Archive for Flying Down to Rio

Wingwalking

Posted in FILM, MUSIC, Politics with tags , , , , , , , on January 22, 2020 by dcairns

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.

Pretty as Paint

Posted in FILM, literature, Painting with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 14, 2017 by dcairns

So, I picked up Twiggy’s autobiography, just to see what she had to say about Ken Russell and THE BOY FRIEND. She seems to have enjoyed the experience.

Amusing story ~ they’re restaging the famous girls-dancing-on-plane gag from FLYING DOWN TO RIO and Ken decides he wants the biplane to be silver. This will involve painting it overnight.

But the next morning the plane is white. The man responsible explains that there was no silver paint to be had and so they thought Ken would be OK with white.Ken explodes, which was one of his talents. “Do you know who I am?” Twiggy quotes him as saying. Usually, the answer to that question ought to be “An arsehole?” but here it would be more properly rendered as “Mad genius enfant terrible scourge of the boring and unambitious British cinema,” perhaps adding “and a man who very much wants a silver biplane.” Ken settled for “I’m the director of this fucking picture!”

The man is sent off to get silver paint. He comes back with a lot of little eggcup-sized cans, the kind sold in model shops. About 500 of them, in a van. The only silver paint to be had in London. (The ’70s were crap, in some ways.) You ever used that stuff? Tiny tins, and you can never get it to come out silver. The idea of painting an entire plane with it…

I love the art department, as I may have mentioned before. A can-do art department marks the difference between an efficient, fun shoot, and a slog.

I always remember this story from Ed Naha’s The Making of Dune. David Lynch has invented a scene not in the script (and it’s HIS script!) in which Kyle McLachlan trains his Fremen warriors to destroy a rotating black cube thing with sheer lung power. I can’t, off-hand, recall if the scene made it into the finished cut, which always seemed most lacking in what should be the second half of act 2. Suddenly it’s the climax!(The scene exists, but the “box” Naha describes is a pyramid. Did they reshoot it with a different Platonic solid shape-thing?)

Anyhow, Lynch has twenty minutes left to get the shot when he notices a speck of white on the black cube. He calls for an art department guy. The guy walks up to the blemished space cube and delivers a daub of black paint from a paint-pot.

Lynch is dumbfounded. “Now I have brush-strokes up there!” he exclaims.

Lynch’s eyes dilate even further as the worker returns with a ladder and proceeds to repaint the entire top of the black box… with a brush.

“OK?”

Lynch stares at the box. “No! Not OK! It looks fifty times worse! One hundred times worse! Can anyone see if they can find a can of black spray paint?”

One feels for him. It’s a scenario right out of some Hollywood spoof, with the director (jodhpurs and megaphone) driven to apoplexy by some incompetent underling (Marion Davies, Peter Sellers), jumping up and down and tearing his hair out. Or as Lynch confides in the documentary Lynch, while shooting part of INLAND EMPIRE with an inexperienced team, “You wonder what kinda heavy burden Einstein musta carried. Surrounded by fuckin’ assholes.” It’s also a lot like Lynch’s scenes of Kafkaesque bumbling accomplices: there’s a good filmmaking one in INLAND EMPIRE. The first is probably Paul (a favourite Lynch name: DUNE was meant to be) in ERASERHEAD, the buzzer-happy pencil manufacturer.

A little later, in Naha’s book: “That guy? Our painter? He’s usually very good.”