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Flying Down to Rio was the first time that Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers danced together. Their chemistry on-screen would spawn many more films where the duo would sing, dance, and act as lovers.
“Ginger and I hadn’t any idea at all that we were destined to start something in this first movie together,” Astaire said.
1. It was a busy time for Fred.
After seeing Astaire on stage in The Gay Divorcee, RKO snatched him up. Rio was actually supposed to be his film debut, but delays changed the schedule. He wouldn’t actually make the picture until after he was married and after he was loaned out to MGM for Dancing Lady, where his first dance partner on screen would be Joan Crawford. The experience was extremely helpful for him as he learned about capturing dance on camera before beginning at RKO.
2. Fred met a life-long friend on set.
For the film, Hermes Pan was the assistant to the dance director. Astaire and Pan connected on the set, and they eventually worked on every subsequent dance film together. Hermes said, “Frank and I thought alike. This was what I’d always dreamed a dancer should be. This was the sort of dancing I loved, and I think Fred recognized a kindred spirit in me.”
3. It had the first Astaire-Rogers team-up.
Hermes Pan was inspired by the lyrics to their dance number “The Carioca,” which talked of “two heads together,” and he had them dance forehead to forehead. While their parts weren’t the focus of the film, the audience responded to their pairing immediately. Rogers said, “Flying Down to Rio established RKO as a leader in musical film production throughout the 1930s. The film helped rescue the studio from its financial straits…” Given the audience response, RKO quickly teamed them again for The Gay Divorcee (read about that here).