Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Down Argentine Way

For some reason, I thought Down Argentine Way was available on DVD courtesy of Fox's MOD scheme. It's not as far as I can tell, but it turns out there is a standalone DVD that's probably out of print because you can get it at Amazon but not the TCM Shop. Amazon also does the streaming video thing, and there's also a four-film Betty Grable set that is apparently in print, as it's available from both Amazon and the TCM Shop.

Although the movie is in a Betty Grable box set, it's actually Don Ameche who gets top billing and shows up first. He's Ricardo Quintana, an Argentine and son of Don Diego, a wealthy horse breeder. Don Diego is looking to sell some of his horses in the US, and sends Ricardo there to handle the sales. Get the highest price, but with one caveat: don't sell to Willis Crawford (Edward Fielding), who apparently screwed Don Diego over while the two were at boarding school in Paris ages ago, or any member of his family.

While in America, Ricardo meets the beautiful Glenda (Betty Grable). He falls in love with her, and she with him, as well as with one of the horses he's selling. However, there's one catch. Glenda's last name is Crawford: she's Willis' daughter. No sale.

Glenda is determined to get that horse, and frankly determined to get Ricardo as well, so she follows Ricardo back to Argentina, accompanied by her aunt Binnie (Charlotte Greenwood). The usual complications ensue. One further complication is that Don Diego's horses only do show-jumping, ever since one of his beloved horses died in a flat track race 15 years earlier. Ricardo and Glenda decide to train Don Diego's current favorite for the big flat track race.

The plot of Down Argentine Way is silly and predictable, and you know where it's going. But there are still good reasons to watch it. Charlotte Greenwood provided support in several Fox musicals of the 1940s, notably this one and The Gang's All Here, and she's got a great high kick for musical numbers and pretty good comic timing. More noteworthy would be the Hollywood debut of Carmen Miranda. She was still under contract at a New York nightclub at the time of production, so Fox had to film her scenes in New York and then splice them into the movie. That's probably why she only shows up as a musical performer, with just two or three songs. The one you'll most recognize is "South American Way", which is sung by the two daughters in Mildred Pierce as well.

Also appearing for the musical numbers are the Nicholas brothers, doing one of their dance routines including cringe-inducing splits for those of us who aren't quite as flexible as the brothers. Since they were black, the numbers have fairly obvious cutting points where exhibitors in the South could snip to remove the scene so that white audiences wouldn't have to see it.

To be honest, there's nothing in Down Argentine Way that movie buffs haven't seen in any number of other movies. But it's still solid entertainment, and anybody who likes the early 1940s musicals or romance movies will certainly enjoy it.

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