Down Argentine Way
|Down Argentine Way|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Irving Cummings|
|Produced by||Darryl F. Zanuck|
|Written by||Rian James
|Music by||Harry Warren|
|Edited by||Barbara McLean|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|October 11, 1940|
|Box office||$2 million|
Down Argentine Way is a 1940 Technicolor musical film made by Twentieth Century Fox. It made a star of Betty Grable in her first leading role for the studio, and introduced American audiences to Carmen Miranda. The film also starred Don Ameche, The Nicholas Brothers, Charlotte Greenwood, and J. Carrol Naish. The film was directed by Irving Cummings and produced by Darryl F. Zanuck from a screenplay by Karl Tunberg and Darrell Ware based on a story by Rian James and Ralph Spence. The cinematography was by Leon Shamroy and Ray Rennahan and the costume design by Travis Banton. The American-composed music was by Harry Warren and Jimmy McHugh, lyrics by Mack Gordon and Al Dubin. In 2014, Down Argentine Way was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.
Young Ricardo Quintano voyages from Argentina to New York to sell some of his father's prize horses. Before leaving, Don Diego instructs his son that no steeds are to be sold to Binnie Crawford or any member of her family because her brother Willis cheated him years earlier. Upon arriving in New York, Ricardo falls in love with Glenda Crawford, but when he learns that she is Binnie's niece, he refuses to sell her the horse she wants to buy and hurriedly returns to Argentina. Perturbed, Glenda follows him, accompanied by Binnie. The couple meet again in Argentina, where they confess their love for each other, and Ricardo introduces Glenda to his father as "Miss Cunningham." Glenda encourages Ricardo to enter his father's prize jumper, Furioso, in a race, against Don Diego's wishes. Soon after, while attending a horse show, Don Diego discovers Glenda's true identity and disowns his son. His bad mood is then compounded when Furioso refuses to jump and runs off the field. To make up for the humiliating defeat of his father's jumper, Ricardo enters Furioso in the big race, and when the horse wins, Don Diego changes his mind about racing horses and about Glenda.
- Don Ameche — Ricardo Quintana
- Betty Grable — Glenda Crawford
- Carmen Miranda — Herself
- Charlotte Greenwood — Binnie Crawford
- J. Carrol Naish — Casiano
- Henry Stephenson — Don Diego Quintana
- Kay Aldridge — Helen Carson
- Leonid Kinskey — Tito Acuna
- Chris-Pin Martin — Esteban
- Robert Conway — Jimmy Blake
- Gregory Gaye — Sebastian, the Headwaiter
- Bobby Stone — Panchito
- Charles Judels — Dr. Arturo Padilla, the Ambassador
- Fayard Nicholas — Specialty Dancer (as The Nicholas Brothers)
- Harold Nicholas — Specialty Dancer (as The Nicholas Brothers)
The working title of this film was The South American Way.
Down Argentine Way was the first of many Fox films made to implement the film industry-wide "Good Neighbor Policy" toward Latin America. During World War II, the U.S. government created an administrative agency to encourage good relations with Latin America, the Office of Inter-American Affairs, and this agency specifically encouraged the production of "Good Neighbor" films. Down Argentine Way preceded the formation of the Office of Inter-American Affairs, but nevertheless it was surely influenced by Roosevelt administration policy. Since the film was a box-office success, earning $2 million in domestic rentals in 1940, it was hardly surprising that Fox would continue to support government policy and its own self-interest by making films such as That Night in Rio (1941) and Week-End in Havana (1941). The films were very popular in the United States, but not successful as propaganda aimed at Latin America-because they lacked authenticity.
Carmen Miranda was a big star in her native Brazil as a singer and dancer known for sex appeal. She signed a film contract with Fox in 1940 while she was appearing at a New York club, and Down Argentine Way became her first appearance in an American film. Since Miranda could not break her nightclub contract, her numbers for this film were shot in New York even though all other actors were working with director Irving Cummings in Los Angeles. Fox, with its revue approach to musicals, could simply cut and paste Miranda into the film. Miranda made several more films for 20th Century Fox, but the studio never figured out how to make the Brazilian star completely fit with American productions. However, the film did jump-start the career of Betty Grable. Grable was cast in the film as a replacement for Alice Faye, who was originally intended for the female lead but became ill. Faye did appear in the follow-up films That Night in Rio and Week-End in Havana, both again featuring Carmen Miranda.
Another item in Hollywood Reporter notes that J. Carroll Naish's success in a comedy role in this film prompted Fox to feature him again in That Night in Rio. Modern sources[who?] include actress Elena Verdugo in the cast in a bit role and note that this may have been her first film.
- Bambú, Bambú — Carmen Miranda
- Down Argentina Way — Betty Grable and Don Ameche
- Mamãe Eu Quero — Carmen Miranda
- Nenita — Bando da Lua (Sung by Leonid Kinskey at the nightclub)
- Sing to Your Señorita — Charlotte Greenwood
- Two Dreams Met — Betty Grable and Don Ameche
- South American Way — Carmen Miranda
The film was a great success and grossed $ 2 million that year.
In his review for the newspaper Chicago Reader, Dave Kehr said "Betty Grable as an American heiress, Don Ameche as an Argentine horse breeder, and Carmen Miranda as something from another planet, all shot in delirious 40s Technicolor. The result is a classic example of the 20th Century-Fox approach to musicals: loud, vulgar, ridiculous, and irresistibly entertaining."
The New York Times critic Bosley Crowther, reviewing Down Argentine Way upon its release, found Grable irresistible. At one point he referenced what he saw as her lack of ability: "We see plenty of [Grable] -- singing, dancing and wearing clothes of surprising magnificence. We even see her trying to act, which is something less of a pleasure." But then, after referencing the money-grubbing nature of the picture's reason for existing in the first place, he backtracks on his view of its star: "But, hold -- what sort of good neighbor would make a remark like that! Pardon us, Miss Grable. Consider it unmade."
Down Argentine Way marks the film debut of Carmen Miranda, already known as "the Brazilian Bombshell"—her musical numbers in the movie are a gaudy delight—and the Nicholas Brothers serve up a characteristically joyous, effervescent routine.
- "American Film Institute Catalog: Down Argentine Way". p. American Film Institute Catalog. Retrieved March 21, 2014.
- "Brazilian cinema, Hollywood and the Good Neighbourhood Policy in the 1930s: a background for Carmen Miranda". Káritha Bernardo de Macedo. Retrieved November 22, 2014.
- "Twentieth Century-Fox: The Zanuck-Skouras Years, 1935–1965". Peter Lev. Retrieved October 14, 2014.
- "Soundtracks: Down Argentine Way". Dave Kehr. p. IMDb. Retrieved May 31, 2014.
- "Twentieth Century-Fox: The Zanuck-Skouras Years, 1935–1965". Peter Lev. p. accessdate=September 3, 2014.
- "Film Search: Down Argentine Way". Dave Kehr. p. Chicago Reader. Retrieved March 10, 2014.
- "Read TCM's article on Down Argentine Way". p. TCM Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved March 10, 2014.
- "NY Times: Down Argentine Way!". NY Times. Retrieved 2008-12-13.
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