinha de Rezende it appears to be for real even though she is... more » already engaged. His Yankee Clippers band is hired to open the new Hotel Atlantico in Rio and Roger offers to fly Belinha part way home. After a mechanical breakdown and forced landing Roger is confident and makes his move but Belinha plays hard to get. She can't seem to decide between Roger and her fiance Julio. When performing the airborne production number to mark the Hotel's opening Julio gets some intriguing ideas...The Gay Divorcee:Mimi Glossop wants a divorce so her Aunt Hortense hires a professional to play the correspondent in apparent infidelity. American dancer Guy Holden meets Mimi while visiting Brightbourne (Brighton) and she thinks he is the correspondent. The plot is really an excuse for song and dance. The movie won three Academy nominations and the first Oscar for Best Song: "The Continental" a twenty-two minute production number.DVD Features:Available Subtitles: English Spanish FrenchAvailable Audio Tracks: English (Dolby Digital 1.0)Includes:Flying Down to Rio (1933)The Gay Divorcee (1934)Roberta (1935)Carefree (1938)The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (1939)Format: DVD MOVIE Genre: TELEVISION/CLASSIC Rating: UNRATED UPC: 012569764385 Manufacturer No: 76438« less
Get this edition ONLY if you don't want to upgrade the older
Robert Moore | Chicago, IL USA | 09/10/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"First, there are several versions of the Astaire-Rogers DVDs going around. Get this version ONLY if you own volume one and you want a second set that looks exactly like it. It will not feature the upgrades found on the Ultimate edition, which will comprise 11-DVDs and will be packaged in thinpak editions. There is an alternative edition of Volume Two that will come with empty thinpaks of TOP HAT, FOLLOW THE FLEET, etc., that you can move your old DVDs into. I've ordered the upgrade, not this edition. But some will not miss the extra features disc and might actually prefer the thicker plastic case to the thinpak.
Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers are not merely the greatest dance team in the history of film but one of the greatest pairings as well, regardless of genre. Although both of them achieved considerable success apart from the other, there was just something incredibly magical about the times they would perform together. For anyone who loves film, this set is going to be about as essential as any that exists.
There can be only one possible complaint with this second volume in the release of all of the Astaire-Rogers films: it is not chronological. The reason for this is obvious; if they had released the sets with the films in chronological order, the first volume would have been vastly superior to the second. While Volume Two would have contained SWINGTIME, one of their greatest films, Volume One would have contained TOP HAT, THE GAY DIVORCEE, and FOLLOW THE FLEET. As it is, they have tried to balance the films somewhat by putting the utterly essential THE GAY DIVORCEE in Volume 2. Even so, this is a weaker set of movies than the first volume.
FLYING DOWN TO RIO
To be honest, this is not a great movie, though it is for several reasons highly entertaining. The musical numbers performed on airplanes at the end have to be seen to be believed and even then will not be believed. The film was not intended to be an Astaire-Rogers film. It was primarily viewed as a vehicle for the amazingly beautiful Dolores Del Rio. Fred and Ginger were actually fifth and fourth billed, respectively, behind Del Rio, Gene Raymond, and Raul Roulien. RKO was a late entry into the musical genre, lagging well behind Warner Brothers, Paramount, and MGM. They quickly tried to catch up by signing a number of performers. They had purchased the contract of Ginger Rogers from Warner Brothers. She had had some success in Busby Berkeley musicals there and was familiar to film goers from some prominent numbers she performed in vehicles such as 42ND STREET and GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933. Fred had been, of course, a member of one of the greatest vaudeville and Broadway dance teams, Adele and Fred Astaire. The focus of that act had been Fred's talented sister Adele. Interestingly, they were famed as a comic dance team, but tragically only about five seconds of film footage--taken from a bad angle--exists, so we no longer have an idea of what they were like. We do know that Adele was considered to be the heart of the act. She left the act to marry a titled Englishman and Fred was left to fend for himself. Amazingly, his first venture on his own was THE GAY DIVORCE, a huge hit on Broadway that led to his being beckoned by Hollywood shortly thereafter. The last thing in the world that Fred wanted, after a long pairing with his sister, was a new permanent partner. But when RKO was throwing together FLYING TO RIO, it threw together its newly acquired musical talent, and somewhat randomly Fred was teamed with Ginger. Today this film is remembered exclusively for its pairing of the two future legends. Although they weren't actually yet a team, every scene they have together show a natural chemistry.
