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Delightful Grable-Ameche musical, with strong support cast.
Betty finally got lucky in landing the staring role in this one after Alice Faye,the intended star, pleaded exhaustion. Fox had picked up her contract only months before, after Betty had had enough of Paramount not knowing what to do with her. She was doubly lucky in that this was also Carmen Miranda's first Hollywood film. Fox wanted to show off Carmen's colorful costumes, thus filmed the show in Technicolor, an uncommon luxury at this time, even for musicals. Yet, Carmen was not in a position to steal the show from Betty. She was still contracted to a nightclub in NYC, thus her limited screen time had to be filmed in NYC, away from the rest of the cast. No doubt, Fox also wanted to test the response of US audiences to Carmen before featuring her more. Thus, this film served as the launching pad for the celebrity of two of the biggest Hollywood stars of the '40s.
The story, though quite implausible, is important to the film. Two wealthy American or Argentine horse breeding families meet and have their problems as well as attractions. In one scene, Betty unexpectedly sees Argentinian Ricardo Quintana(Don Ameche) in a Buenos Aires nightclub, having been escorted by another man she just met. She drops her date and accompanies Ameche to a more private room, where they talk, not having seen each other since their falling out in the US over the reneged offer to buy Ameche's horse. Betty pretends to forgive Ameche and to warm up to his advances, then suddenly slaps his face and walks out, saying that's what she really came to Argentina to do. One would think that to be the end of their association, but actually it was just a new beginning. She really is attracted to him, but wanted first to get even for the disappointment he had caused her. I thought Betty and Ameche had good chemistry,as they would show again the following year in "Moon over Miami". Ameche is quite handsome and always immaculately dressed, and Betty wears a variety of beautiful outfits. To me, Betty looked and acted like a blond, blue-eyed, singing-dancing version of Olivia DeHaviland. Both had great appeal. Ameche could sing tolerably well in solos and duets with Betty. Unlike most of the Fox musicals of the early '40s involving Betty, Alice Faye or Sonja Henje, the romance between the stars is put on sound footing relatively early, rather than doing a flip flop at the end.
The supporting cast was fine, and included some stars in themselves. Charlotte Greenwood, who would appear in quite a few of Fox's musicals over the next few years, serves as Betty's aunt, and is the featured singer-dancer in a number or two. She was famous for her sidewise high kick. Henry Stephenson made a very credible Argentenian aristocrat, as Ameche's father. Carrol Nash added some down-on-the-farm atmosphere to the mostly aristocratic banter. However, I would have preferred the originally cast Cesar Romero in place of Leonid Kinskey, as the sly gigolo. But, perhaps Cesar would have been too handsome and polished to resist. The Nicholas Brothers, who would appear again in the Fox musicals "Sun Valley Serenade" and "Orchestra Wives", were an added major attraction, with their unique acrobatic dance routines. Several other singing and dancing groups were also featured, taking more of the load off the stars. One, consisting of 6 men and a girl, had the cute name of The Six Hits and a Miss.
The commentary by Sylvia Stoddard and the bio of Betty on my DVD are quite worthwhile. According to the commentary, although Fox was pressured by FDR to make some Latin American-oriented feature films, as part of his effort to keep these countries from joining the Axis in the developing WWII, the effort backfired. The Argentinians were offended by the Hollywood inaccuracies in their Spanish accents and portrayal of the details of the Argentine aristocracy. They also didn't like the inclusion of Carmen, a Brazilian, in a film supposedly set mostly in Argentina. Thus, as in the case of "The King and I", which offended Thais in the portrayal of their past king, the film was banned in the country it was supposed to bring to the American public.
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