John Hay Whitney, head of the motion picture section of the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs, convinced 20th Century Fox to spend $40,000 for re-shooting scenes that described native customs in an slightly unfavourable light.
Alice Faye was set to play the role of Glenda, but she fell ill with appendicitis and was replaced by Betty Grable. Although Miss Grable was making films for 10 years, this was the role that made her a star. Cesar Romero contracted para-typhoid and was replaced by Leonid Kinskey.
When Darrilyn Zanuck DePineda's crew discovered her, Carmen Miranda was working in a New York nightclub. The manager would not let her out of her contract, so Miranda's numbers were filmed on a nightclub set on a New York soundstage.
Starting with this film, Betty Grable would blossom as the box-office queen of Technicolor musicals. Between 1940 and 1955, Miss Grable was showcased in 22 tailor-made color vehicles at Twentieth Century-Fox, plus one at Columbia, Three for the Show (1955). Note: Betty's last movie, How to Be Very, Very Popular (1955), was shot in Color by DeLuxe.
This film represents two noteworthy firsts in the career of Carmen Miranda: her first Technicolor movie and her first American production. Miss Miranda already had appeared in six Brazilian pictures released from 1933 to 1940.
Although this film marked Betty Grable's debut in perfected, three-strip Technicolor, she already had appeared once in early Technicolor. Thirteen-year-old Betty, as one of The Goldwyn Girls, led off the Busby Berkeley-staged production number, "Cowboys" (music by Walter Donaldson, lyrics by Gus Kahn) in Whoopee! (1930). That same year, Miss Grable had a chorus bit in the New Movietone Follies of 1930 (1930), which contained sequences shot in the Multicolor process.
This was the first of a series of Latin American-themed movies that became very popular with American audiences in the 1940s. Darryl F. Zanuck produced the film in response to President Franklin D. Roosevelt's "Good Neighbor Policy" of friendship towards Latin American countries. Also, with the war in Europe starting, Zanuck hoped to develop Mexico and South America as alternative markets for his Hollywood films. However, while Down Argentine Way (1940) was a success in America, the Argentines hated it! When the film was screened in Buenos Aires, Argentine government officials refused to allow it to be shown in any theaters in their country. Among the things the Argentines objected to: (1) None of the Argentine characters in the film spoke with an Argentine Castilian Spanish accent. (2) Several Argentine characters are depicted as lazy, freeloading, or dishonest. (3) The three Argentine bankers who greet Betty Grable at the airport speak to her in fractured English, when most upper-class Argentines spoke perfect English. (4) Casiano, the horse groom played by J. Carrol Naish, wears a "gaucho" outfit ("gauchos" are Argentine cowboys, not horse ranchers). (5) Although Carmen Miranda was popular in Argentina, she was Brazilian and sang Cuban-inspired songs in Portuguese. Her presence in the movie gave the impression that Argentina is a tropical country, when it is a mountain country.