THE GAY DIVORCEE
Filming Fred's huge Broadway hit THE GAY DIVORCE was an obvious next step in RKO's attempt to produce its own string of musicals. Because of the success of their pairing in FLYING TO RIO, putting Ginger Rogers into the film was a no brainer. A new set of songs was produced, though the big hit from the stage play, "Night and Day," was kept. Otherwise the script followed the stage play almost entirely and one of the most popular actors from the play, Erik Rhodes, who was hysterical as paid correspondent Rodolfo Tonetti, reprised his role in the film. An absolutely perfect group of character actors was added to the mix. This film became the blueprint for all of the best Astaire-Rogers films. In a wonderful example of the weird logic of the censors, they were forced to change the title of the film. Divorces, they were moralistically told, could never be gay, though divorcees could be. Thus, THE GAY DIVORCE became THE GAY DIVORCEE.
The film is remarkable on a number of levels. No film previously made featured so much extraordinary dancing. Most film dancing had focused on spectacular, heavily choreographed spectaculars, such as the productions we associate with Busby Berkeley. But Astaire insisted that his numbers be filmed with the camera only slightly above the angle of his and/or his partner's body and that his feet be visible at all times. This gives his numbers an intimacy that had never previously been seen in the film musical. The film also features many interior design innovations that would become even more famous in TOP HAT (e.g., Venetian blinds are so called not because they have any connection with Venice, but because they were used in the clean, new, and white Venice of TOP HAT). The dance numbers are all great, but none more so than "Night and Day." It was the first great Astaire seduction dance. In most of their films he has trouble interesting the somewhat aloof Ginger until he gets her to dance with him. Here he forces her to dance with him and at first she resists, making attempts to leave. But eventually she completely succumbs to his overtures and compliantly follows his every move. One of the secrets to Fred and Ginger's success was the way that you could follow the progress of the dance in Ginger's face. He was by far the greater dancer, but she was by far the greater actor and her face provided a perfect window into all that is happening. If there had been any doubt that what we were watching in their dance was lovemaking, all doubt is removed as the number ends with Fred gently guiding Ginger to a divan and then as she sits there utterly transfixed, gazing up at his face, he shifts his weight back, reaches into his jacket, and after pulling out a silver case, offers Ginger a cigarette. I remember reading a number of years back a film critic who wrote that the entire prior history of film would have been justified by their performance of "Night and Day." I don't disagree.
Many are perplexed that in the follow up to THE GAY DIVORCEE Fred and Ginger take second billing to Irene Dunne. Surely they proved in that film that they were the stars of any film that they appeared in. The mystery is resolved when one realizes that work on ROBERTA began before the release of THE GAY DIVORCEE. Unfortunately, Irene Dunne and Astaire-Rogers were not a great match. Dunne's singing style was quite mannered and didn't mesh with the remarkably natural style that both Fred and Ginger employed (it isn't often noted that they didn't sing at all like the vast majority of thirties vocalists--their singing voices were a complete extension of their talking voices, while most vocalists of the period had much more mannered styles). Still, it is a pretty good film with a lot of good moments. There is one great tragedy: Fred and Ginger do not dance to "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," the best song in the film. They would later try to correct this in THE BARKLEYS OF BROADWAY, but by then the time had passed. This is far from one of my favorites of their films, but I do enjoy rewatching it from time to time.
