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. See more »
Although Edward Fielding is listed in the credits as having portrayed Glenda Crawford's father, Willis Crawford, he is only seen at the Tuxedo Horse Show near the start of the film. He has no other scenes. See more »
The colour and music captivates. The romance? Not quite so much
'Down Argentine Way' is notable for being the American debut of Carmen Miranda and the film that made Betty Grable a star. This said, while the casting seemed unlikely initially (for example Alice Faye was intended for the character played by Betty Grable), they mostly come off well and 'Down Argentine Way' manages to entertain enormously.
Sure, while there is so much to enjoy for many it is also to see why others won't connect with it. One says that one shouldn't see a musical for its story, which in a way can be seen as true seeing as even in the classic musicals the story tended to be not as good as the rest of the respective films. Here though the story is thin on the ground, feeling stretched and has its implausible stretches.
The romance between Don Ameche and Betty Grable has many moments of endearing charm, but that Grable replaced an indisposed Alice Faye due to illness makes the chemistry not quite as natural as it could have been. This may have been that Ameche and Faye had worked together a few times before and Grable was in her film debut, so didn't know Ameche as well.
Harry Stephenson on paper couldn't have been a more unlikely and dubious choice for his role and in the final product is for me quite badly miscast. He is not being remotely believable as a Argentinian, which did to me took away hugely from the rest of his performance, with an accent that is phoney at best and comes and goes quicker than one can down a can of fizzy drinks.
On the other hand, 'Down Argentine Way' looks great, with gorgeous use of colour and lavish production design. The songs are lively and infectious, no standards but it's the quality of the music itself and the way it's used that matters more and 'Down Argentine Way' succeeds in those areas.
'Down Argentine Way's' script crackles with wit, energy and charm and the film is rarely dull due to so much being so good. Ameche is as ever suave and charming and Grable's beguiling performance deservedly made her a star.
With the exception of Stephenson the supporting cast work very well. Miranda is not in the film much and her scenes don't necessarily add much to the story and narratively may feel like padding, but she is absolute dynamite in her American debut and her two songs are two of the film's most catchy. J. Carroll Naish is amusing, the Nicholas Brothers dazzle with their athletic dancing and Leonid Kinsky succeeds in making buffoonery not annoying, but the best supporting turn comes from a note-perfect Charlotte Greenwood.
In summary, not great but hugely entertaining, foibles and all. 7/10 Bethany Cox
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