Retro: The Unquiet American


Norman Ferguson
USA 1944
69 min

After Orson Welles tried to implement Nelson ­Rockefeller’s Good Neighbor policy with South America in an unfinished episodic film, <![CDATA[<i>]]>It’s All True<![CDATA[</i>]]> (1942), scandalizing both RKO and Latin American dignitaries by focusing on poor and nonwhite characters, Walt Disney dutifully offered a more conventionally touristic and clearly segregated view of the continent, and succeeded spectacularly with the same studio and many of the same dignitaries (as well as with general audiences in both the U.S. and South America) by offering this kitschy and visually extravagant episodic, 70-minute film (1945), his first feature to combine animation with live action. The title pals are the infantile Donald Duck playing an American tourist and the somewhat older Brazilian parrot Joe Carioca and Mexican rooster Panchito, the latter two playing Donald’s principal tour guides. The film begins somewhat conventionally with tales about Pablo, a South Pole penguin longing for warmer surroundings who sails up the coast of Chile and Peru, and a Uruguay boy gaucho who enters a flying donkey in a race. But after about half an hour, the film starts to mutate into a surrealist dream, around the same time that live-action and libido enter the picture, which leads in turn to various kinds of abstraction. Ultimately the film turns into an exploding, aggressive, imperialist fantasy worthy of Busby Berkeley in which the South American continent, especially Brazil (dominated by Carmen Miranda’s sister Aurora) and Mexico, becomes Donald Duck’s harem or (more implicitly) brothel, including a long stretch of Acapulco Beach populated exclusively by female bathing beauties. Formally, this is one of ­Disney’s most experimental efforts, comparable in some respects to the Dance of the Pink Elephants in <![CDATA[<i>]]>Dumbo<![CDATA[</i>]]>.

This film is screened together with <filmlink id=\"3095\">The Fountain of Youth</filmlink>.

  • Aurora Miranda
  • Carmen Molina
  • Donald Duck
  • Panchito
  • José Carioca
Norman Ferguson, Daniel Keefe
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