This is not a great musical though it is a very good comedy. It is a commonplace that this is the film that Ginger completely stole from Fred. I think that is true. It also foreshadows her subsequent career, in which she would establish herself as a truly great comic actress. The musical numbers aren't up to the level of their other films, but the film is a complete delight simply because of Ginger's great comic performance. I really like the novelty number that Fred has in which he drives one golf ball after another. No one was better at incorporating props into dance numbers than Fred. Interestingly, apart from a rather comic kiss in front of Ginger's husband in THE GAY DIVORCEE, Fred and Ginger had never had a romantic kiss in any of their films. So, the idea was to have a dance number that would culminate in kiss. The number was shot in slow motion and when they finally kissed they held it for a normal length of time for a kiss. But slowed down they appeared to be locked in a kiss that would never end. They had to reshoot with a mere peck of a kiss that looked just right when slowed down.
THE STORY OF VERNON AND IRENE CASTLE
It is pretty much a toss up between this film and THE BARKLEYS OF BROADWAY for the dubious distinction of being the weakest Astaire-Rogers film. Today it is fairly baffling why there would have been a demand for them to portray another dance team and largely just recreate their dances. Today the Castles are remembered almost exclusively for having been portrayed by Fred and Ginger. It is a film worth seeing at least once (I've seen it three times, so I've tested this theory; once truly would have been enough). For a long while, it appeared that this was going to be Fred and Ginger's last film together and it was their last at RKO. But ten years later Judy Garland had to pull out of THE BARKLEY'S OF BROADWAY, and Ginger stepped in to take her place. Ironically, the film was to be a follow up to the unexpected success of Fred and Judy's EASTER PARADE, ironic because Fred was in that one only because Gene Kelly had injured himself before filming began, causing Fred to come out of a relatively brief retirement.
I would strongly recommend that anyone interested in the films of Astaire and Rogers consider getting a copy of Arlene Croce's superb book on the dancing in their films."
Bobby Underwood | Manly NSW, Australia | 08/03/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It was the touch of finger tips, a hand on the waist, a longing look and a smile, and a graceful spin; it was Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, making love while they danced into our hearts and stayed there. It was elegance and charm, a romantic screen teaming like no other. Fred and Ginger gave the country a boost and a bit of hope in dire times, and made a collection of funny and romantically elegant dance musicals that have never been surpassed as film entertainment. There was magic when they danced, and charm when the talked to each other.
Here, in this wonderful boxed set, are some of their finest films. It is a bit of heaven you can slide into your player any time you need a lift, and never be let down. Even the wonderful "Carefree" is included, a film less like the others in that the emphasis was on the screwball humor rather than the routines, which were less in abundance but still as enchanting.
Also included in this set is the fabulous "The Gay Divorcee" and their bittersweet farewell picture, "The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle." While "Roberta" and "Flying Down to Rio" only offer Fred and Ginger in small doses, as the second leads, they are still entertaining. "Flying Down to Rio" is, in fact, a much better film than it is made out to be.
Here is an overview of the "A" films in this lovely collection of fun and romantic films we all took to our hearts long ago------
THE GAY DIVORCEE -- "Night and Day"
Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers gave everyone something to smile about for a couple of hours during the depression with a special blend of magic that can never be repeated. Their films were sophisticated and charming, elegant and romantic, and most of all, funny. "The Gay Divorcee" is a gorgeous production from Pandro S. Berman. A fine screenplay from George S. Martin, Dorothy Yost and Edward Kaufman, based on the novel by Dwight Taylor, helped this wonderful film garner 5 Academy Award Nominations, including one for Best Picture.
The chemistry between Astaire and Rogers lights up the screen during their dance numbers, a romantic yet innocent longing to fall in love in each graceful step and touch. A great supporting cast that includes Alice Brady, Edward Everett Horton, Eric Blore, and Erik Rhodes, add many laughs to this Mark Sandrich directed screen classic. Cole Porter's "Night and Day" is one of the most popular songs ever recorded, and "The Continental," a song not in Porter's origional Broadway show, but written for the film, won an Academy Award. The musical adaptation from the stage to film was by Kenneth Webb and the great Samuel Hoffenstein.
The story revolves around Mimi Glossip (Ginger Rogers) and her kooky aunt. Alice Brady is a hoot as Hortense, guiding Mimi through her divorce from geologist husband Cyril (William Austin). Guy Holden (Fred Astaire) can't forget the lovely Mimi after he "rescues" her from a snagged dress but she wants nothing to do with him. He searches all over London for her and finally catches up with her after a car chase and immediately proposes marriage!
