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"Copacabana" could've been GREAT fun. Groucho Marx and Carmen Miranda
together: weren't they just born for each other? Unfortunately
Hollywood has a recurring tendency of wasting unconventional talent,
and "Copacabana" (and Groucho's film career, and Carmen's film career)
is a sad evidence thereof. John Wayne, Bing Crosby, Clark Gable or Bob
Hope had no problem strutting their old stuff over and over again; but
in 1946 Hollywood decreed that the public was tired of Carmen's
"exoticism" and Groucho's routines and came up with this B-budget
The film departs on embarrassingly deprecating premises: that Groucho should play a passé comedian who is no longer funny (!); that Carmen should play a singer who isn't electrifying enough (!), so that she has to assume a new persona as romantic French (!) chanteuse Mlle. Fifi and sing incognito (!). Now, come on: even wearing a mushroom blonde wig and a veil that hides most of her face, who except the very blind wouldn't recognize Carmen Miranda's hyperactive, pure-joy rolling eyes and those boomerang eyebrows?
The film is a dead duck that only comes to life when Groucho is allowed to deliver his peculiar one-liners and, especially, when Carmen sings and dances her "exotic" numbers (her "romantic" ones are totally unsuited to her talents). There's no point trying to resist the irrepressible, unique, sensuous Carmen, with her infectious smile, the arms and hands flashing like lightning, the athletic legs on the 7-inch platform shoes, and the gravity-defying, eye-popping costumes. She sparks with such high voltage she's like shock therapy: we smile just at the sight of how much fun she's having. There has never been anybody like her, a true one-of-a-kind.
But there are four essential things missing in "Copacabana": a) a decent script; b) a bigger budget; c) a minimally creative director and d) Technicolor. "Copacabana" CRIES for color -- it was planned to be shot in color, but the Technicolor preparation process (this was a Beacon Productions movie, not MGM) took so long the producers decided to do it in b&w, as the film HAD to be released simultaneously with the opening of the L.A.'s franchise of "The Copacabana", then NYC's #1 night-club, whose owner was one of the financiers of the film. (By the way, Carmen was the #1 headliner of NYC's Copacabana in the 1940s, she had even a lounge named after her, the "Miranda's Room").
There's a lot of expendable stuff in "Copacabana": pretty much the rest of the cast, especially toothy mellow- voiced dork-looking Andy Russell, and the super- cheesy Steve Cochran/Gloria Jean subplot. The songs are uniformly awful, with the soporific "Je Vous Aime" and "Stranger Things Have Happened" sung T-W-I-C-E each, with great exceptions being Carmen's tongue-twisting tour-de-force of Brazilian hit "Tico-Tico no Fubá" (a major hit in Brazil since 1917 and internationally famous since Ethel Smith's version in Disney's "The Three Caballeros" in 1943; later performed by Denise Dummont in Woody Allen's "Radio Days") and Groucho's performance - - or rather his "anti-performance" - of "Go West".
"Copacabana" is that kind of disappointment that drives you mad with rage for what it could have been, but fans of Carmen and Groucho have got to see it anyway. Shame on Hollywood for wasting such talented, one-of-a-kind performers with third-rate material and filmmakers.
The talent act of Deveraux (Groucho) and Novarro (Carmen Miranda)
fizzles. So, Deveraux takes on the role of Novarro's "agent" in a bid
to coax the Copa manager, played by Steve Cochran, to hire Novarro as a
hot Brazilian number. But Cochran is interested only in credible
agents, those with multiple clients. Naturally Groucho invents Mlle.
Fifi as a second client. The thing is ... Groucho only has Novarro. So,
who else to play the role of Mlle. Fifi than ... Novarro. The main plot
line thus centers on Groucho and Carmen in their efforts to fool the
club manager, by covertly alternating Carmen's on-stage roles.
It's a dumb, silly story. But Groucho delivers enough funny one-liners and clever quips to make his part interesting. And lively, breezy Carmen Miranda, with that unique style of dancing and singing, entertains with style and panache. The silly storyline alternates with staged floor shows, which overflow with music and Latin atmosphere. The costumes are interesting, but the B&W cinematography does not do them justice.
