Sandwiched roughly midway between a 25 year career in movies and television, the woman affectionately known as “The Brazilian Bombshell” shined in the 1940 Fox musical production of That Night in Rio.
The movie was a remake of the 1934 film, Folies Bergere—which was made in Paris. Also of note, this movie was a follow-up to the Latin inspired film, Down Argentine Way.
Carmen Miranda (1909-1955) played herself and proudly showed her acting prowess early and often.
With fellow stars as Alice Faye (1915-1998) as the long, lost lover Cecilia and Don Ameche (1908-1993) playing both roles of Larry Martin and aviation tycoon Baron Duarte. One scene in particular inbetween his suave voice and daring intellect was about halfway through the film as an extended temporary wall was moving without hands. Optical illusion for some, sure–but there were other funny moments in this film as well:
- The traders were not acting like today’s traders in the stock market. One gentleman waved constantly to The Baron standing on a balcony above, smiling the whole time as the banker was getting ready to write another check. You don’t see that practice at all anymore, thanks to the world of smartphone technology and if any CEO’s still use faxes let alone emails to process multimillion dollar transactions.
- The way The Baron’s eyes moved while Larry impersonated him in a music number. That was pretty amazing to see. Even the four ladies pretending to be secretaries of the era had their lines down perfectly.
Carmen also was a fast talker. She could get anything she wanted, as long as she was convincing and asked for things the way she liked things to be handled.
And yes, those famed “tutti-frutti” hats that she wore on set became true staples in the fashion industry for decades. In 1976, according to Wikipedia–a museum in her honor opened its’ doors on the 21st anniversary of her passing. Most of her garments are on full display near Flamengo Park in Rio–but there are plans to move the collections to a bigger place in the future.
Carmen’s key singing and dancing numbers were on Track 2, her famous “Chica Chica Boom Chic” number along with “Cai-Cai” on Track 16 followed up seconds later by the clever lyrics of “I, Yi, Yi, Yi, Yi (I Like You Very Much).” Note the movements with how she danced, along with the placement of her eyes. Sometimes, Carmen could be deceiving, but in a slightly cunning and different way. She even showed off her physical power as a woman not to miss with–smashing things and trashing nearly all of the Baron’s wardrobe inside his rather expansive closet.
But by the time both Barons straightened out their stock situation and their married lives with one final “oh, let’s forget this whole thing ever happened” routine, all was good again in Rio.
A nice, but short musical medley of every song played in the movie closed out the film.
The film was done at a very brisk and nice pace–not too fast, but the music numbers did not drag on and on like some musicals of the period.
Thankfully, Fox was able to restore the original 1941 B&W production with really excellent color imagery done in 2008. One of the bonus features demonstrates side-by-side the major differences in both B&W and color restoration. If you had purchased this movie in 1994, the color images of the background images would have appeared more faint. But in this version, the whole movie set looked like it was shot in 1961 and not 1941.
The liner notes also talked about that in Carmen’s movie contract, her singing and dancing numbers were done in one take–no editing had to be done.
Other key bonus features included Alice Faye and Don Ameche dancing for over two minutes to the same Carmen Miranda performed at the beginning of the film (but note the very stark difference in color restoration–you can barely make out the water and the marble floors). There is also a on-screen featurette highlighting Alice Faye’s career.
Carmen would later make a big name of herself in the United States, performing in many venues and also on early TV favorites such as appearing on four episodes of NBC’s Texaco Star Theater and appearing as a mystery guest on an episode of the classic game show, What’s My Line? dated November 18, 1951.
Sadly, after appearing on a 1955 episode of The Jimmy Durante Show, she slipped on stage and would die in her sleep after suffering a heart attack. Similar to what would happen a few years later with Marilyn Monroe, Carmen Miranda was taken away from this world way too soon at the tender age of 46.
In 1995, Helena Solberg created a documentary culling together hundreds of hours of archival footage simply titled, Carmen Miranda: Bananas is My Business.
