Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Copacabana (1947)

Groucho, too bad you couldn't have brought your brothers along.

Chico had a heart attack the same year as this film and announced his retirement. Copacabana marks the first time Groucho appeared on the big screen without his siblings.

Copacabana has its moments, but real good laughs are sparse. Heppo, Chico, Zeppo and Grocho foil, Margaret Dumont, I miss you all.

Times are tough in New York City for Lionel Q. Deveraux (Marx) and his girlfriend Carmen Novarro (Carmen Miranda). They're behind in their rent, threatened with eviction and have hardly anything to meet.

Their situation improves tremendously when Copacabana manager Steve Hunt (Steve Cochran) warms to Novarro's voice and that of Mlle. Fifi, also Novarro. The two singers perform on different floors at the nightclub. Deveraux tries to keep her singing obligations straight as she slips from character to character and not catch Cochran's suspicions. Fifi wears a kerchief covering most of her head, which apparently is enough from keeping her audiences and co-workers in the dark about her dual identity.

This kind of charade can only get more complicated - and it does. Steve takes a shine to Mlle. Fifi.

Deveraux, not impressed with his girlfriend's boss making moves on her, tries to get Steve matched up with his secretary, Anne Stuart (Gloria Jean). She is crazy about Steve and he's completely oblivious about her.

Crooner Andy Russell appears as himself and sings three numbers (My Heart was Doing a Bolero, He Hasn't Got a Thing to Sell and Je Vous Aime). He gets to sing this memorable line: "My heart jumps like a Mexican bean." Ouch. Russell's acting chops don't match his pipes. Cochran is a wee bit stiff too. Jean was trying to make the transition from child to adult star.

There are some good lines here, just not enough.

Carmen to Grouch: "Out of my way you broken down Casanova."

Groucho to Andy: "My plan is just as simple as you are."

Police detective to Marx: "What's the Q for?"
Marx: "My father used to hang around a pool room."

Director Alfred Green (The Jackie Robinson Story , The Jolson Story ) sets up several very sharp shots, including the film's opener. There's a rather bizarre scene where Marx tries to impress manager Hunt with an act who's ... Groucho Marx. There's no further explanation about how the two men look exactly alike. I wonder what audiences back in 1947 thought.

There are better films starring Marx that this site has reviewed. Pick them ahead of Copacabana.

RATING: 6/10

FUN FACTS: That's Groucho's then wife, Kay Marvis, who trades quips with him as a cigarette girl.

That's real life media folk Abel Green, Louis Sobol and Earl Wilson checking out Mlle. Fifi's performance.

Gloria Jean, who was a child star, appeared with W.C. Fields in Wc Fields - Never Give A Sucker An Even Break [DVD]. She's still alive, as of this writing in February 2014.

Amazon has several CDs featuring Andy Russell's music including Spotlight on Andy Russell (Great Gentlemen of Song)

Groucho on Copacabana, as quote in Hector Arce's : "I played second banana to the fruit on Carmen Miranda's head."

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