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Sunday, October 19, 2014

COPACABANA (1947)

Groucho Marx was a still agile 57 when he made his brotherless debut co-starring with 'Brazilian Bombshell' Carmen Miranda, playing leading lady along with her usual specialty numbers. A scattershot musical comedy that’s never had much of a much of a rep, it’s not bad at all; a mess of a farce with pleasant, forgettable songs, but also pretty darn funny. With their act flopping as a duo, Groucho switches to agenting one client: Carmen; then winds up double-booking her @ The Copa in two guises: Fiery Carmen & Sultry Fifi. No one tries too hard to make sense of the plot, but there’s a winning/grinning cast who seem to be having a lot of fun playing along. (Check out toothy Andy Russell, a smooth boy singer who makes something charming out of his nothing role.) Made on a tight budget by vet helmer Alfred E. Green (a Hollywood hack off the biggest fluke hit of the year in THE JOLSON STORY/’46), the film boasts a rich look from lenser Bert Glennon and even carries a bit of NYC vibe. Miranda easily handles the non-specialty material in her role and Groucho wisely called in radio gagman Sydney Zelinka to polish up his wisecracks. Much better material than he got in those late M-G-M vehicles. And when Groucho introduces a second Groucho as a new club act, then watches himself perform a crack Kalmar & Ruby* numbo in full stage makeup, the film briefly tops all expectations.

DOUBLE-BILL: *Fred Astaire & Red Skelton play Kalmar & Ruby in the underrated M-G-M musical THREE LITTLE WORDS/’50.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Note the emphasis on Miranda in our South-of-the-Border poster.

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