Cast & Crew
J. Carrol Naish
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.
J. Carrol Naish
Thomas And Catherine Cowling
Six Hits And A Miss
Carmen Miranda Band
Pepe Guizar And The Flores Brothers
Jean Del Val
Harry Joe Brown
Joseph C. Wright
Darryl F. Zanuck
Best Art Direction
Down Argentine Way
But Grable didn't find her way into those outlandish ruffles overnight. By the time she made Down Argentine Way, the St. Louis-born performer had already appeared in some 50 feature films and shorts, sometimes as an anonymous chorus girl, other times -- as in the 1934 Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers vehicle The Gay Divorcee -- as more of a featured performer. Her career had begun in the early '30s: She was a Goldwyn Girl, until Samuel Goldwyn discovered she'd been appearing, under the name Frances Dean, in racy shorts, some directed by disgraced actor Fatty Arbuckle. She was picked up by 20th Century Fox and continued to work in Hollywood, but even though some larger speaking roles came her way -- in the 1936 Pigskin Parade, for example, which also featured a very young Judy Garland -- her career seemed stalled out. Fox head Darryl Zanuck was determined to turn her into a dramatic actress, casting her in A Yank in the R.A.F., released in 1941. But when Down Argentine Way, which Grable had made the year before, ended up generating massive profits -- it was conceived as a novelty to court moviegoers in Latin America, since the onset of war had destroyed the European market for Hollywood films -- Zanuck recognized that there was money to be made in letting Grable dance and sing. She would play only one other dramatic role, opposite Victor Mature in the 1941 noir I Wake Up Screaming. But she would also, of course, become an icon.
Grable wasn't even Zanuck's first choice for Down Argentine Way. Alice Faye, a favorite of Zanuck's, was the original star, before she became tired of Zanuck's tyrannical demands and announced she was retiring to spend more time with her husband (musician Phil Harris) and two daughters. Grable stepped into the role, but it seems she was able to protect herself from Zanuck's tyranny. According to Grable biographer Spero Pastos, Zanuck would show up on the lot in jodhpurs and riding boots, snapping a riding crop whenever he needed to make a point. He was notorious for bullying actresses into sharing his bed. Pastos quotes a former Fox employee: "Every afternoon, Zanuck had to have his virility assured. But neither Alice Faye nor Betty Grable ever slept with Darryl Zanuck."
As inexcusable as Zanuck's behavior may have been, you can't blame a guy for trying, especially when you see how vibrant and adorable Grable is in Down Argentine Way. There's something eager-to-please about her singing and dancing -- she doesn't have the laid-back, smart-alecky cool of, say, Ginger Rogers. And her timing sometimes shows a bit of awkward tentativeness. But who cares? Grable's appeal in Down Argentine Way -- even beyond those stunning legs, which would later be insured by Lloyd's of London for $1 million -- radiates from a place that has nothing to do with strict acting chops. She's a persistently warm, accessible presence; there's something kind and forthright about her. Just a few years later, on the basis of a cheeky publicity still shot by photographer Frank Powolny, she would become the pinup of choice for thousands of American servicemen. Thanks to Grable's various physical attributes, the picture is sexy all right -- but the mischievous, fun-loving gleam in Grable's eyes is what really makes it.
Grable didn't have to carry Down Argentine Way on her own: The picture also 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. But Grable's charisma trumps it all. As Desi Arnaz, Sr., who was originally set to star opposite Grable in the film (he dropped out for personal reasons), said, "She was gorgeous. What a figure, and what legs! Her skin was magnificent, and so smooth -- she looked like a peach all over. It was impossible to sit next to her and not want to know her a little better."
Even snooty New York Times critic Bosley Crowther, reviewing Down Argentine Way upon its release, found Grable irresistible. At one point he makes a rather cowardly crack about what he sees 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." That half-hearted apology was the least Crowther could do, but you can easily imagine her response to it: She'd probably just toss those flaxen curls and laugh.