Mimi is trying hard not to be charmed by Guy as her aunt has arranged for an attorney to aid in her efforts to free herself. The attorney is Guy's good pal, Egbert "Pinky" Fitzgerald (Edward Everett Horton), the black sheep of his family. Neither Mimi or Guy is aware of the coincidence, which creates a hilarious situation when Pinky arranges for her to have a "correspondent" in an effort to get her divorce.
Erik Rhodes nearly steals the film as the correspondent, Rodolpho Tonetti, whose motto is: "Your wife is safe with Tonetti. He prefers spagetti!" A secret phrase he is instructed to say to Mimi in order to identify himself as the correspondent, is one Pinky has overheard his pal Guy say. When Tonetti can't quite remember it, and doesn't have a description of Mimi, you can guess what happens!
Most of the fun takes place at a beautiful seaside resort, filled with all the glossy sets RKO could muster, which were abundant. Eric Blore is the waiter who will spill the beans about Mimi's husband's very real "correspondent" and allow Fred and Ginger to dance their way to happiness for the first time. Along the way, there is humor and charm, and a 17 minute sequence of "The Continental" which alternates between the easy grace of Fred and Ginger and a grander dance with practically everyone.
No other couple in film history has ever made love to each other through a dance like Fred and Ginger. Their charm and elegance let people imagine, if only for a couple of hours, that love and heaven existed still, and maybe they were the same thing. There was a fun happiness on the screen that allowed moviegoers to escape for a short interval from hard times, and give them hope that something better was just around the corner.
"The Gay Divorcee" was the beginning of an elegant magic Fred and Ginger would share with us all, until they finally felt it was time to say goodbye. But they never really have to say farewell as long as we have these wonderful film treasures, reminders of both them, and the romantic innocence we once had.
CAREFREE -- Ginger's Turn to Shine
While somewhat different than their charming and endearing musical films, this entry from Fred and Ginger is probably my favorite. Fortunately all the great elements that made the previous films so wonderful are still here, but this time those elements are interspersed between some nice screwball comedy that finally got to showcase Ginger's comedic talents. Fred is great as always, but this one is really Ginger's film, and she shines.
Once again, a fine Pandro S. Berman production and some magical songs by Irving Berlin made this Mark Sandrich film a sheer joy. An original idea by Marian Ainslee and Guy Endore was adapted to story form by Dudley Nicols and Hagar Wilde, then turned into a screenplay by Allan Scott and Ernest Pagano. Fred and Ginger, with fine support from Ralph Bellamy, Jack Carson and Luella Gear, turn all these elements into what, I believe, is the most "fun" of all their films.
Tony (Fred) is a psychiatrist trying to do his pal Stephen (Ralph Bellamy) a favor by seeing his radio singer fiance Amanda (Ginger) so he can figure out why she has called off their wedding three times! She blows Fred off as a quack when she overhears a transcription he's done which is less than flattering but finally gives in and agrees to let Tony disect her dreams and discover what's wrong with her.
A meal of lobster and mayonnaise, and a lot of other things, make her dream alright, but in her dream she's dancing with Tony! Amanda can't tell him, of course, and when he threatens to stop seeing her she makes up a dream that would keep ten psychiatrists busy and the fun really begins.
Rogers was fabulous in this film and it was the impetus for her very successful solo career. This light screwball comedy has some terrific moments. It's a laugh riot as Ginger walks out while being hypnotized, thinking she loves Bellamy, and going after Fred with a shotgun so he can die like a dog! As Fred tells Bellamy while they run after her: "She's in a trance. She may even act, a little odd!"
During the dream sequence they get to dance to "I Used To Be Color-Blind" and later on at a party they do "The Yam" in a very fun scene. Berlin's "Change Partners" was nominated for an Oscar. But Ginger and the screwball comedy take top billing in this one, making it one of their best. It is sophisticated and funny, and Fred and Ginger end up together as always. This time she's in a gorgeous wedding dress, and she has a black eye!