The film quickly becomes dull, especially in the middle Act, when Groucho and Carmen go off-screen. Too much time is wasted on a romantic subplot between Cochran's character and his secretary Anne, played without feeling by Gloria Jean. We also have to endure, and I do mean endure, the "talent" of someone named Andy Russell. That smarmy smile of his makes me want to jump off the nearest cliff.
This film will probably disappoint most Groucho fans, as he is but one of several that get major screen time. Steve Cochran, Gloria Jean, Andy Russell, and a few others just are not in Groucho's league. Carmen Miranda is, and whenever she is singing or dancing, the film is entertaining.
If you can ignore all the extraneous characters and focus on Groucho and Carmen, "Copacabana" can be worth a one-time visit.
If you love Groucho Marx or love musicals this is the movie for you. Groucho Marx is still the funniest man alive. Groucho Marx is witty as a slippery agent to Carmen Miranda in this movie. I am a fan of anything he does or anything the "Marx Bros." are invovled with. (even though this is a solo act)This movie has it all musical numbers and laughs. The chemistry between Carmen Miranda(Carmen Novarro)and Groucho (Lionel Q.Deveraux) is incredible. I will go into the plot well it has to do with anarchy and misinformation with has been a playing ground of Groucho's for years. I would like to thank Groucho and his brothers for making me laugh when my our life I sometimes don't have much to laugh at. Fellas you were trully are blessed. Thank You. P.S. Mr. Deveraux even brings back an old friend for a song and dance... don't ask you can't afford him.
Copacabana marked Groucho Marx's attempt to go it alone without his
brothers and it had mixed results.
He co-stars here with Carmen Miranda of the tutti-frutti hat. They are a duo act, but decide they'd be better as a solo with he her agent. Through a comedy of errors, inspired by Groucho's eagerness to show he has more than one client. He convinces Steve Cochran at the Copacabana to sign Carmen and one Madamoiselle Fifi. Fifi is French Moroccan and per her religion and nationality, keeps her face covered with a scarf. And Carmen in her Fifi incarnation speaks with a French accent that's a cheap imitation of Ann Codee.
Even though this is only one Marx Brother, it's still an exercise in the absurd. But I find it hard pressed to believe that no one realized that there was only one woman involved. Carmen Miranda is kind of distinctive even with a false accent. Well if everyone could get fooled by Clark Kent putting on a pair of glasses, who am I to question.
Groucho gets a comedy number himself, written by Harry Ruby and Bert Kalmar called Go West Young Man. It's strictly comedy patter for Groucho, but Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters made a record of it in 1947 as a straighter version. Groucho guested on Crosby's show several times over the years and I'd be willing to bet Crosby recorded it as a favor to Groucho to plug the film.
Carmen Miranda is nothing less than Carmen Miranda. With the way she mangles the English language, Groucho must have thought she was Chico with breasts. But Carmen is always entertaining in any situation.
Crooner Andy Russell and a grown up Gloria Jean also contribute musically and to lend authenticity to the proceedings, Louis Sobol and Earl Wilson columnists, and Abel Green of Variety make appearances.
Copacabana is dated simply because the era of the nightclub is just a memory. But at least the Copa got immortalized by Barry Manilow and they still have them in the tinsel world of Las Vegas.
Groucho are Carmen Miranda are Marvooolussss together. What a great combination and beauty and the beast. The movie has it all, cheesey musicals, goofy love scenes and Groucho's one liners. Buy it if you are a Groucho fan.
Groucho Marx plays an agent called Lionel Q.Deveraux, who only has one client, Carmen Novarro, played by Carmen Miranda.Lionel gets Carmen to perform at a club called Copacabana, but she has to perform there as a Brazilian and as a French singer.It's not so easy.Copacabana is a nice comedy musical with Groucho Marx.The movie offers you some very funny moments, even if it doesn't have the other Marx brothers.
