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"Copacabana" could've been GREAT fun. Groucho Marx and Carmen Miranda together: weren't they just born for every other? Unfortunately Hollywood has a recurring tendency of wasting unconventional talent, and "Copacabana" (and Groucho's movie career, and Carmen's movie career) is a sad evidence thereof. John Wayne, Bing Crosby, Clark Gable or Bob Hope had no trouble strutting their old items 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 turkey.The movie departs on embarrassingly deprecating premises: that Groucho could enjoy a passé comedian who is no longer funny (!); that Carmen could enjoy a singer who isn't electrifying enough (!), so that she has to assume a fresh 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 movie 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 fully unsuited to her talents). There's no mission 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 real one-of-a-kind.But there are four essential things missing in "Copacabana": a) a decent script; b) a bigger budget; c) a minimally constructive 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 movie 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 called after her, the "Miranda's Room").There's a lot of expendable items in "Copacabana": cute 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 nice 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 popular since Ethel Smith's ver in Disney's "The Three Caballeros" in 1943; soon 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 type of disappointment that drives you angry with rage for what it should have been, but fanatics 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 enjoy 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 intelligent quips to create his part interesting. And lively, breezy Carmen Miranda, with that special style of dancing and singing, entertains with style and panache. The silly story alternates with staged floor shows, which overflow with melody and Latin atmosphere. The costumes are interesting, but the B&W cinematography does not do them justice.The movie 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 hero and his secretary Anne, played without feeling by Gloria Jean. We also have to endure, and I do mean endure, the "talent" of someone called Andy Russell. That smarmy smile of his makes me wish to jump off the nearest cliff.This movie will probably disappoint most Groucho fans, as he is but one of few that receive major screen time. Steve Cochran, Gloria Jean, Andy Russell, and a several others just are not in Groucho's league. Carmen Miranda is, and whenever she is singing or dancing, the movie is entertaining.If you can ignore all the extraneous characters and focus on Groucho and Carmen, "Copacabana" can be worth a one-time visit.
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 present 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 search it difficult pressed to trust that no one realized that there was only one girl involved. Carmen Miranda is type of distinctive even with a false accent. Well if everyone should receive 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 named 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 present few 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 method she mangles the English language, Groucho gotta have thought she was Chico with breasts. But Carmen is everytime 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 Tons create 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 globe of Las Vegas.
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