Why You Should Never Star in a Movie with Carmen Miranda The Global Tofay

Why You Should Never Star in a Movie with Carmen Miranda The Global Tofay Global Today

Carmen Miranda gives financé Groucho Marx the Death Stare. Image: IMDb

Poor Groucho Marx.

The famous comedian and member of the Marx Brothers once made the unfortunate decision to star in a musical comedy with the über-charismatic Brazilian actress and dancer, Carmen Miranda.

Copacabana (1947) is a musical extravaganza with a thin but amusing storyline about an engaged couple desperate for a Big Break in Show Business.

Groucho and Miranda play the mismatched entertainers angling for an audition at the swanky New York night club, The Copacabana. Groucho’s character realizes success will come only if he gives up performing to become Miranda’s agent.

He immediately gets to Work. Through negotiations with Copacabana’s easily-duped management, Groucho makes a deal for two singers – both of whom are Miranda. She agrees perform as Carmen in the barely-tolerable downstairs club, but becomes Mademoiselle Fifi (thanks to a blonde wig) in the prestigious upstairs club.

With a crazy schedule and quick costume changes, Chaos ensues.

There are some really funny moments. When Miranda and Groucho tire of the Mademoiselle Fifi routine, they decide to “kill her off”, and joke about it in a hotel lobby where they are overheard by a woman who alerts police.

Groucho spends much of the movie flirting with the Copa Girls (the in-house chorus line), much to Miranda’s consternation:

Miranda: “Why are you always chasing women?
Groucho: “I’ll tell you when I catch one.”

Groucho has the majority of witty lines in this film, but as an actor, he is Doomed. His name appears first in the credits, indicating the movie should be his. But it ain’t.

It’s his misfortune that Carmen Miranda is in the same movie.

Why You Should Never Star in a Movie with Carmen Miranda The Global Tofay Global Today
Carmen Miranda as Mademoiselle Fifi. Image: IMDb

Almost no one can deliver snappy one-liners as well as Groucho Marx, and he became a legendary comedian for this reason. Yet, halfway through Copacabana, it starts to feel like he’s overstayed his welcome. Even so, that is not his fault.

There are three reasons why this movie would never be his showcase:

  1. Carmen Miranda’s smile steals the scene. Miranda spends enough time in the movie chastising and being annoyed with Groucho, but when she smiles, the energy in the scene shifts. Her smile outshines everyone around her.
  2. She has far more energy than the other characters. Even when she’s still, you expect her to launch into a song and dance at any second, and we’re here for it. No other character has that capability.
  3. Her costumes deserve their own screen credits. No one wears the over-the-top costumes and towering heels like Miranda, and the black and white cinematography does not dim their opalescence. She wields these costumes like a warrior: How does she dance in those shoes? How heavy are those headpieces? How does she make it look so easy?

As you can see, Groucho Marx didn’t have a chance, the poor slob.

Why You Should Never Star in a Movie with Carmen Miranda The Global Tofay Global Today
Groucho with the Copa Girls. Image: Alchetron

The (real) Copacabana was a famous nightclub in New York, named after a beach in Rio de Janeiro. It opened in 1940, with some Mafia financing, and it featured Brazilian decor and Latin-infused music.

Naturally, Miranda was the best choice for Copacabana the movie. It was the first film she made after leaving Twentieth Century-Fox, the studio that nabbed her when she came to Hollywood in 1940.

The movie is notable for two other firsts: It was the first time Groucho Marx starred in a film without his two older brothers, and it was the first time he sported an actual mustache instead of his famous grease-paint affair.

As for this movie, it never lags or stalls; it zips from scene to scene with plenty o’ merrymaking.

If you want to see sheer star power that can sideline one of the most heralded comedians in Hollywood, take time to see Carmen Miranda in Copacabana.

This is a contribution to the 4th LUSO WORLD CINEMA Blogathon, hosted by Critica Retro and Spellbound with Beth Ann.

Why You Should Never Star in a Movie with Carmen Miranda The Global Tofay Global Today

Copacabana starring Groucho Marx, Carmen Miranda, Steve Cochran. Directed by Alfred E. Green. Written by Laslo Vadnay, Howard Harris & Allen Boretz. Paramount Pictures, 1947, B&W, 92 mins.


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