As the original spokesperson for Chiquita bananas, it was no wonder why she had the persona, grace, and comic wit to charm many ladies and gentlemanly fans of that era.
The best way for me as a loyal Brazilian music fan and blogger would be for my loyal fans to simply savor a couple of special quotes said by Carmen herself:
“I have never followed what people say it is ‘fashionable’. I think that a woman must wear what fits her. That is why I created a style appropriated to my type and my artistical genre.”
That quote comes from the website, quotesdaddy.com
“I say 20 words in English. I say money, money, money, and I say hot dog! I say yes, no and I say money, money, money and I say turkey sandwich and I say grape juice.”
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/c/carmen_miranda.html#8leX6c7cYiWzs2cz.99
Albeit the movie is set in December as a Christmas going away party type of theme, the MGM/Four Leaf Production simply titled, Get Yourself A College Girl really tackled the notion of why women in that period scoffed of themselves being treated as mere sex objects.
But it is way more to the movie than that.
There is music, and lots of it from very popular acts from 1964:
- Dave Clark Five from Great Britain
- The Animals from Hawaii
- Jimmy Smith and his Trio
- Freddie Bell, Roberta Linn, and the Bell Boys
The movie starts out with a short ballet lesson at the Wyndham College for Girls. Theresa “Terry” Taylor (played by future Match Game mainstay panelist Mary Ann Mobley) gets the class to get their groove thing on and dance the day away, so-to speak. The instructor of the class manages to flash a brief smile.
A few minutes into the film, Gary Underwood (played by Chad Everett), founder of his own publishing company attempts to call Terry–but instead ends up speaking with the Dean. The call goes nowhere.
The majority of the film takes place at the Go-Go Club, and this going away party is something to behold.
The dancing continues with the Dave Clark Five singing a slow ballad, then some guys try to woo a married woman (big time no-no then, and even bigger red flag in present times). The Animals then come on the scene with “Blue, Blue Feeling”. 17 minutes later, we hear Terry sing the song title with very catchy lyrics. Perhaps the early editors of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue might have planted those first seeds well in what would become for them a multi-million dollar enterprise by the time Kathy Ireland’s images were plastered on many men’s bedrooms and college dorm rooms in the late 1980’s.
Unfortunately, word leaks out to the Board of Trustees and they criticize Terry big time. Fortunately, some of the faculty come to her aid. As the Board members leave one by one, they give Terry a big-time cold shoulder. Later in the film, we find out that the Board rescinded Terry’s expulsion letter that would have prevented her from graduating with her friends the following spring.
Another key player in the movie is State Senator Hubert Morrison (played to a T by William Waterman). At first, he was not convinced on why women were starting to become independent thinkers, let alone budding sex symbols. But as the scene shifts to the ski lodge where the bus dropped off the students for Winter break, Marge (Joan O’Brien) and Sue Ann (Chris Noel) end up sticking together no matter what. And yes, Sue does don a period bikini for about 40 seconds for the guys looking to find this film on DVD.
Gary’s manager who has a way with French named Ray (played by Paul Todd) tries his best to woo the ladies. At first, he succeeds but later ends up getting himself slapped in the face. Not good.
His comment of, “I didn’t marry a girl, I married a censor” might have confused some people at the time. But again, there is no nudity in this film nor any major violence–PG rated for sure.
Then we finally get our Brazilian jazz connection with Astrud Gilberto holding up some sheet music to sing her all-time greatest hit, “The Girl from Ipanema.” Stan Getz performs admirably on the sax, while the ladies are sitting there and smiling their appreciation for when this was the era that bossa nova hit its’ true peak.
We also see Getz and his band perform a little sax inbetween some more weird dialogue between the guys before we go back for…you guessed it, yet more dancing!
The Standells and the Rhythm Masters were next to hit the stage (what was it with those white hats?), then Jimmy Smith did his masterful organ rendition of a song commonly heard in NBA arenas and when the Harlem Globetrotters make their signature entrance on basketball courts around the world.
The Senator then tries to get along with Terry (strange, but true). Even stranger was at the 55 minute mark was the Senator having his true Steve Lyons moment *.
