I originally published this tribute to “The Peanut Vendor” in 2014 as part of another post celebrating the entries to the Hollywood’s Hispanic Heritage Blogathon. Given the importance of the song and the fact that it played a role in many classic movies I thought it deserved its own refreshed post as a short tribute to my native Cuba. “The Peanut Vendor” is the island’s most influential song – perhaps second only to its unofficial anthem, “Guantanamera.” With this I kick off this year’s Hispanic Heritage Month celebration.
Originally titled, “El Manicero,” “The Peanut Vendor” was written by Moïse Simons and is styled as if it were a street vendor’s cry. The song has been recorded over 150 times and by some of the greatest musicians and bands the world over for decades. “The Peanut Vendor” has also been featured in various ways in movies through the years. One of my favorites, not surprisingly, is George Cukor’s A Star is Born (1954) where “The Peanut Vendor” is incorporated into Judy’s “Born in a Trunk” medley/sequence.
Following is “El Manicero” via a few links to popular recorded versions and movie clips. You’ll no doubt be whistling the tune once you’re through visiting these classic clips.
- The first version of “El Manicero” that became a certified hit was recorded by Cuban singer/actress, Rita Montaner in 1928. Montaner later performed the song in the 1938 movie, It Happened in Havana, originally titled El Romance Del Palmar. Here is the Montaner performance of “El Manicero” from that movie.
- Don Azpiazu and The Havana Casino Orchestra recorded “El Manicero” in 1930. Here it is. It was this Orchestra’s performance of “El Manicero” at New York’s Palace Theater that resulted in “The Peanut Vendor” becoming a hit across the U.S. and is credited by some as responsible for started the rumba craze.
- The California Ramblers were the first U.S. group to record “The Peanut Vendor” in 1930. Here is their version.
- Later that same year “The Peanut Vendor” was recorded by Louis Armstrong
- Here’s a clip of Lupe Velez teaching Lawrence Tibbett “The Peanut Vendor” from The Cuban Love Song (1931).
- A Fleischer Studios cartoon from the animated series, “Screen Songs,” THE PEANUT VENDOR from 1933.
- Here is a stop-motion short directed by Len Lye, The Peanut Vendor (1933).
- At about 1:54 in this clip Jean Arthur asks, “Does anyone know ‘The Peanut Vendor’?” – “Si, como no?” And the crowd around the piano starts the call led by Cary Grant in this scene from Only Angels Have Wings (1939).
- Judy Garland performed this version on the radio in 1941, “The Peanut Vendor.“
- I’m not sure of the year of this recording, but I certainly can’t leave out a Desi Arnaz version of “The Peanut Vendor.” Here it is performed by the Desi Arnaz Orchestra.
- Superstar, Cantinflas dances to “El Manicero.”
- During a live performance in 1946, Betty Hutton sings a version of “The Peanut Vendor.”
- This Stan Kenton recording of “The Peanut Vendor” in 1947 resulted in the second highest selling 78rpm version of the song.
- In Luxury Liner (1948) Xavier Cugat accompanies Jane Powell for this version of “El Manicero.” By the way, Cugat recorded several versions of the song through the years.
- Escuela De Musica (Music School) (1955) was the first Mexican film to feature all the musical numbers filmed in color. Included in these is “El Manicero” performed by Pedro Infante alongside Libertad Lamarque.
- Here’s a unique and enjoyable version of “The Peanut Vendor” by Chet Atkins in 1962.
- And here’s Dean Martin’s version of “The Peanut Vendor.”
There are many, many more clips and recordings to share, including Groucho whistling “The Peanut Vendor” in Duck Soup (1933), but I’ll stop with these examples. As it is you may never have peanuts again.
Due to its “cultural importance,” “The Peanut Vendor” was added to the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry by the National Recording Preservation Board, which noted:
- “It is the first American recording of an authentic Latin dance style. This recording launched a decade of ‘rumbamania’, introducing U.S. listeners to Cuban percussion instruments and Cuban rhythms.”
- “The Peanut Vendor” was inducted into the Latin Grammy Hall of Fame in 2001.
Stay tuned for many more posts honoring Hollywood’s Hispanic Heritage on October 15 when I promote entries on this blog and across social media.