Down Argentine Way

John Parker July 17

Down Argentine Way really promotes Argentina as a fun land of love and Latin rhythms. I once had a teacher from Mexico who emphasized, derogatorily, that “amor” is a huge component in Latin American popular culture: “If you’re romantic, Señor, then you will surely adore, Agentina.” Distinct Latin rhythms again permeate the festive scenes, especially when Carmen Miranda is featured. Carmen, who I think is Mexican, sings in Spanish and Portuguese, and dances subtly but distinctly in the syncopated style that we saw in Flying Down to Rio. Guitars serenade, a frenzied conga dance overwhelms, maracas clatter. The two Negro dancers, perhaps less Latin in their tap dancing, are sensational. Of course, a dance cabaret is featured so we see Latin dance and hear South American rhythms at their finest. The chauffeur, Anastacio, is in constant siesta mode, although Argentina does not have the sun reputation of its exotic counterparts further to the north. Our dashing protagonist, as usual, is very rich and maintains strong family values. Also as usual, meaning as in Flying Down to Rio, our Latin protagonist falls for an over-the-top-blond-coloured American. It was fun to see Don Ameche in one of his earlier movies. He was in Trading Places and Cocoon (in which he break dances and for which he won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor) in the 1980s. Interestingly, he was born Dominic Amici in the United States. I wonder if the name change to Spanish corresponds with the Friendly Neighbour period of the 1930s and 1940s. “Don,” of course, carries certain connotations: rich, dapper, smooth talking, moustache. Looking him up on Wikipedia, I see that he often played roles similar to the one in Down Argentine Way.

I’m particularly curious about the portrayal of Gaucho culture in the film. We are in the pampas region of Argentina, where sheep and cattle ranching dominated during centuries previous. The ranch hands all wear Gaucho clothing, and Gaucho formal clothing is worn for the fiesta at the end. There is a village fiesta with rustic dancing and singing, and Gaucho serenaders with guitars at Don Ameche’s ranch. Formal racetrack British style horse racing and jumping is well outside the realm of the Gauchos. I’m hoping someone who knows the culture will comment with his or her impression of the film’s portrayal. Films that try to present aspects of culture are probably bound to a few clichés and not able to go in depth, and I understand that. This potentially leads, as we’ve discussed already, to over simplification that plays into stereotypes.

2 thoughts on “Down Argentine Way

  1. Jon

    Carmen Miranda is/was in fact Brazilian (though born in Portugal). But your point remains: often enough for these movies, such distinctions are relatively unimportant. Though other details *are* important: for instance, it *is* true that Argentina has a long tradition of horse-breeding (and, in fact, as far as I understand it, a particular preeminence in polo ponies). So for these films, it’s important to get *some* things right, to achieve their pedagogical aims; but other things are of little interest.

  2. Nayid Contreras

    Hi John,
    Romanticism certainly plays a big part in Latin Culture. Look at Telenovelas. Most of these tv series are charged with drama. The rhythm in this movie is vivid and Carmen Miranda’s Brazilian flavour certainly brings more swing to the movie. As for the black dances to which you refer, I think they are American dancers and their names are the Nicholas Brothers. They were very famous back them and appear in a few movies. Did you notice their bad attempt at singing in Spanish? That was a giveaway. I do agree with your observation with the negative way some Latino characters were depicted in the movie. In fact, Anastacio is a good example of it and also the stable/jockey boy, Tito, who seems to be not there in his head completely. When compared against the American characters the Latino ones seem less than their counterparts.


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