* Not to sound embarrassing, but the one-time utility player that once played all nine positions in an exhibition game for the 1990 Chicago White Sox had his infamous moment occur at the old Tiger Stadium in Detroit. Nicknamed “Psycho”, Lyons legged out an infield hit in a game against the Tigers. With first base coach at the time Sammy Ellis simply nodding his head, he inexplicably tried to adjust his belt buckle but briefly the camera caught a glimpse of his shorts. Can you guess then how embarrassed he felt? ESPN’s SportsCenter ate that moment up for years to come.
Sadly, with his pants down–an eager woman snaps a quick pic with her camera so she could rush off to the area paper to get this juicy gossip heading into their election year published the next day.
Terry then gets into a brief skiing accident, but I am sure it was staged so she wouldn’t get hurt (keep in mind, the era of liability wasn’t too much of a bother back in 1964 except for a few stuntpeople). Gary then tries to trip over Terry before heading back to the ski lodge, just some playful banter between man and woman–nothing more than that.
More of the Dave Clark Five and their hit, “Thinking of You, Baby” along with Freddie Bell and Roberta Lynn with the Bell Boys doing the sappy, catchy number, “Talk About Love” were all part of a pledge drive that was carried on local television.
Nobody called during the first two songs. But suddenly, the proceeds started to roll in and as the Animals performed the closing number, they exceeded their goal!
Even though this movie that runs about 86 minutes does not have any chapter titles or even a true bonus featurette except for the actual trailer done with the familiar dust lines all around–the remastered version of Get Yourself A College Girl is indeed a fun movie, no matter what time of year.
And I usually think of Easter as both a happy and fun time of year, so why not give it some props?
From Chris Noel’s character talking about bikini sizes to and the overeagerness of the guys trying to run a business (we even get to see Sue Ann in a Bettie Page type portrait, how cute) and also seeing the women question why roles they really felt comfortable doing after graduating from college (as so we thought).
And so, with all apologies to the late great movie critic Roger Ebert, I give this movie 3 1/2 stars. Somewhere in the heavens, I saw even the late Gene Siskel flash his trademark thumbs up as well.
Next week, I will be profiling an up-and-coming MPB artist looking to make a name for herself in Gisele de Santi. Her sound is remarkable and hopefully this is just the beginning for this fresh sensation.
Please have a nice and safe holiday weekend, no matter how you celebrate (I am like one of our followers, I get to celebrate twice on the same day!) More good music to come in the weeks and days leading up to the “other” most popular sporting event outside of the United States, soccer/futbol’s FIFA World Cup. Take care.
The scene is Boston Zoo, 1998.
Hope Davis plays a hopeless romantic, and throughout the film’s first 18 minutes–we see mishap after mishap:
She breaks up with her boyfriend (we presume), and after he explains about “Point 4” on a VHS tape, she eventually breaks the tape by throwing it to the ground.
At her job, she and her co-workers dress up for Halloween. Erin is the wicked witch.
By the time the kids react, they are both: a) stunned, and b) some of them cry.
Next scene, we see her mother (played by Holland Taylor) who is a matchmaker and supposedly hooks up with another guy. The guy enters the conversation over drinks. Apparently, the guy is not convinced * and he seems a bit disinterested.
* Note to guys: At least, stay with the program. There is always a way to wiggle your way out, if the time is right to do so–except if you are further along in the dating process.
Another scene has her in a vintage bookstore. She drops a book and the book owner asks her to “not close the book, but rather read a sentence, a paragraph” from that page she accidentally opened.
In it, she read a classic definition of solitude–as more Brazilian jazz plays:
First, Astrud Gilberto–then Joao Gilberto.
Then, her mother is in London talking to her on the phone and showing off a Personals ad. Erin reads it word for word, thinking that what her mother wrote was just plain dumb.
(Again, this was before the Internet and online dating became the rage, so please take it as is).
We then zoom in on a zoology class and then see Erin join three other people over drinks in a bar.
