Principal Cast List
Walter Pidgeon, José Iturbi, Ilona Massey, Roddy McDowall, Jane Powell.
This is really the story of three teenaged crushes and one adult romance, and it’s a bit more complicated to tell than it is to see. Jane Powell is Christine Evans, the daughter of the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico (Pidgeon). She’s going steady with Stanley Owen (McDowall), the son of the British Ambassador, and she thinks she’s keeping her father’s life in order and running the Embassy too. When she organizes a party for her father, she recruits several entertainers in the area: Xavier Cugat and his orchestra, Toni Karpathy (Massey) a blonde singer who turns Stanley into a puddle of jelly, and José Iturbi. Meeting Iturbi in the middle of a typically chaotic Iturbi day, Christine decides to organize his life too, and Iturbi is both pleased and touched by her abilities—he also likes her singing, and determines to recruit her for a concert he’s giving in Mexico City. But Christine mistakes his interest in her as romantic, and decides she’s in love with him too! Meanwhile Christine’s father is rekindling a romance with Toni Karpathy, who was an old flame of his—and Yvette, another precocious teenaged daughter of another ambassador, is suffering puppy love for Ambassador Evans. Stanley, although portrayed as wildly immature, is the only one of the teenagers with enough sense (or insecurity) not to act on his crush; the two girls, however, end up making idiots of themselves to the general amusement and embarrassment of all.
Excerpts from newspapers of the day
The New York Times, August 16, 1946
…Lovely to look at, delightful to hear…Miss Powell doesn’t have as yet the easy charm Deanna Durbin exhibited, but given a little more time under the expert tutelage of Mr. Pasternak there is no reason why she, too, shouldn’t become the moviegoer’s singing sweeetheart…but all of the music is not left entirely to Miss Powell. For Miss Massey sings, too, and even Walter Pidgeon, Mr. Ambassador himself, warbles a few lines of “Goodnight Sweetheart.” And since José Iturbi and Xavier Cugat are on hand and just happen to be more proficient at making music than acting, they also are heard from at considerable and pleasing length. Mr. Iturbi, who is still trying desperately hard to become a genial comedian, again attacks the piano with all his considerable theatrical flourish. With the camera going behind the keyboard to record the beats of the felt hammers on the strings, he makes the instrument sing excitingly.
There is ample mirth in the plot situations which find Miss Powell and Roddy McDowall experiencing all the heartaches and thrills of puppy love. And There are two vastly amusing sequences toward the end when the Messrs. Pidgeon and Iturbi are the victims of a romantic contretemps resulting from a misinterpretation of intentions on the part of two overly zealous young ladies. Mr. Pidgeon’s heart really belongs to Miss Massey, however, and it must be said that these two conduct themselves in a manner befitting their years. That’s one of the nice things about this film; the oldsters are permitted to act reasonably sensible.
The Daily Freeman (Waukeesha, WI), November 29, 1946
One of the season’s most delightful Technicolor musicals now playing is MGM’s “Holiday in Mexico.” Rich in acting and musical talent, this picture boasts a cast headed by Walter Pidgeon, with the lovely Ilona Massey and youthful Jane Powell handling the singing chores, aided by José Iturbi and Xavier Cugat. Punctuating the merriment is Roddy McDowall as the adolescent admirer of Miss Powell.
…Miss Powell, believing herself to be indispensable in managing her father’s affairs, is shocked on discovering him to be involved in a romantic intrigue with a mysterious countess, played by Miss Massey. Spurning the attentions of the impetuous young McDowall, Miss Powell turns instead to José Iturbi, with whom she believes herself in love. It takes a part of ingenuity on the part of the baffled Iturbi to convince Miss Powell that she would be more happily mated to someone closer to her own age…Both Miss Massey and Miss Powell are top songstresses, Pidgeon is his usual suave self as the romantic ambassador, McDowall adds the proper touch to the love-smitten adolescent, and Iturbi scores both on the piano and in his acting role.
From Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide
Holiday in Mexico (1946) C-127m. ***
Director: George Sidney
Walter Pidgeon, Ilona Massey, Roddy McDowall, José Iturbi, Xavier Cugat, Jane Powell. Engaging, well-cast musical comedy of daughter of ambassador falling for noted musician.
Thoughts of ManyFountains.com:
This movie is like “Dasher,” the St. Bernard dog who plays the role of Iturbi family pet. It’s a big, lumbering, happy movie that just makes you grin. I mean, what’s not to like? There’s a huge amount of talent: Jane Powell is cute as a button, Roddy McDowell is sweet as a puppy, Walter Pidgeon as handsome as ever (although why he insists on saying “my pretty one” to every girl in every movie he’s in will always mystify me); Iturbi is even more charming than usual, and we get to meet more of his family—his granddaughters Teresa and Tonia, and sister Amparo is back as well. I could listen to their rendition of Three Blind Mice for hours…but why, oh why, did Iturbi not record that lovely Rachmaninoff concerto?
When Iturbi first arrived in America at the end of the 1920’s, he liked to sneak off to the poorer sides of towns and listen to jazz or dance at Spanish-flavored places; supposedly he was quite fond the rhumba. By the time of this movie, he must have settled down somewhat as he had to take dancing lessons for a month just to film a two-minute dance scene. And even then he was not “good enough” for Xavier Cugat, whose band was furnishing the music. One famed exchange between the two Spanish artists had Cugat shouting, “Joz bend your knees and weegle your heeps and let my fascinating music do the rest!” Iturbi, sweating and sore-footed, shouted back, “I am bending! I am weegling! Maybe your music, she is not fascinating enough!”
Iturbi’s two granddaughters had become fascinated by movies when they were taken to visit the set of “Music for Millions,” and were thrilled at the opportunity to play themselves when told that a couple of little girls were needed to play Iturbi’s granddaughters. But they were disappointed when they saw themselves on film. Said one of them, “We thought we would look like Margaret O’Brien!”
Jane Powell and Roddy McDowall became life-long friends during the filming of “Holiday in Mexico.”
Memorable Iturbi Lines:
Stanley (Roddy McDowall): Mr. Iturbi, you’ve had a great deal of experience with women, haven’t you?
Stanley: What’s the answer?
Iturbi: When I don’t know what to do, I play the piano.
Stanley: But I don’t know how to play the piano!
Iturbi: My boy, you are in trouble.
If you look so sad, Christine, everyone will think I’m a very poor dancer. And I am!
Christine (Jane Powell): Nothing turns out as one expects.
Iturbi: Often it’s because one expects the wrong things.
Christine: But you can’t be a grandfather!
Iturbi: But I am. And I think I love those two little ruffians more than anything in the world.
Iturbi’s Musical Numbers
Accompanist: Les Filles de Cadiz with Jane Powell
“I Think of You” (based on Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto #2) with Jane Powell
Soloist: Piano Concerto #2 in C-Minor, 1st movement (Rachmaninoff)
Polonaise in A-flat (Chopin)
Duets: Liebestod (Wagner) with Amparo; Three Blind Mice with Amparo (Arrangement by Andre Previne)
Conductor: Ave Maria (Schubert) Note: Amparo accompanied Jane Powell and the chorous.