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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Carmen Miranda, known as "The Brazilian Bombshell", was the original
Chica Chica Bum Chic gal of forties musicals a large swash of
Rousseau on the movie screens, a festive explosion of outrageous
razzmatazz that may not have added much to culture but did add a lot to
one's enjoyment of it
Everything about this happy demon (except her height) was larger than life: her behavior; her struggles with the English language as it tripped its way into her head and out through her mouth in accents thick and hilarious; her eyes as they shrank into slits and lost themselves behind her cheeks rising and swelling through the effort required to pronounce her tongue-twisting lyrics at rapid speed; the continual motion of eyes, mouth, shoulders, hips, arms, hands, fingers and feet, the latter supported by elevated platforms that heightened her appeal, and the ever more extravagant gowns that have inspired nightclub performers ever since garlands of sequins, bowers of living blooms around her hips and breasts, and orchards of fruit growing out of her turbans
The total effect was that of some medieval fertility ritual goddess whose presence was a promise of fruitfulness
Nobody should expect to see Hamlet when watching Down Argentine Way. In
fact the plot here is thinner and sillier than most of these fluff
musical pieces. Still it's kind a fun.
Don Ameche is up from Argentina in the USA looking to sell some horses and Betty Grable is looking to buy, the horse and Ameche. But once Don hears that Betty's character has the last name of Crawford, no sale, no way, no how.
With mixed motives both looking to get even and an unspoken attraction for Don, Betty and Aunt Charlotte Greenwood take a trip to Buenos Aires for business and all different kinds of pleasure. We also meet Henry Stephenson, Ameche's father, and it does take the whole film to find just what he has against people named Crawford. The prize jumping horse of the Quintana family which is the character names of Ameche and Stephenson who gets turned into a racehorse by the old family trainer, J. Carrol Naish in another of his multitude of ethnic characterizations.
Of course this film never got out of the Hollywood back lot at 20th Century Fox Studios and there are even fewer establishing shots of Buenos Aires than usual. The two best things about Down Argentine Way are the musical score written by Harry Warren and Mack Gordon and the specialties of Carmen Miranda and the Nicholas Brothers.
This was Carmen's American debut and she opens the film with a song that was forever indelibly identified with her, South American Way. The other hit song in the film is the title song of the picture to which everyone in the cast sings and dances at some point.
The notes here say that Don Ameche's voice was dubbed. If so the guy must have been a great soundalike. Probably could fool a voice print identification. Sure sounded like Don Ameche singing from other films I've seen.
Look for a nice performance by Leonid Kinskey a rather inept gigolo with a few other sidelines.
Down Argentine Way was done before Juan Peron took power so the place was viewed favorably. The Roosevelt administration actively encouraged films to be made showing South America in a favorable light like this one with an idea towards making sure they were allies in the World War we were heading for. It's a nice piece of fluff with good songs Betty Grable's famous legs and the one and only Carmen Miranda.
Irving Cummings takes on a fun tour to Argentina. This is a happy
musical that defies all logic as the writers Rian James and Ralph
Spence appear to be telling us we're in Argentina, but taking us to
Havana, by way of Rio de Janeiro. Talk about a confusion of styles!
Once the viewer gets over the jet lag caused by the disorientation, we are introduced to the Crawford girls, Glenda and Binnie and the Quintana boys, Don Diego and Ricardo. Both these families have grown apart by something that happened long ago in Paris, when Glenda's father stole Don Diego's girlfriend. They're horse people and we are shown the Argentine estancia that looks more like a Mexican hacienda, but we go along for the ride. There's even a fiesta in the town where Binnie makes a splash dancing and being admired by the locals. There are the inevitable night club hopping scene where Carmen Miranda and the Nicholas Brothers are headlining. We see everyone dancing the craze of those years, a Cuban rhumba!
Talk about a melange of styles!
The costume designer Travis Burton dresses Ms. Grable and Ms. Greenwood in creations that might have been popular back home, but no sophisticated Argentine women would have been caught wearing them. Otherwise how can Mr. Burton show Betty Grable in that "American Flag" shmatte? How about the typical Cuban rhumba dancer dress at the end?
The musical numbers are fine, but hello?, aren't we in Buenos Aires, a mild interpretation of a tango wouldn't have been out of place! Someone commented on Carmen Miranda's dancing, but in her two numbers she only shakes her hips and that's the extent of what she does. The amazing Nicholas Brothers fare better because they were the best in the business.