In New York City, Lionel Q. Devereaux (Groucho Marx) and his fiancée
Carmen Novarro (Carmen Miranda) are unsuccessfully trying to find a
spot in the show business. Lionel introduces himself to Steve Hunt
(Steve Cochran), who owns the famous Copacabana nightclub, as an
important agent and convinces Steve to see the presentation of Carmen.
He enjoys the show and asks for another attraction; Lionel convinces
Carmen to wear a veil and perform another song and introduces her to
Steve as the French singer Mademoiselle Fifi. Steve hires both singers
and Carmen has to change clothes and identities between her
performances. When she sees Lionel flirting with a Copa Girl, Mlle.
Fifi accepts the invitation to have dinner with Steve, hurting the
feelings of his secretary Anne Stuart (Gloria Jean) that is in love
with him. The situation gets complicated and Carmen simulates an
argument with Mlle. Fifi with her subsequent disappearance, originating
an investigation of the police where the prime suspect is Lionel.
"Copacabana" is a delightfully naive and entertaining movie from a time when the society was extremely innocent and could buy such ingenuous story. The plot, i.e., the double-identity of Carmen Miranda, is totally absurd but the situation of Lionel after the disappearance of Mlle. Fifi was remade by Billy August in 1963 in "Irma La Douce". Groucho Marx is funny and responsible for the best moments of this movie; but the subplots with the silly romance of Anne and Steve, and the participation of the weird singer Andy Russell should be better written. The songs are boring and dated in 2009, but Carmen Miranda was very successful in those years and sings the famous "Tico-Tico no Fubá". My vote is seven.
Title (Brazil): "Copacabana"
While I prefer Groucho's humor the most amongst all three Marx
brothers, it's just not the same without Chico and Harpo for Groucho to
play off of.
I had never seen Carmen Miranda in action, though I had long known of her being a performer with kooky hats. Now that I've seen her on screen, I think she comes across as a cross between Marlene Dietrich and Charo - a surprisingly fun mix. She's actually a good foil for Groucho, so I think it's the screenplay that doesn't play to their full potentials. It's still a fairly charming movie, with Carmen taking on the role of two different stage performers and Groucho providing zingers.
COPACABANA (United Artists, 1947), directed by Alfred E. Green, stars
the legendary Groucho Marx of the Marx Brothers comedy team in his
screen introduction as a solo performer, quick with the insults, minus
his traditional black mustache and eyebrows to a more natural
appearance, and surrounded by gorgeous show girls of the popular New
York City night club where much of the story takes place.
Decades before singer Barry Manilow made "Copacabana" into one of his song hits of the 1970s, and during the time when the Copacanana was the place to be for entertainment, Hollywood worked up a musical where almost anything can happen at the Copa, especially when Lionel Q. Devereux is concerned. Devereux (Groucho Marx) and Carmen Navarro (Carmen Miranda) are entertainers who have been engaged for nearly ten years. They are down on their luck financially and living in separate rooms at the Booth Hotel for theatrical people. Because they are unable to pay their hotel bill, they have quite a time dodging a desk clerk (Chester Clute), as well as Mr. Green (Dick Elliott), the hotel manager, who's close to having them evicted. Since Mr. Green doesn't think much of Devereux as a performer, he suggests breaking up the act by having Carmen work as a solo performer. Devereux takes his advise (which is better than starving) and assumes his new role as Carmen's agent. He approaches Steve Hunt (Steve Cochran), manager of the Copacabana, to oblige Carmen, "the greatest discovery since penicillin," an audition. Her act goes well, but Steve is more interested in hiring a chanteuse than a Brazilian act. Bluffing his way through a list of clients taken from his racing form, Devereux comes up with the fictitious "Mademoiselle Fifi" actually Carmen disguised in blonde wig and veil covering her face. Although Carmen makes a success as the French singer, Steve decides to use both Carmen and "Fifi" on the same bill. At Devereux's urging, Carmen agrees to the masquerade, performing nightly as two different personalities doing two separate acts with little time to change in between. Further complications occur as Steve starts to show more interest in the French bombshell than his loyal secretary, Anne Stuart (Gloria Jean), who silently loves him.