You don't hear as much about this one, but its inclusion here is what puts this collection over the top for me, making it a must have for anyone who wants to collect some of the team's best films in one easy purchase. Just fabulous fun!
THE STORY OF VERNON AND IRENE CASTLE -- A Tender Farewell
This beautiful and poignant farewell from one of the most memorable and beloved of screen couples in film history was the perfect way to say goodbye. Their previous pairings had been filled with joy, grace and elegance; a delightful escapism which helped get everyone through the depression and set a tone of charm and romance no one else has ever come close to. Appropriately enough, their last in the incredible cycle is tender and sweet, faint echoes of their previous entries mixed with the melancholy of something special disappearing forever, never to pass this way again.
Astaire and Rogers tell the story of Vernon and Irene Castle, who set dance and fashion trends all across Europe and America during a more innocent time in the world. Their's was a story of love, humor and dance. But when what they had always dreamed of was within their reach, the world intruded in a way which could not have been anticipated. Astaire and Rogers have never been so real as in this nostalgic and gentle ode to love and innocence.
Based on Irene Castle's stories, "My Husband" and "My Memories of Vernon Castle," the adaptation by Oscar Hammerstein II and Dorothy Yost was turned into a screenplay by Richard Sherman. Ginger's costumes were created by the real Irene Castle, and the Castle's love hangs over this film like a soft velvet fog. H. C. Potter's direction is minimal, allowing Fred and Ginger to say so long through the story of Vernon and Irene.
It begins in 1911, when Vernon, a second comic for Lewis Fields, is chasing after another actress. She ditches him at the beach, and a drowning little dog will bring Irene Foot and Vernon Castle together for the first time. Walter Brennen is wonderful as the crusty and protective Walter. He has practically raised Irene and calls her "Sailor" through her entire life. Vernon and Irene slowly come around to each other. A scene where both he and Irene attempt to get her dog to jump in his borrowed automobile, as an excuse to take a ride together, perfectly captures the sweet and lovely innocence of the time prior to WWI.
There is a charm to scenes in the Foot's parlor as Walter, and Irene's parents, go out of their way to leave the couple alone and keep asking if there is any news yet. It will bring a warm smile to your face when Vernon finally tells Irene he loves her and proposes, and laughter at his reaction to her acceptance. There is a warmth and sense of nostalgia to everything here as the young couple try to make their dreams come true.
It was Irene's belief in Vernon that pushed them forward as a dance couple, as she knew his talents were being wasted in the role of comic buffoon he was forced to play on stage. They have to leave Fields in America for Paris, in what appears to be their big break. Their springtime honeymoon in Paris, however, is plagued by financial woes when they discover they are not getting the chane to dance at all, but only for him to keep playing the comic fool for laughs.
That is when Maggie Sutton (Edna May Oliver) steps in, using her influence to get them a chance to dance at the Cafe De Paris. They do it for a meal for themselves and Walter, but once they hit the dance floor, they will never go hungry again. Maggie becomes their manager, her gruff exterior hiding a heart of gold. Their popularity grows to staggering preportions, as does their bliss. They travel all over Europe and America, setting dance and fashion trends the world over.
Vernon and "Sailor" set dance trends such as the "Castlewalk" and "Foxtrot," as well as the "Maxie," the "Castle Polka," and, the legendary "Tango." There are Irene Castle hats, bon bons and face cream. And Vernon Castle shoes and cigars. The montage of Fred and Ginger storming to success is graceful and joyous. Ginger is especially fetching in a memorable black tango dress designed by Irene Castle.
There are dark clouds on the horizon, however, as the entire world is sucked into war for the first time. Vernon and Irene are ready to stop touring and settle down to the life they've always dreamed of having. Irene's fears finally have to take a backseat to Vernon's sense of duty, however, when he joins the fight and enlists in the Royal Flying Core. Irene waits anxiously, the couple exchanging letters until they can be together once again. A more innocent time, intruded upon by the world as never before, is captured beautifully here.
