Down Argentine Way (1940): Irving Cummings’ Oscar-Nominated Musical, Starring Betty Grable, Don Ameche, Carmen Miranda

In Irving Cummings’ Oscar-nominated musical, Down Argentine Way, Don Ameche stars as Ricardo Quintana, the charming son of an Argentine horse breeder (Henry Stephenson).

The film is significant for many different reasons. It made a star of Bette Grable, in her first leading role for the studio, although she had already appeared in 31 films.

It also introduced American audiences to Caren Miranda. Miranda was then performing South American songs in the Broadway production The Streets of Paris. She was thus a prominent participant in the film although she spent no time in Hollywood.

The musical also starred 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 film’s working title was The South American Way. Down Argentine Way is considered the first of many Fox films made to implement the approach to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Good Neighbor Policy” toward Latin America.

During WWII, the U.S. government developed an administrative agency to encourage good relations with Latin America, as there was growing German influence there. The Office if Inter-American Affairs specifically encouraged the production of “Good Neighbor” mass entertainment movies.

The bright color cinematography was by Leon Shamroy and Ray Rennahan, and the costume design was by Travis Banton.

The American-composed music was by Harry Warren and Jimmy McHugh, with lyrics by Mack Gordon and Al Dubin.

Down Argentine Way
Down Argentine Way (1940 Poster).jpg

Theatrical release poster

Betty Grable plays vacationing American heiress Glenda Crawford, a young energetic woman who collects horses as a hobby.

Separated by a family feud, Ricardo and Glenda go through a series of predictable misunderstandings before ending up together in an equally predictable happy ending.

Shooting lasted for 10 months, during which members of the film’s crew traveled about 35,000 miles.

A second unit was sent to Buenos Aires for location shots, returning with about 20,000 feet of film, and another group flew to NYC to film Miranda for over a month.

The brilliant Nicholas Brothers perform some acrobatic dance numbers.

Oscar Context:

The movie was nominated for three Oscar Awards, but did not win any.

Critical Status:

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.

 

Grable in Down Argentine Way (1940)

Cast
Don Ameche as Ricardo Quintana
Betty Grable as Glenda Crawford
Carmen Miranda as Herself
Charlotte Greenwood as Binnie Crawford
J. Carrol Naish as Casiano
Henry Stephenson as Don Diego Quintana
Kay Aldridge as Helen Carson
Leonid Kinskey as Tito Acuna
Chris-Pin Martin as Esteban
Robert Conway as Jimmy Blake
Gregory Gaye as Sebastian, the Headwaiter
Bobby Stone as Panchito
Charles Judels as Dr. Arturo Padilla, the Ambassador
Fayard Nicholas as Specialty Dancer (The Nicholas Brothers)
Harold Nicholas as Specialty Dancer (The Nicholas Brothers)

 

Credits:

Produced by Darryl F. Zanuck

Directed by Irving Cummings
Screenplay by Rian James and Ralph Spence, story by Karl Tunberg and Darrell Ware
Cinematography Leon Shamroy and Ray Rennahan
Edited by Barbara McLean
Music by Harry Warren (music); Mack Gordon (lyrics)
Distributed by 20th Century Fox

Release date: October 11, 1940

Running time: 89 minutes
Box office $2 million

DVD: June 13, 2006