Sam Coslow, who produced, is also credited with its handful of songs, including: "Hollywood Bound" (sung by the Copacabana Girls); "Tico Tico" (by Ervin Drake, Aloynso Oliveir and Zequina Abrew/ sung by Carmen Miranda); "Je-Vous Armour" (Carmen Miranda); "My Heart Was Doing the Bolero" (sung by Andy Russell); "He Hasn't Got a Thing to Sell" (sung by Miranda and Russell); "Make a Hit With Fifi," "Stranger Things Have Happened" (sung by Andy Russell); "Stranger Things Have Happened" (reprise by Gloria Jean); "Go West, Young Man" (by Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby, sung by Groucho); "Je-Vous Amor" (Andy Russell); and "Let's Go to the Copacabana" (finale/cast).
A silly comedy that rests more on the assurance of Groucho's one liners and exchanges (Carmen: "Why are you always chasing women?" Groucho: "I'll tell you as soon as I catch one.") than the overall production, COPACABANA is a far cry from the comedies Groucho enacted with his brothers, Harpo and Chico, and sometimes Zeppo, during the 1930s. Heavy on song numbers, quite typical for night club musicals of the 1940s, only a few are memorable. Carmen Miranda's performing in her traditional fruit basket hat, is noteworthy as well as reminiscent to the act in those Technicolor musicals over at 20th Century-Fox. Gloria Jean, a former child star for Universal musicals of the early 1940s, now a young woman, is wasted as a secretary. A fine singer, she gets an opportunity to only one song, set in the mind of her daydreams, with Devereux as her agent, and winning an audition by Steve. Newcomer Andy Russell, looking very much like a youthful Jerry Seinfeld of 1990s television fame, vocalizing love songs in the manner of 20th-Fox's Dick Haymes, is limited as an actor and no threat to the more successful Frank Sinatra.
Occasionally amusing, especially with scenes involving the hungry Groucho stealing a fish from Genevieve the seal in order to acquire a meal of his own, along with Carmen and Groucho splitting their hardboiled egg in half for dinner, no Groucho movie is complete without one of his show stopping solo acts. The highlight of the evening is his rendition of "Go West, Young Man," where he assumes his traditional Groucho mustache and cigar and surrounded by lovely cowgirls. This is not Groucho's character of Devereux staging a comeback for himself, which would had made a lot more sense, but Devereux showcasing his latest discovery. Is it Groucho Marx himself or a Groucho playing a Groucho imitator? We'll never know.
Others in the supporting cast include Ralph Sanford as Leggett, the one who buys Carmen's contract for $5,000; John Meredith and his Orchestra; Andrew Toombes as Anatole Murphy, a Hollywood producer; and Abel Green of "Variety" as himself. Aside from the noteworthy highlights, and the potential of pairing the wisecracking Groucho and the temperamental Carmen with her broken English for the only time, COPACABANA comes off a bit weak. Regardless of that, it's not a forgotten film, in fact, it's more associated with Carmen Miranda today than the musicals she did at 20th-Fox mainly due to her partnership here with Groucho.
Presented on video cassette during its early years of home video in the 1980s, and currently available on DVD, COPACABANA did enjoy frequent revivals on cable television, especially American Movie Classics from 1996 to 2000. (**1/2 Cigars)
Copacabana showcases the unlikely pairing of Groucho Marx and Carmen Miranda in a musical melange concerning Carmen playing two different singers in the famous nightclub. The gags are fast and funny and the songs tuneful. Andy Russell and Gloria Jean are along to add to the music quotient and Steve Cochran is on hand to oversee the nightclub. The Copa gals are gorgeous and are given the opportunity to show off their personalities a bit. Louis Sobel, Earl Wilson and Abel Green, all real-life collumnists from the era make cameo appearances. This is definitely a forties musical with all the trappings. The musical numbers, choreographed by Larry Cebellos, are fun to watch, and look good in the restored black-and-white print. Purists may prefer a Marx Brothers comedy or a Carmen Miranda Technicolor musical from Fox, but this is a delightful way to spend an hour and a half. For me, the seemingly strange combination of Groucho and Carmen works and becomes a unique musical comedy experience.
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