There will be a reunion in France, and one more dance, before Vernon is finally transferred to Texas as a flight instructor. It seems they may have escaped WWI unscathed, but fate may be requesting some sad music, for a final dance. A bittersweet fade out of Irene and Vernon dancing forever, will bring tears not only for the Castles, but for Fred and Ginger, who were in their elegant way, trying to say goodbye.
There is a sweet scent of honeysuckle and roses here, a different but equally lovely magic caught on celluloid one last time. If you love Fred and Ginger, you can not miss the graceful way they chose to exit, spinning and dancing down the lane in our hearts forever.
THE STARS MUST BE BRIGHTER
Watching the sheer elegance and timeless grace of Fred and Ginger when they danced, and sharing in the laughter of their humorous pursuit of love, is a gift we could never measure, or put a price tag on. The delightful and charming escapism they brought into our lives helped carry us through the roughest of times. They still take our breath away and gives us a boost when we need it, as each new generation discovers the magic of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. And sometimes, in the evening, if we listen carefully, we can hear the faint echo of an orchestra, playing a tune by Berlin, or Kern, or Gershwin. And we know for certain, the couple we hold dear in our hearts, who gave us so much love and laughter, dance the night away, among the stars......"
Delightful 1930's musical romances
Stephen H. Wood | South San Francisco, CA | 01/14/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
A younger generation not familiar with the 1930's musical romances of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers should rent or buy Volume One. Volume Two is for devoted fans and film scholars. We have one genuine masterpiece, THE GAY DIVORCEE (1934), which is famous for the Oscar-winning 16 minute "The Continental" finale, the incomparable "Night and Day", and an unusually witty screenplay.
The other four titles in ASTAIRE-ROGERS: VOLUME TWO are *** must-sees, if you love the duo in anything. They are not masterpieces, but they all have sparkling 1930's art deco sets, witty scripts, and incomparable dance numbers, without being as great as TOP HAT, FOLLOW THE FLEET, SWING TIME, and SHALL WE DANCE (1935-1937) in Volume One.
FLYING DOWN TO RIO (1933) introduced Astaire and Rogers as a dance team to the world. They take fourth and fifth billing behind Dolores Del Rio, Gene Raymond, and someone named Raul Roulien, but own the movie as they dance "The Carioca" in the middle of the movie. This is also the movie with chorus girls dancing on airplane wings in the climax. It is a lot of fun.
ROBERTA (1935) is a great Irene Dunne vehicle; she gets top billing and the chance to sing Jerome Kern's "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" and "Lovely to Look At". It is a lesser Astaire-Rogers vehicle because Randolph Scott is unendurable, seeing how many times he can say "swell" in 106 minutes; and because Astaire and Rogers barely seem to dance. It is a plot-heavy movie about a dress shop in Paris. Still, Dunne has a lovely singing voice for some immortal songs.
CAREFREE (1938), only 83 minutes, is a neglected comedy delight spoofing psychiatry. Ginger gravitates between Astaire and Ralph Bellamy. You want her to end up with Astaire at the end, but it is close. Songs include "Change Partners and Dance". This is a marvelous little movie.
Finally, Astaire-Rogers ended the decade with what they thought would be their last film, the wonderful and nostalgic THE STORY OF VERNON AND IRENE CASTLE (1939). The two actors are naturals to star as the real-life king and queen of ballroom dancing during the 1910's. In fact, Irene Castle was still alive in 1939 and served as both technical advisor and costume designer to Ginger. I adore this movie, which also has superb support from the always reliable Walter Brennan and Edna May Oliver.
Since this is a Warner Home Video boxed set, each movie has been supplemented with Technicolor shorts, cartoons, and theatrical trailers. My favorites are the achingly nostalgic color musical shorts with movie stars at the Lido and the Cocoanut Grove. If you don't know Astaire-Rogers, go with Volume One. If you love them, you will want to own this Volume Two boxed set to complete your collection.
