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Astaire & Rogers Collection, Vol. 2 (Flying Down to Rio / The Gay Divorcee / Roberta / Carefree / The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle)
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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 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
2006 marks the arrival of five Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers films (Flying Down to Rio, The Gay Divorcee, Roberta, Carefree, and The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle) on DVD after the first five were released in 2005. If you only want the five new films, pick up this Astaire & Rogers Collection, Vol. 2 as a bookend to your Astaire & Rogers Collection, Vol. 1. Or you can get the big package, Astaire & Rogers Ultimate Collector's Edition, which contains all 10 films plus a CD, a bonus DVD with the documentary Astaire and Rogers: Partners in Rhythm, press-book replicas, and some other material. If you want the big package with the extra stuff but already bought the five films in 2005, you can get the Astaire & Rogers Partial Ultimate Collector's Edition, which includes everything listed above except the actual discs of those first five films.
Flying Down to Rio (1933) headlined Dolores Del Rio and Gene Raymond, but it was the fourth- and fifth-billed stars who would rewrite cinematic history. Astaire and Rogers had limited screen time, but were still able to establish many of the trademarks of their later films. The heart of the film is "The Carioca," a company dance extravaganza in which they take the floor together for the first time; their eyes meet and their foreheads touch. Their dance lasts only a few minutes, but it was the highlight of the film and audiences wanted more. The Gay Divorcee (1934) is their best early picture, a loose adaptation of Astaire's stage show, The Gay Divorce. The only song retained for the movie is Cole Porter's smash hit "Night and Day," which is the setting for a sublime pas de deux between Fred and Ginger. The closer is the sprawling 17-minute ensemble number "The Continental." Roberta (1935) was a step backward, with too much time spent on 1930s Parisian fashion and the romance between top-billed Irene Dunne (who gets the best Jerome Kern ballads, "Yesterdays" and "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes") and Randolph Scott. But as the second-banana couple Astaire and Rogers still get a tap battle, a romantic duet, and plenty of comic banter.
The eighth and ninth entries in the series tried some different approaches, with the underrated Carefree (1938) more of a comedy vehicle for Ginger (yet still including some fine dances and Irving Berlin songs as well as their first onscreen kiss) and The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (1939) portraying the pair as historical dancing stars and using a score of turn-of-the-century standards. --David Horiuchi
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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.
Not one of the ten is bad, but several of them, Top Hat, Shall We Dance, Swing Time, to name three, rise to the level of Art. The ability of these two performers to create a mood of love and joy with dance is unique in the history of film. When they are dancing to the glorious strains of Kern, Berlin, Gershwin, and Porter, their dancing transports us to a never-never land of beauty and escape from the humdrum existence of daily life. When one recalls that these films were made during the worst economic crisis the nation has ever faced, one applauds the moguls in Hollywood who allowed Americans to escape from the sad life so many had in those parlous times. Would that today's moguls were as sympathetic to the plight of so many Americans today. Perhaps if they were, they would give less of the murder, mayhem and violence that so pervades movies today and allow us to escape for an hour or two to another fairyland where all is beautiful and happy.
This set of five films shows you how it all started and ended for the duo at RKO. "Flying Down to Rio" is the duo's first film, and is enjoyable enough but would probably be long forgotten were it not for the fourth and fifth billed Astaire and Rogers dancing the "The Carioca" about half-way through the film plus the witty banter of the two that goes on throughout and really spices up the movie. Also, the pre-code raciness of some of the film may surprise you with lines like "What have those girls got below the equator that we haven't got?" as uttered by one of the chorines about a Brazilian girl.
"Roberta" moves the pair up to second and third billing, with Irene Dunne top billed. The two have a greatly expanded screen time trading jabs that is much like what they did in "Rio", but the main emphasis is on the romance between Randolph Scott and Irene Dunne. Dunne's singing even crowds out the singing and dancing of Astaire & Rogers. Thus these first two films really have the pair as a wise cracking entertainment duo rather than involving the romantic comedy of their other films. This is the last film in which Ginger Rogers is playing her tough-girl chorine persona that she had starting in "42nd Street".
With "Divorcee" and "Carefree" we finally get to see Astaire & Rogers more in classic form. Not only are they finally musically headlining, but these films feature them more as romantic leads in which comic misunderstandings work to keep them apart. These two films are the best of the five in my opinion.
Many people don't like "The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle". This is probably because there is virtually no romantic conflict between the two in this film. Astaire & Rogers spend practically the entire film either allied or happily married. The conflict is first economic and professional as the pair struggled to get recognized as great dancers, and then there is World War I in which Vernon Castle, as an English native, feels compelled to enlist. The film is quite good, but it is very sentimental and atypical of Astaire & Rogers' other films. This was intended to be the pair's last film together, and was their last film together at RKO. It was just a series of accidental recasting decisions that led them to reunite in "The Barkleys of Broadway" at MGM ten years later.
There are shorts and cartoons included on these five films in the extra features department, but there are no mini-documentaries on Astaire and/or Rogers and no commentary track on any of the films.
There are an array of Astaire & Rogers collections, so I'll try to summarize my recommendations here. If you are unfamiliar with their movies, go with Volume 1 first. It contains their best work minus "Divorcee", which is in Volume 2. If you already are a fan and for some reason never bought volume 1, you could go with "The Astaire & Rogers Ultimate Collector's Edition" which contains all ten of their films, a bonus documentary DVD, and an audio CD. If you just want the films, you can go with volumes 1 and 2 individually. Plus, there is documentary material on the films in volume 1. If you buy volume one and decide you want the bonus material of the ultimate collector's edition, you can purchase "The Astaire & Rogers Partial Ultimate Collector's Edition" which has all of the bonus material of the Ultimate Collector's Edition minus the five films in Volume one.
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