Betty Grable and Don Ameche are fine playing with the material they were given. Charlotte Greenwood, Henry Stephenson, Leonard Kinskey and J. Carroll Naish seem to have a great deal of fun with their characters. As a curiosity, we get a glimpse of Elena Verdugo, who later became famous for her television work, just for a moment.
The film is entertaining once we realize we have been taken for a mindless ride down the Argentine way.
One of the best Betty Grable musicals. As always the plot is unbelievably
vacuous but who cares really? When you have the tippy-tappy Grable (doing
what she does best), Carmen Miranda (in her American debut), Don Ameche
(speaking in a nice Spanish accent), and the Nicholas Brothers (with
usual dance specialties) all in one movie, the implausible plot and
meet-cutes are beside the point. The slick lively tunes and dances are
than enough to like this fluffy musical fiesta set in Argentina.
If you liked "Down Argentine Way", see also "Springtime in the Rockies"(1942)
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.
Despite it's paper thin plot or saran wrap plot, DOWN ARGENTINE WAY is kind of fun, especially seeing it in this day and age. The DVD is outstanding with the colors very bright and chic, the way Foxs' musicals have always been. This put Betty Grable on the map and she is a fine replacement for Alice Faye. Maybe better, since Betty was a much better dancer as a couple of numbers have been added to the plot because of her. Carmen Miranda doesn't really have a role. She is just featured in a couple of night club scenes. Looks like her scenes were added on and has no bearing on the plot. Don Ameche is fine with his very good accent. The real standouts are Charlotte Greenwood and especially the Nocholas brothers. They must be seen to be believed. Like Miranda, they have no bearing in the story, just a showcase for their amazing dancing. For these reasons alone, see this one. Now Fox needs to release THAT NIGHT IN RIO and THE GANGS ALL HERE on DVD, as well as some other Betty Grables.
Of its genre, one of the greatest musicals ever. Betty makes male hearts swoon (and that's not all)! Any questions as to why she was number one with our boys overseas? Carmen is a firecracker and the Nicholas Brothers have never been duplicated. This film was much more about the players than the meat of the film. Meat-wise just a bunch of fluff, but performance-wise and production-wise, excellent!
Betty Grable goes "Down Argentine Way" in this 1940 musical, also
starring Don Ameche, Charlotte Greenwood, Carmen Miranda, and J.
Carroll Naish. Grable is Glenda Crawford, who buys a horse from the
South American Ricardo Quintana (Ameche), unaware that the families
don't get along. On hearing her last name, Quintana realizes that he
has to cancel the sale in accordance with his father's (Naish) orders.
Glenda and Ricardo are already falling in love, so although Glenda
rejects him after the aborted sale, she soon heads for Argentina on the
excuse of buying horses. With her is her aunt Binnie (Greenwood).
There, she reconnects with Ricardo, though she has to meet his father
under the assumed name of Cunningham.
This is a typical Fox musical with its bright, vibrant colors and high energy. And, like many Fox musicals, it has no plot and literally one musical number after another. Because Fox had Carmen Miranda and Cesar Romero under contract, there was often a south of the border flavor. Here, Miranda plays herself performing in a nightclub, and she's a dynamo.
Ameche sings pleasantly and does his usual good job, and Grable as usual is a joy - a pretty, likable actress, a good dancer and singer, and a bundle of energy. Charlotte Greenwood has several musical numbers and is very entertaining.
These musicals are always good for what ails you. My favorite Fox musicals of this kind are "Springtime in the Rockies" and "The Gang's All Here," but "Down Argentine Way" is a delightful film.
The plot is slight- but it doesn't really matter. Don Ameche is charming, the songs, for the most part, are fun, and Carmen Miranda steals the film from Betty Grable. Certainly a lesser musical- but fun for fans of the genre.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The singing and dancing are great. The plot is weak here with
Argentinian, Don Ameche, with an authentic Spanish accent, romances
Bette Grable. For some foolish reason, Ameche's father, an engaging
Henry Stephenson, has it in for the Crawford family for an incident
that took place long ago between him and Grable's father.
Charlotte Greenwood portrays Grable's aunt to perfection. The only thing she will admit to is being 31. She really kicks up her heels as does the rest of the cast.
Carmen Miranda portrays herself briefly in two dancing scenes. We can really say that she is wasted here.
There is another gem of a performance by J. Carrol Naish, as a Spanish worker for Stephenson.
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