Fred and Ginger box 2
James G. Crocker | Perth, Western Australia | 01/13/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Fantastic!! Beautifully posted, nice box and covers, discs etc. The films themselves are really well remastered. I used to own these on vhs and the sound was always an issue. very well cleaned up considering they're from the early 30's. Also, I think it's actually the original trailers, extra's etc that were on the original 38mm on each disc. great bonus. I'm a huge Fred fan and have bought many releses of his films recently on dvd from ebay etc but these are the best. Great quality, proper comercial release and half the price I could get them from a shop In Australia. Thanks Amazon!! (wow...what a review...I didn't mean to over do it but Im really happy) Cheers, James"
Fred & Ginger in the 21st Century with DVD Extras, Volume II
N. Lim | Santa Clara, CA USA | 10/30/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This second volume includes five of their movies. Each DVD comes with the feature film, a comedy/musical/vintage short, and a cartoon. Two have a radio promo; three have a theatrical trailer. The Gay Divorcee DVD comes with two vintage shorts, so you get six shorts on five discs. Unlike the first volume, there are no featurettes. Below are brief review/descriptions of the feature films, vintage shorts, radio promos, classic cartoons, and run times for each.
Their first film together, FLYING DOWN TO RIO is the only Fred and Ginger (F&G) movie where they play supporting roles. The studio executives and the public did not yet know this couple's dance potential and powerhouse future. They only dance together once 43 minutes into the film (The Carioca). The movie is filled with several post-card quality shots of Rio de Janeiro and has more choreographed group dance routines and vocalists than you can shake a stick at. My favorite is all those girls dancing on biplanes while in flight, which is very creative. The romantic plot of the main characters, Belhina De Rezende (Dolores del Rio) and Roger Bond (Gene Raymond) and the subplot of the Greek investors are a little light but still held my interest.
F&G's second film and their first as leading characters together, THE GAY DIVORCEE is the initial series of boy-chases-girl movies with comic misunderstandings, misgivings, and mistaken identity. F&G do the dancing, but Rodolfo Tonetti (Erik Rhodes) with his accent has the best one liners and password mispronunciations. The forgetful Hortense Ditherwell (Alice Brady) is a hoot. The musical number "Let's K-nock K-nees" is very fun and playful, even though it does not have F&G in it. Its tune is repeated in whistling near the beginning by a bellhop and near the end by canaries. In their previous movie "Rio" the dance craze was the Carioca; in "Divorcee" it's the Continental, which has a spectacular song, F&G dance, dance ensemble, and finale.
If you want to see Paris fashions in 1935, F&G's third film, ROBERTA, is the place to see it. Among all F&G movies, the plot is more sophisticated and dramatic and less comedic. Ginger plays an act within her role: not just the sassy American blonde but also the sophisticated Russian Comtess. She even sings "I'll Be Hard to Handle" with a Russian accent. In that same number, F&G communicate with each other not with words but by taps on their feet. Almost every speaking actor/actress has a three-dimensional personality especially Roberta/Aunt Minnie (Helen Westley) and Johnny (Candy) Candido with his voice performances. However, Stephanie (Irene Dunn) has an excellent singing voice but is overrated and should not have been top billed. As a side note, if you pay attention, look for Lucille Ball as one of the fashion models (uncredited).
In this eighth installment of F&G films, CAREFREE, Ginger displays her talents not only as a dancer but also as an actress and a singer. She performs all three simultaneously in The Yam. She causes mischief while under the hypnotic influence of Tony Flagg (Fred Astaire), throwing sticks and dinner rolls, breaking glass, driving erratically, and shooting skeet. The psychiatry is definitely unconventional, but it is a comedy after all. The slow motion dancing in the dream sequence is very smooth and kind of cool. A running joke where Aunt Cora (Luella Gear) keeps telling Judge Joe Travers (Clarence Kolb) to sit down adds a couple of more laughs. Typecasting prevails here; look for Hattie McDaniel (Gone with the Wind) playing a maid here, too.
Their ninth film together and the last for RKO, F&G play real life characters VERNON AND IRENE CASTLE. Since the story is set in the 1910s, which is comparably a more "innocent" era, the dancing is not as sophisticated but just as elegant, because it's F&G. A typical biographical account, it takes you through various trials and conflicts throughout their lives. The movie has more comedy in the beginning but becomes more serious at the end, especially when Vernon joins the Royal Air Corps during World War I. All the characters are lovable, and you wish you could be there. It's also the only F&G movie where the principles are concerned about having enough money to make ends meet.
