Cast & Crew
While in Buenos Aires to buy oil land for his employer, George Hastings, Texan Tim Kelly meets Argentinian heiress Lolita O'Shea during Pan-American Day at the race track. Also at the track is Lolita's perservering suitor, Alberto Delmonte. Near the grandstand, Tim encounters fellow Hastings employee Duke Ferrel, who is in Argentina to represent the Hastings stable. Because Tim's bid for the oil property has been rejected and the Hastings horses have been losing at the track, the two men decide to placate their employer by buying Lucero, the great race horse owned by Lolita's father, Don Enrique O'Shea. To facilitate the sale, Duke asks Santiago, the O'Sheas' servant, to introduce Tim to Don Enrique, who detests all North Americans. After instructing Tim to pretend to be a cattle buyer, the three men ride to the O'Shea estancio, where the cattle auction is to be held. Although Santiago introduces the Texans as cattle buyers, Don Enrique discovers that their target is really his race horse. Lolita, who is attracted to Tim, becomes angry when she overhears him confide to Duke that he is more interested in Lucero than her. When Hastings becomes impatient with Tim's attempts to buy Lucero, he calls Don Enrique directly and offers him $25,000 for the horse. Angered by the Americans' deception, Don Enrique questions Santiago, who then insists that Tim bid at the cattle auction. On the day of the auction, Tim's plan to back out of the bidding fails, and he blunders into paying a fortune for Don Enrique's prize bull. During the festivities following the auction, Don Enrique calls for a game of El Pato, the violent gaucho competition featuring mounted players beating each other with whips. Alberto leads one of the teams, and Santiago enlists Tim in another to worry Lolita. After Alberto is injured on the playing field, Lolita denounces Tim for deliberately harming him in order to impress her father. Lolita's outburst causes Don Enrique to realize that his daughter has fallen in love with the Texan. To force the reluctant couple to recognize their love for each other, Don Enrique offers Lucero to Tim if he promises to leave for the States immediately. When Lolita discovers Tim's absence, she gallops after him, and the two declare their love for each other.
J. Roy Hunt
Van Nest Polglase
Vernon L. Walker
Earl A. Wolcott
They Met in Argentina
The plot of They Met in Argentina was written by the film's producer, Lou Brock. Texas oilman Tim Kelly (Ellison) goes to Argentina to buy some land. When that doesn't work out, he and his friend Duke (Buddy Ebsen) go to Pan-American Day at the racetrack and meet Lolita (O'Hara), the daughter Don Enrique O'Shea (Robert Barrat). Lolita plays hard-to-get and Papa O'Shea hates North Americans, but this doesn't stop Kelly from trying to woo Lolita and buy O'Shea's racehorse named Lucero. There were some musical numbers by Rodgers and Hart stuck in-between the love scenes and dancing by Ebsen and Diosa Costello, choreographed by Frank Veloz.
When Maureen O'Hara was cast in the film in November 1940, she knew it was nothing more than RKO Pictures' answer to the 20th Century-Fox Betty Grable film Down Argentine Way (1940). She wrote in her autobiography, "I knew it was going to be a stinker; terrible script, bad director, preposterous plot, forgettable music." She phoned her agent, Lew Wasserman and pleaded with him to get her out of it, but he told her that she had no choice. If she didn't make the film, RKO would put her on suspension without pay until the film was finished. She stuck out the "typical ten-plus-two weeks shooting schedule, which went by very slowly; we finished in January 1941." During production, director Les Goodwins was hospitalized with pneumonia and Jack Hively took over. The change in direction didn't help to improve the film, and when it was released on April 25, 1941, They Met in Argentina was, in O'Hara's words "a total flop, and I was furious about it." She wasn't the only one. It was a $270,000 loss for the studio. The reviews of the critics were in agreement with O'Hara and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette who wrote, "[T]here are two pictures in town in which the title refers to a couple of people meeting somewhere and the better of the two isn't They Met in Argentina." The review pointed out that audiences in Buenos Aires might be happy to see their number one star, Alberto Vila, in a Hollywood film, but might not take kindly to having James Ellison get the girl. Variety agreed that giving Vila a subordinate role wouldn't go down well in South America and even predicted that the film would not be received well due to stereotypical and exaggerated portrayals of the Latin characters, which is exactly what happened. The Argentinian government spoke out about it being released in their country. Overall, the "good neighbor policy" in Hollywood was also a flop in Latin America, with the Ritz-Brothers comedy Argentine Nights (1940) actually causing protest demonstrations when it was released and eventually banned in Buenos Aires in May 1941. By the end of the year, the State Department was actively suggesting appropriate topics to the Hollywood studios. By then, They Met in Argentina was nothing more than a bad memory for Maureen O'Hara; she would soon meet director John Ford and the rest is history.
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They Met in Argentina
Jack Hively took over as director for Leslie Goodwins while he was hospitalized with pneumonia.
RKO was forced by the Argentine government to add footage with their popular star, 'Vila, Alberto' , before agreeing to its release in Argentina.
A Hollywood Reporter production chart includes Betty Jane Rhodes in the cast, but her appearance in the completed film has not been confirmed. According to a news item in Hollywood Reporter, Jack Hively took over the direction for Les Goodwins when Goodwins was hospitalized with pneumonia. Several reviews note that this film was an attempt by the studio to "woo" the South American market. The film May also have been influenced by the Office of Inter-American Affairs, which was founded in 1940. Headed by Nelson Rockefeller, the office was established by an order of the Council of National Defense to "strengthen bonds between the nations of the Western Hemisphere." The motion picture industry was designated as one of the agencies that could secure a better understanding between North and South America by producing more films with Latin American themes. This film, with its opening song "North America Meets South America," appears to have fostered that understanding. The Variety review observes, however, that the picture would not be well received in Latin America because of its exaggerated characterizations of Latin Americans and because of the subordinate role assigned to South American star Alberto Vila.
Although pre-production news items in Hollywood Reporter and Los Angeles Times note that producer Lou Brock, who was responsible for RKO's Latin-themed 1933 hit Flying Down to Rio (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films 1931-40; F3.1406 ), convinced the studio to sign Vila and planned this picture as a star vehicle for him, Vila's role was reduced to a brief appearance in the completed picture. The Variety review proved prescient. In a post-release news item, Hollywood Reporter notes that not only did the negative audience reception of the film cause the studio to abandon all stories with a Latin American background, RKO was also forced to add footage of Vila before Argentina would agree to its release. The picture also marked Brock's last production at RKO.