Starring Phillip Terry, Audrey Long, Eve Arden, and Robert Benchley
Directed by John H. Auer
Music and Lyrics by various
With the European markets cut off after war began in 1939, Hollywood looked down south for other sources of revenue. This resulted in many movies of the time set in South America or the Caribbean. Several stars south of the border became popular up here as well, notably Carmen Miranda. RKO opted to go after the stars, filming many legendary South American performers for this romantic comedy about what happens when two photographers go on a Goodwill Tour...and end up with more than just goodwill towards each other. Let's start in the office of a popular travel magazine and find out...
The Story: Dan Jordan (Terry) has just returned from the war to resume his job as a photographer at a popular travel magazine. Editor Helen "Hoppy" Hopkins (Arden) and her assistant Charlie Corker (Benchley) have the idea to film beautiful girls from all over South America and the Caribbean and feature them in a revue highlighting the beauty and talent south of the border afterwards. Hoppy insists that their best woman photographer Jo Anne Benson (Long) come with them, mainly to keep an eye on womanizing Jordan. Her attentions work too well. Now he's in love with her and thinking post-war suburban living, not knowing she already has a fiancée in Brazil.
The Song and Dance: And "song and dance" are the operative words. The whisper-thin plot is merely an excuse to showcase some of the best performing talent Mexico, Brazil, and Cuba have to offer. Arden and Benchley have a lot of fun as the sarcastic woman editor and her assistant who gets an amusing sequence describing the Samba. Isobellita appears in a cute running gag that has her pop up in each country, hoping to win the pageant title despite not being from that country.
Favorite Number: "Babalu" is today most associated with Cuban-born Desi Arnaz, but is used here in a big dance routine, performed passionately by Cuban singer Miguelito Valdes. Dancers Antoni and Rosario get two fiery flamenco routines, one set to "Guadalajara," one seen in the finale as the pageant winners from every South American country sings along.
Trivia: This was actress Jane Greer's first movie. She can be seen briefly in the beginning as Hoppy's secretary.
What I Don't Like: Oooh, that plot! It's about as much fun as watching paint dry. Long isn't bad, but Terry is smarmy and unlikable. Jo Anne's fiancée is of such little consequence, we don't even meet him until the last 20 minutes of the movie...and when we do meet him, he's such a decent and good-looking guy, you wonder how Jo Anne could even let her boss talk her into being bothered with Phillip.
Not to mention, the plot makes no sense. The main characters were supposed to be filming South American beauties, yet we never see any film crews. There's no way they could have set a stage show up so fast when they got back, either, and we never do find out which one ended up being Miss Pan-American. There's also the fact that the copy seen on HBO Max and TCM is terrible, blurry and faded. Someone really, really needs to take a crack at restoring this one.
The Big Finale: Of interest mainly to scholars of South American film, those who grew up watching the performers south of the border, or really huge fans of Arden or Benchley. Anyone else will likely be put off by the ridiculous and boring plot.
Home Media: Can currently be found streaming on HBO Max, and occasionally on TCM.