Even without F&G, these B&W film shorts are consistent with the genre and were made close to the times of the feature films they accompany.
"Beer and Pretzels" is a very early three stooges short with Ted Healy still with the comedy team. The slapping-of-the-face sound effects have not yet even entered the soundtrack. Just like F&G in Rio, Moe, Larry and Curly are in supporting roles. The four men cause havoc as waiters in a high class restaurant. Most of this short consists of song and dance routines of people I have never heard of. (1933 Run time 20:33)
In "Show Kids" the proprietor of a dying vaudeville theater turns it over to his 12-year-old son, who invites a children's dance company to perform. It has some really cute dance numbers, and some of these kids have real talent and acrobatic skills. The picture has excellent Technicolor for its time except for a red shadow that appears in all the song and dance numbers. (1934, Color, Run Time 19:59)
"Star Night at the Cocoanut Grove" takes place where the title says. A narrator takes you through celebrity introductions and various performances including a fashion show of different time periods, Rumba dance, hula dance, song by Bing Crosby, two big bands. Candy Candido's musical voice impersonations are very impressive. (1934, Color, Run Time 19:33)
In "Starlit Days at the Lido" guests enjoy outdoor entertainment. Reginald Denny takes you through celebrity introductions and various performances, including one neat trick where a girl keeps pulling cigarettes from nowhere. (1935, Color, Run Time 19:16)
In "Public Jitterbug No. 1" a group of "Feds" is out to catch Jitterbug Dancer #1. The tap dancing is superb. The cigarette and match-eating routine is a neat trick. (1939, B&W, Run Time 19:01)
In "Happily Buried" two presidents of competing waffle iron companies want to marry each other but cannot agree on the shape of the iron in the merged company. As a publicity stunt, John Hubbard (Richard Wright) buries himself on display. Look for Tommy Bond, who played Butch in the Little Rascals. (1939, B&W, Run time 20:01)
HOLLYWOOD ON THE AIR RADIO PROMOS
The "Hollywood on the Air Radio Promo" is just what it says. It is just like a theatrical trailer for a movie except it is audio only, complete with crackles, pops, and varying playing speeds. A narrator pitches the movie and introduces you to excerpts directly from it.
The Gay Divorcee includes "Looking for a Needle in a Haystack," "Let's K-nock K-nees," "Night and Day," and "The Continental." (Mono, Run Time 13:43)
Roberta includes "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," "I'll Be Hard to Handle," "Lovely to Look At," and "I Won't Dance." (Mono, Run Time 11:55)
In "I Like Mountain Music" the characters in a department store come to life and perform. Most of them jump out from magazine and book covers and are caricatures of personalities popular at the time. (1933 B&W Run time 6:59)
In "Shake Your Powder Puff" the animals of a farm put on a vaudeville show in the barn. A drunken dog causes mischief and is repeatedly thrown out. (1934, B&W, Run Time 5:59)
In "The Calico Dragon" a little girl reads a fairy tale about a dragon, then falls asleep. She dreams that three of her dolls, a boy, a horse, and a terrier, enter the land of calico to slay a three-headed calico dragon. Good use of that pattern. (1935, Color, Run Time 7:57)
In "September in the Rain" the labels of packaged goods in a general store come to life and perform. (1937 Color, Run Time 4:39)
In "Puss Gets the Boot" a cat and mouse fight for household domination. It is a Tom & Jerry predecessor before they were called Tom & Jerry. (1940, Color, Run time 9:11)
"September in the Rain" and "Puss Gets the Boot" both have a written preface commenting on how racist those cartoons are. However, the stereotyping did not bother me, and I would not have even noticed if they did not point it out. Nevertheless, I am glad they were sensitive about it.
THEATRICAL TRAILER RUN TIMES
Flying Down to Rio 1:29 The Gay Divorcee 1:18 Roberta 2:56 For whatever reason, the Carefree and The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle DVDs do not include a theatrical trailer."