“First guy who scores gets 200 bucks”, as four other guys get a chance to read over the ad and then discuss strategy–including some parts that are definitely rated R material (hence, the suggestive language part of the film that some people should become fully aware of when watching this film).
Usually, Sundance selections usually take the viewer into materials either seldom seem in regular Hollywood films, or taking storylines in the news that are only known to regional audiences (or in the case of foreign countries, unique to that country). The only reason that I could come up with why this film won the 1998 Sundance Award was its’ very dry humor.
Some people may like it, I found this movie to be a bit on the fair side. It has its’ moments, and there are some moments that either will make you think to yourself, “I have seen this act before”, or “Didn’t that just happen to me over a week ago?”
A newspaper headline follows a local news story about vandalism that took place near the Boston Zoo. A different addition was to be added next to the zoo, but the idea did not pass committee (supposedly, again I am just drawing general facts from the movie).
Another guy mentions the key line in the film at the 34 minute mark:
“The real mystery is, what keeps two people together after they meet?”
But somehow, the videotape did not break. Her boyfriend rambles on, and the old phone messaging device goes crazy. Erin tries to stop it, but she cannot unplug it.
The phone operator talks about “inserting your personal code”, too ugly!
More Brazilian jazz plays (sounds like “Baia” by Walter Wanderley in the background) as we hear parts of 64 guys answering her ad!
(Insert funny joke here…)
About the 40 minute mark, Erin meets her first “date”….
Both people look timid, and the guy tries to use his own dry sense of humor and seems to be going off the deep end, just a little bit…
The VP of Manufacturing guy, nice credentials–except he talks a little too fast.
Then, he barely takes a breath between sentences. (Not a good thing!)
Another guy talks about other a few subjects too taboo for this blog space.
We go back to the first guy and he says that he, “collects South American art…but I was down there for a conference.”
Some other guy then asks for Erin’s mother’s number after she let the cat out of the bag.
OK. Now, we are getting somewhere. Took forty-four minutes for me to get a full laugh.
Next “date” we see is a highly intellectual man. “He says, you create your own luck.”
The 50th minute into the film, and Erin says the story of most single people’s lives–as we see her sitting on a park bench as the fall foliage begins to turn and a few seconds later talking about the time her father took her to Ireland:
“I am not lonely. I am not lonely when I am at home.
You get lonely in a crowded room, or subway.”
The next song that plays is “Mas Que Nada”, the original version in the 56th minute as Alan gets into a brief fight with two other guys outside a fancy restaurant.
Two minutes later–inside the restaurant, Erin’s co-worker tries again to convince Alan that she was “his tutor”, which he simply denied as false. Alan comes back with presenting a “low key” approach, not a full scale date. The woman agrees to see a whale do a bunch of tricks with two other guys as part of the class! How cool is that.
Sparks fly in the 71st minute, so at least there is a happy ending.
But somehow, we end up right back were we started–aboard the train.
Too bad the cab driver got stuck in traffic that is the near equivalent of rush hour over the Kennedy Expressway the day before Thanksgiving in Chicago.
The final minutes lead into one guy singing on a plane about dreams and seeing them come true, ala going to Brazil.
The last underlying message about consistency is talked about at the end with the infamous/famous Ralph Waldo Emerson quote.
A nice view of Boston Harbor is our final major scene, as Alan Gelfant walks side by side with Erin Castleton.
At least, it was very cool to hear Bebel Gilberto closing out with a song in the credits, “Batacuda.”
It was a fair movie, but this would be a decent movie to watch if life was throwing you a bunch of curveballs. Then, you can follow it up by playing some Patricia Talem or Bianca Rossini.
The Miramax release from Robbins Entertainment, Inc. was not bad, but not great either.
No bonus features were included, nor there were any chapter titles in the DVD menu.
I tried to think of ten different titles and none of them worked.
To all of my American readers, especially the new followers–
Please have a happy and safe Thanksgiving.
Cranberry sauce recipe optional, just fyi.
See you all next week with another cool CD selection.