Without a doubt the most ambitious made-for-television musical movie ever made, Copacabana is based on the Top 10 million-selling 1978 single of the same name by Barry Manilow, bringing to life the characters of Tony, Lola and Rico from the lyrics of the record.
Manilow had a deal with CBS for four one-hour variety shows but proposed that instead, they create a two-hour 1940s-style movie with all the elements of a variety show. He wrote ten new songs for the film, asked Dick Clark to produce it, and took time from his concert tour to make his acting debut as Tony.
Annette O’Toole co-starred as Lola, with Joseph Bologna as Rico.
If you’ve ever heard the song, you know the storyline – young Brooklyn songwriter Tony falls for Lola, a singer from the Midwest trying to make it in New York after World War II, but nasty Rico – a gangster from pre-Castro Cuba – turns up and whisks Lola away to Havana.
Copacabana was broadcast by CBS on Tuesday 3 December 1985. With a budget of $4 million, it was one of the most expensive TV movies ever made.
It wasn’t art and it was never going to trouble the Oscars, but it is undeniably fun to watch – a lighthearted fantasy filled with pleasant tunes – and you end up liking it in spite of yourself.
James T. Callahan
Roscoe, Nightclub Owner