Wingwalking

I’m reading Most Secret War by RV Jones, a wartime memoir about British Scientific Intelligence. It’s quite brilliant and contains also several anecdotes of dubious relevance but high entertainment value. I’ll be quoting at least a couple.

Jones tells the story of a couple of Danes who, unhappy with the Nazi occupation, decided to escape the little island they lived on. One of them happened to have an old WWI two-seater plane in his barn… in pieces. They constructed the flying machine, using bits of wire and scrap to substitute any missing parts. Since there were Germans in the immediate vicinity, they were going to have to open the barn doors, start the engines, and hope the thing flew.

They saved petrol for ages. One problem was that the fuel tank would not hold enough fuel to get them to Britain. So, they packed cans of fuel and, having miraculously taken off, they had to refuel in midair over the sea, which required one of them to crawl onto the wing with a hosepipe between his teeth while the other simultaneously piloted the craft and funnelled petroleum down the tube.

They got to Britain alright and were immediately arrested as spies, as their story was not credible. The undeveloped film they’d taken of German radar emplacements was given to a lab who managed to destroy all but a couple of frames (which did prove useful).

They were eventually believed and released. After the war, they went back to Denmark and were extremely unpopular, as they’d rather shown everyone up.

Anyway, by coincidence, we watched FLYING DOWN TO RIO this week. It’s not a great film (not enough Eric Blore), but the really good thing about it is that Fred & Ginger are by so many miles the coolest people in it. Ginger is a lot less ladylike than she would be later — she grasps that fuselage between her thighs like it really belongs there. Fred isn’t as gentlemanly as he would be later either. What’s great is that most of their stuff involves them expressing contempt for the film’s main plot, the Gene Raymond/Dolores Del Rio romance, and since we share their opinion of it, we’re very much thrown in with them.

It’s also neat that the movie ends with them looking up at the leads departing by flying boat (or would you call it a seaplane?). Yeah, those guys are leaving, but Fred and Ginger will stick around for a while.

5 Responses to “Wingwalking”

  1. ah… you fail to mention Dolores weird sleeve fetish…

  2. ehrenstein47 Says:

    I was looking at Ken Russell’s “The Boy Friend” again the other day and in the climactic “Doing The Riviera” number he pays copious homage to that great insane scene in “Flying Down To Rio”

  3. Twiggy has a great story about it: https://dcairns.wordpress.com/2017/07/14/pretty-as-paint/

    Yeah, lots of weird, weird sleeves from Dolores. Walter Plunkett and Irene did the frocks.

    Did I mention Clarence Muse? Another great little turn from him, with a gratuitous English accent.

  4. bensondonald Says:

    Fred & Ginger were singularly fortunate in the song department: Original scores by Berlin, the Gershwins, Kern, and the underrated Youmans, all loaded with future standards.

    Cole Porter, oddly, was represented by only one song. “Gay Divorcee” was based on his Broadway musical “Gay Divorce”, but a new score by other writers replaced everything but “Night and Day”.

  5. Yes, The Continental doesn’t quite have the Porter touch…

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