Musical Monday: Holiday in Mexico (1946)

It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

holiday4This week’s musical:
Holiday In Mexico” (1946)– Musical #119

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
George Sidney

Starring:
Jane Powell, Walter Pidgeon, Roddy McDowall, Ilona Massey, Hugo Haas, William ‘Bill’ Phillips, Helene Stanley, Linda Christian (uncredited), Grady Sutton (uncredited)
As themselves: Jose Iturbi, Xavier Cugat, Amparo Iturbi, Jose Iturbi’s grandchildren: Tonia Hero and Teresa Hero

Plot:
Christine (Powell) lives in Mexico with her father Jeffrey Evans (Pidgeon), who is the United States Ambassador to Mexico. Jeffrey is a single parent to Christine, who dotes on her father and tries to be the lady of the house and manage her father’s affairs. She is constantly quarreling with her boyfriend Stanley (McDowall), who is the son of the English ambassador. When Jeffrey meets an old flame, singer Toni Karpathy (Massey), Christine feels replaced. To console herself, she decides that she’s in love with piano player Jose Iturbi (who plays himself).

holiday9

Jane Powell and Roddy McDowall in “Holiday in Mexico”

Trivia:
-Roddy McDowall and Jane Powell became friends while filming and one of Jane’s only friends early in being signed to MGM, according to her autobiography “The Girl Next Door and How She Grew.”

-“Holiday in Mexico” (1946) being an early film for Jane Powell, she notes that her hair was still mostly brown and it continued to get more blond throughout her career as the studio bleached it, she wrote in her autobiography.

-Jane Powell’s first film under contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Powell was billed as “Your Young Singing Star”

-“Why So Gloomy?”, a musical number featuring Jane Powell and an Asian boy, was cut from the film.

-Fidel Castro is an extra in this film

-This film had it’s New York City premiere on Aug. 15, 1946.

Highlights:
-The film starts with a brief cartoon of telephone wires from Washington, DC trying to call Mexico.
-Shots using the reflection of the piano to either show Jose Iturbi’s face or an orchestra.
-Jose Iturbi’s grandchildren in the film and playing piano for them

Notable Songs:
-“Les filles de Cadix” performed by Jose Iturbi and Jane Powell
-“Yo Te Amo Much – And That’s That” performed by Xavier Cugat
-“Walter Winchell Rhumba” performed by Xavier Cugat
-“Ave Maria” performed by Jane Powell
-“Polonaise in A Flat, Opus 53” performed by Jose Iturbi
-“Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor” performed by Jose Iturbi
-“Italian Street Song” performed by Jane Powell

My review:
“Holiday in Mexico” (1946) is one of my favorite MGM musicals! It’s colorful Technicolor, beautiful songs, gorgeous costumes, and a wonderful cast.

This post is also unintentionally posted on the anniversary of this film’s New York City premiere.

Jane Powell and Walter Pidgeon

Jane Powell and Walter Pidgeon

MGM pulled out all the stops for Jane Powell’s first film under contract. Not only did she have Walter Pidgeon as her film father and teenaged Roddy McDowall as her boyfriend, but she had not one but three of the high profiled musicians that were being spotlighted in films: Jose Iturbi and Xavier Cugat. Beautiful, blond Hungarian singer Ilona Massey is also in the film and performs a few songs, however she has very little screen time.

While I love Powell, Pidgeon and McDowall, the supporting cast is almost the best part of the film. Hugo Haas, who plays Angus the butler, and William Phillips, who plays Sam the chauffeur, have multiple laugh out loud moments. Angus also has several humorous run-ins with Roddy McDowall as he laments about his bad luck with women.

While Roddy McDowall isn’t the adorable little boy he was in “How Green Was My Valley,” I still think he’s an adorable young man. You feel sorry for his character has he’s constantly with odds with Jane Powell, but he has some humorous moments because of his bad luck.

Jose Iturbi is a major highlight in this movie. I love Iturbi and his music but also love to see him acting. He is a lovable character in this movie who also has several humorous parts. His real life granddaughters, who he had custody of at the time this film was released, also make some adorable appearances in the movie.

Jose Iturbi with his grandchildren in "Holiday in Mexico."

Jose Iturbi with his grandchildren in “Holiday in Mexico.”

Xavier Cugat is also fun with his signature chihuahua and performs a large number called “Yo Te Amo Much – And That’s That.” The number proves that Cugat isn’t a very good singer, but it also had me laughing out loud as he kept popping up with a very sleepy chihuahua.

While Jane Powell’s character is dating Roddy McDowall and crushing on Jose Iturbi, this movie is less about romance and more about the relationship between a single dad and his daughter. When dad starts dating, daughter doesn’t feel that he needs her and thinks she’s being replaced. But at the end of the day, Pidgeon tells his daughter that she will always be his girl and no one could replace the role she plays in his heart.

It’s a sweet, coming of age film and Pidgeon shares some lessons with his daughter which are still relevant to today. He shares them in a way only Walter Pidgeon can:

“Remember this, everyone makes a fool of themselves at one time or another…I would like you to sing at the concert, having confidence in Mr. Iturbi’s real respect and affection for you. I’d like you to get to know Toni. I think you would like her as she already does you, and I would like you to be thoughtful and considerate of Stanley, because we owe all that to the people who care about us.”

My only beef with this movie is that it ends in the way so many musicals do: We are assured that all conflicts are resolved as Jane Powell performs on stage and smiles at the rest of the main characters sitting out in the audience.

I watched the Warner Archive print of this film and it was a vivid and colorful transfer. “Holiday in Mexico” is a few minutes over two hours, which is long for a musical of this type, but it doesn’t feel like a very long movie.

For a real slice of what a Technicolor MGM musical extravaganza is all about, seek out “Holiday in Mexico.”

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One thought on “Musical Monday: Holiday in Mexico (1946)

  1. I met Jane Powell in Sydney Australia, in the early 1980’s when she came down for a small concert tour. Jane is a lovely lady. She was still singing beautifully and told some fantastic stories about her film career.

    As much as I enjoy ‘Holiday in Mexico’, I think I much prefer Jane in ‘A Date with Judy’ made at MGM a couple of years later.
    ‘The Italian Street Song’ and ‘Le Filles de Cadix’ are songs I associate more with Jeanette MacDonald more than Jane although she sings them beautifully.
    I don’t know whether it was the recording speed of the time but I always felt that Iturbi played most pieces, particularly Chopin too fast.
    I would be interested for you to review, ‘Three Daring Daughters’ made at MGM in 1948 with Jeanette, Jane and Jose in the near future.

    All the Best.

    Like

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