Down Argentine Way (1940) Sets Technicolor To Song
Good neighbor import of South American sound was
well along pre-war,playgrounds nearer the equator tendered here by Fox to
outshine even Euro haunts of pleasure, latter lately haunted by waves of war
that would engulf once-free and easy climes. Escapism, then, was better aimed
due south, and what more inviting spots than those captured by second units
equipped with three-strip Technicolor cameras? Down Argentine Way may have been a lushest yet
travel folder caught in motion. Had there been anything in the 30's to rival
it? Most of action is laid outdoors, and even if principals (Betty Grable, Don
Ameche) stayed at the Fox ranch, doubling as Argentina, still it's no stretch to imagine them amidst the pampas. This was an era where
suggestion of the real thing was nearly as good, a stagecraft to last until
Cinemascope, Fox's ownFrankenstein creation, made travel an imperative for
foreign-set films. Wide as they were, none of those would surpass sun-lit
streets captured here by a best-of-all color process still breathtaking
novelty in 1940 when Down
Argentine Waywas released.
Captivating background was essential to tune-fest
aimed at top tier. Otherwise, they'd be just musicals to lure lines half or
less as long. Down Argentine Way
and ones like it drew folks who figured a best (if notonly) reason for going
to movies was to see places they'd not experience otherwise. View-the-world options
were for these confined to photo books, lectures with slides, or stereo-viewers
picked up off parlor tables when visiting relatives. Beyond that, it was the
Bijou and hope that shorts might include another Fitzpatrick Traveltalk, MGM's
single-reel series on people and places most of patrons would never visit.
Far-away seemed nearer when a Grable or Ameche came from, or went, there.
Movies had helped make the world a smaller place since before the last war, and
now with another to be fought, we'd have reason, and soonurgency, to ally our
hemisphere against common enemies. Down Argentine Waywas early incentive to join
hands with a neighbor as postcard-attractive and congenial as we considered
ourselves to be.
Argentina as depicted here is leisure headquarters, days spent
breeding horseflesh for big-money racing, and neon-lit nightlife where Carmen
Miranda leads a never-ending conga line. This is no mere happy place, it is a
rich place. We may assume, as 1940 audiences undoubtedly did, that there was never
a Great Depression in Argentina.
A lot probably thought Argentina
would be a nice spot to sit out the coming war. Did those with resource watch Down Argentine Way
and pack bags for vacation, if not a longer stay? I don't get a sense of
tie-ins, no luxury plane rides shown or travel agencies boosted, as would be
case with Fox'sWeekend In Havanathat came a year after Down Argentine Way. What helped these
shows was popularity ever on the rise of Latin music, being a happy
association we'd have with places till then mere names on a map. Argentina and Havana were less suggestion of backdrop than
cues to a type of attraction being offered. Dance as performed south-of-borders
went back to early 30's and handshake that was Flying Down To Rio and specialty
numbers performed since in one after another high-profile musical. There'd be
little argument over Latin rhythm besting our own.
Of 40's musicals, ones from Fox seem most rooted
to the era. This may be partly reason why they've sunk off radars, even radar
maintained by buffs. There was noAstaire or Gene Kelly at 20th; in fact,
leading men hewed more to watching partners perform than doing so themselves. Though Don Ameche and John Payne occasionally sang, recall
of them doing so retreats quick after viewing. What sticks are the
specialties, Carmen Miranda in Down Argentine Way before lift to greater prominence
and at times excess of her novelty, and more so, the Nicholas Brothers, whose
skill looks to derive from other planets where gravity is no issue. These two
won't fail to astonish even in another seventy-years, at which time watchersmight wonder if CGI wasn't deployed in 1940 rather than presumed
twenty-first century. All the rest in song/dance looks stock still beside them.
Down Argentine Way now streams at I-Tunes in HD, good reason to take plunge in this and other Fox musicals offered there and looking a best since
true Technicolor prints were still around and occasionally shown.
Two items to note in the ad at left from Columbus' Ohio Theatre
(which still stands and operates downtown, and is but short walk from
Cinevent headquarters at the RenaissanceHotel). Roger Garrett was Ohio house organist from
1933 to 1942. He was a Columbus institution, at
least as popular as any movie the Ohio
ever ran. Overtures and recital by Garrett was reason alone for many a ticket
bought. The organist would return to the Ohio
for a final concert (and sing-a-long) in 1969. Friday night bonus with Down Argentine Way
was a football rally featuring team members from OhioState.
Tie-in with sport groups was ongoing benefit to stadium turnstiles and
theatre boxoffice. Athletes would take the stage, sometimes entertain, though just
being seen was enough for fans and family members. These were pep rallies pure
and simple, designed to whippatronage into mood for the weekend game and boost
grid squad besides. Like with Garrett at his organ, football fever often
tipped ticket-buyers to Ohio's
favor rather than rivals down the street, even where they were playing a better
movie. Yet further case where live events were more a draw than what
was on screens.