The Friday Fillip

Oddly, it’s still winter. And I can’t stop myself from gazing longingly down at the south, far south. So I’ve decided that this Friday, we’ll be flying down to Rio. It’s 27 degrees there at the moment and will be warmer tomorrow. I’d hoped to take you there via a webcam, but sadly I can only find working webcams there for traffic, so I’ll take you a bit further south to Santos, where there’s a webcam on the beach.

Anyhow, getting there so abruptly would cause us to miss out on half the fun — at least, it would have back in the days when travel was more exciting or leisurely. Flying boats used to ply between Europe and Rio and North America and Rio. These were (to me) lovely machines that managed to marry the romance of both air and sea. The image to the right is of a poster for a Pan Am (click it to enlarge it) “Flying Clipper” holiday from 1936: 10 countries, 12,000 miles, 19 days, all in for $865. The photo comes from a site that is chock-a-block with photos of the flying boats that once dominated the air. But they were not alone aloft: the German Zeppelin airships also flew regularly into Rio from Europe and New York until the Hindenburg disaster grounded them all.

What were the glory days in Rio like? Probably not much like Hollywood’s view of it, as portrayed in the movie Flying Down to Rio. But see for yourself: there’s a ten minute YouTube compilation of interesting segments from the movie, which starred Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. But whatever the flick lacks in accuracy it makes up for, in my view, with the charm and grace of Fred and Ginger’s dancing — and check out the excess in the scene where they dance on a rotating floor ringed by eight pianos and a crowd of wafting extras. Only Bollywood can match it. By the way, the woman who sings the Carioca song is Etta Moten, an important African-American singer and actress, the first to perform at the White House.

Today our flying feet in Rio would be more likely to be doing a samba, rather than a carioca. This YouTube clip lets you hear a samba band in full swing, so you can get the sonic picture.

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