It’s the Dynamic Duos!
Betty Grable and Don Ameche were each icons in their own right. Ameche was a durable lead actor who did everything from drama to comedy to musicals, whether on the screen or on the radio. Betty, was, of course, the A-number one pinup of the Second World War, and a popular screen star in her own right. When these two got together in Down Argentine Way and Moon Over Miami, it was always a good time.
Down Argentine Way (1940) was Betty Grable’s first lead role, playing Glenda Crawford. An accomplished horsewoman, Glenda wants to buy a prized thoroughbred from Don Ameche’s character, Ricardo Quintana, and the two of them make plans to meet at a club for a martini. They have a romantic scene on a balcony, which is broken up by Glenda’s Aunt Binnie (Charlotte Greenwood). When Ricardo finds out Glenda’s last name is Crawford, he pulls out of the deal. The problem isn’t him; Ricardo’s dad can’t stand anyone named Crawford, even if they don’t know him. Ricardo seems to be full of regret about it, but a few minutes later sells the horse to Glenda’s best friend, Helen. Of course, Glenda is ticked off about it, and storms away.
Out of a mix of wanting revenge and being intrigued by Ricardo, Glenda goes to Argentina, ostensibly to buy some more horses. She goes, she sees, and by funny coincidence meets Ricardo at a club. It doesn’t take much for them to get back to making sheep’s eyes at each other, but Glenda only lulls Ricardo into complacency long enough to slap him and then storm off yet again. However, the two of them mend fences awfully quickly. In between helping Ricardo train a horse named Furioso for the races, the two of them spend time dancing and romancing. The plot of the movie is very simple, but it has a lot of great music and moments.
The following year, Ameche and Grable reunited in Moon Over Miami, about two girls and their aunt who pretend to be rich so they can marry for money. Well, Kay, Grable’s character, pretends to be rich. Her sister and aunt are her secretary and maid, respectively (played by Charlotte Greenwood and Carol Landis). This movie is a delight on so many levels, but in terms of the interaction between Ameche and Grable, there was a lot more for them to do, not to mention there are a few dangling carrots.
The first time Kay meets Phil McNeil, she’s at a party given by Jeff Boulton (Robert Cummings). The party has gone on for so long that a lot of the guests are sleeping in chairs, and Kay trips over Jeff’s friend, Phil , who has put a napkin on his face as a makeshift sleeping mask. At first he’s more interested in sleeping than in talking to Kay. Once he wakes up, though, Phil tries to hide his interest by seeming to list all of Kay’s so-called faults–her voice is pitched too low, her figure has no poetry, and so on. Just when Kay looks as if she’s going to pop him one, Phil comes clean: “I think you’re wonderful, and I hope I fall in love with you.” Kay tells him, “I can hardly wait.” Oh, the irony.
Not only is there quite a bit more back and forth between Betty and Don’s characters in Miami, but Phil has a good-natured rivalry with Jeff for Kay’s affections, and the two of them go to great lengths to hone in on each other’s time with Kay. Jeff stows away in the rumble seat when Phil takes Kay for a drive. Phil and Kay go down in a diving bell while Jeff swims around outside the viewing window and pretends to bite the head off a fish. Phil does his own chasing as well–Jeff and Kay zoom around in a racing boat in one scene while Phil zips after them in his own watercraft, complete with fun sounds and jumps.
Kay’s enjoying herself, but it’s obvious she prefers Phil. She lights up when he’s around, and he’s equally into her. Unfortunately for true love, though, Phil has more in common with Kay than he’s letting on–he’s flat broke and is trying to marry for money, too. D’oh! Since he’s a gentleman, Phil pushes Kay towards Jeff, and both Kay and Phil are pretty glum about it. Before Kay leaves the resort with Jeff, she and Phil have a very sweet scene with a local crow, Mr. Sylvester, who’s kind of the resort’s mascot, and who gives Kay a pansy from the flowerbed. The door’s not completely shut on Phil and Kay, though–there just might be a glimmer of hope for them.
The chemistry between Betty and Don in Down Argentine Way and Moon Over Miami was precious. Their manner towards each other when their characters weren’t sparring was gentle and fun. It’s easy to see how Betty Grable’s characters could fall in love with Don Ameche’s so readily. That, and those dimples of his probably went a long way in that regard (I’m a little biased, though–my husband has dimples).
There isn’t a lot of information out there of how much of a relationship Don and Betty had when the cameras were off. Don seemed like an affable fellow, though, and people who knew Betty say she was a sweetheart. It’s pretty clear that the two of them related very well–even the best actors can be hard-pressed to fake chemistry. Betty and Don went between banter and sheep’s eyes at the drop of a hat, and it was always a treat to watch.
Be sure to check in at Phyllis Loves Classic Movies and The Flapper Dame for more fabulous film duos. Thanks for hosting this blogathon, ladies–it was a lot of fun. Thanks for reading, everyone, and see you next Friday, when we head to the Barbary Coast with Alice Faye and John Payne!