Producer: Darryl F. Zanuck, Harry Joe Brown
Director: Irving Cummings
Screenplay: Rian James (story), Ralph Spence (story), Darrell Ware (screenplay), Karl Tunberg (screenplay)
Cinematography: Ray Rennahan, Leon Shamroy
Music: Cyril J. Mockridge
Film Editing: Barbara McLean
Cast: Don Ameche (Ricardo Quintana), Betty Grable (Glenda Crawford, aka Glenda Cunningham), Carmen Miranda (Carmen Miranda), Charlotte Greenwood (Binnie Crawford), J. Carrol Naish (Casiano), Henry Stephenson (Don Diego Quintana), Katharine Aldridge (Helen Carson), Leonid Kinskey (Tito Acuna), Chris-Pin Martin (Esteban), Robert Conway (Jimmy Blake).
by Stephanie Zacharek
(Stephanie is the chief movie critic for Movieline - www.movieline.com)
Pin-Up: The Tragedy of Betty Grable, by Spero Pastos, Putnam Publishing Group, 1986.
Betty Grable: Behind the Pinup, A&E Biography Series.
Down Argentine Way
Fayard Nicholas (1914-2006)
Born on October 20, 1914 in Mobile, Alabama, Fayard was the son of musicians who played in vaudeville pit orchestras. When he was 6 1/2 years of age, his younger brother Harold was born (March 27, 1921, Winston-Salem, North Carolina) and little did they realize that they were destined to be one of the most memorable dance duos in film history.
Fayard learned to dance by watching several vaudeville shows while traveling with his parents. He incorporated many of the acrobatic moves he saw into his own routines, and soon, Harold was learning with him. By 1932, they had auditioned, and landed, a spot in Harlem's celebrated haunt, The Cotton Club. Their routines were a sensation, and Samuel Goldwyn brought them to Hollywood where they performed in Kid Millions (1934) with Eddie Cantor and The Big Broadcast of 1936 (1937). That same year, they appeared on Broadway The Ziegfeld Follies of 1936 and Babes in Arms.
Fayard and Harold headed back to The Cotton Club to polish up their moves, and when they came back to Hollywood in the '40s, they entered their golded period. In Down Argentina Way (1940) starring Don Ameche and Betty Grable, they did that extraordinary number, leaping off a grand piano and doing eye-popping splits over each other on an oversized staircase; Sun Valley Serenade (1941), they have an engaging Chattenooga Choo-Choo routine with a 19-year-old Dorothy Dandridge; and best of all, The Pirate (1948) where they do a terrific Be a Clown routine with Gene Kelly that's every bit as comical as it was inventive.
In the early '50s, the brothers were touring all over the United States and Europe, but in 1957, Harold spent seven years in Paris and only reunited with Fayard in a 1964 television appearance on the hit variety show The Hollywood Palace. But as their performance teaming became less frequent as they got older, Fayard found ways to keep busy. He drew critical praise for his dramatic turn in The Liberation of L.B. Jones (1970) and won a Tony for his choreography for Black and Blue (1989). In 1991, Both Fayard and Harold received the Kennedy Center Honors and most deserved honory Oscars® at the Academy Awards. Nicholas is survived by his wife, Katherine; sister, Dorothy; sons, Tony and Paul; four grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter.
by Michael T. Toole
Fayard Nicholas (1914-2006)
Excuse me, I've got to go see a man about a horse.- Glenda Crawford, aka Glenda Cunningham
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.
Director Irving Cummings thought the dance number by the Nicholas Brothers (Fayard Nicholas and Harold Nicholas) was too long, but dance director Nick Castle (II) convinced him to leave it uncut at a test screening. The test audience cheered so much that they had to rewind the film.
Alice Faye was set to play the role of Glenda, but fell ill and was replaced by Betty Grable. Although 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.
The working title of this film was The South American Way. Material contained in the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection at the UCLA Theater Arts Library discloses that after writer Roman Romero drafted a preliminary outline for this film, studio head Darryl Zanuck decided that he wanted to make a "South American" Kentucky (a popular 1938 Fox film). Novelist John O'Hara also worked on a version of the screenplay, but his contribution to the final film has not been determined. According to news items in Hollywood Reporter, an ailing Alice Faye was replaced by Betty Grable, and Cesar Romero, suffering from para-typhoid, was replaced by Leonid Kinskey. Another item in Hollywood Reporter notes that J. Carroll Naish's success in a comedy role in this film prompted Fox to assign him to the 1941 film That Night in Rio. Modern sources include actress Elena Verdugo in the cast in a bit role and note that this May have been her first film. Down Argentine Way was nominated for Academy Awards in the Art Direction (Color) and Cinematography (Color) categories. Harry Warren and Mack Gordon's song "Down Argentine Way" was also nominated for an Oscar.