the brazilian chanchada



Commentary on the book “Este Mundo é um Pandeiro”, by Sérgio Augusto

Exercising his trade for 60 years, since he started his career as a film critic in the daily Rio de Janeiro Press Tribune, in 1960, journalist Sérgio Augusto (1942) needs no introduction. After years of research he wrote This World is a Tambourine (A Chanchada from Getúlio to JK), a lengthy work, with almost 300 pages, edited by Companhia das Letras in co-edition with Cinemateca Brasileira.

The title of the work was taken from the film of the same name, made by Atlântida by Watson Macedo in the last days of 1946 and released in February 1947, accompanying a series of national musical comedies produced from the beginning of the century until the beginning of the 1960s. Evidently, the author focuses more on the period between 1947 and 1961, in that decade and a half in which Atlântida, Watson Macedo's production company and Herbert Richers' produced almost all films of the genre.

At the beginning of the book, Sérgio Augusto asks himself and then answers: “But, after all, what was Brazil like when queuing up to see Oscarito and Grande Otelo's chanchadas? It was a country of Getúlio and Dutra, of Getúlio and JK, of Rádio Nacional and Teatro Recreio, of Carmen Miranda and Haydée Miranda, of Marlene and Emilinha, of trams and stockings, of Rhum Creosotado and mate Ildefonso; Miss Cinelândia and Miss Bangu, Fruna and Hydrolitol candies, Radio Magazine and Cinelandia, anil Reckitt and Tanges lipstick, Casa Nunes and d'A Exposure, Gumex and Fixbrill, Dorly soap (the favorite of comic book heroes) and Lever soap (preferred by nine out of ten movie stars) , Marta Rocha and Maria Esther Bueno, Vogue nightclub and Sacha's, Night and Day and Galeria Cruzeiro, Walter Pinto and Barreto Pinto, High Life dances and draft beer at Taberna da Glória, the medicinal cigarette holder Kirsten and the Palm Beach suit, the Parker 51 pen and the Eversharp mechanical pencil, Capivarol and gasogen, Clube da Chave and Clube dos Cafajestes, Pelé and Garrincha, Pabium and V-8 juice, There will be and Youth Globe, the Silvertone record player and the Zenith television, the Mesbla clock and the Standard clock, the Panair and the PRK-30, the Yankes ventilated pillow and the XPTO. And, above all, the desire to be an American from the North and be successful in Hollywood” (p. 31).

through the pages of This World is a Tambourine among others, Genésio Arruda, Tom Bill, Oscarito, Zezé Macedo, Eliana, Cyll Farney, Anselmo Duarte, Mesquitinha, Zé Trindade, Violeta Ferraz, Ankito, Dercy Gonçalves, Jayme Costa, Fada Santoro, Adelaide Chiozzo, Chico Anysio, Golias , Fred, Carequinha, Colé Santana, Catalano, Modesto de Souza, Margot Louro, Walter and Ema D'Ávila, Costinha, John Herbert, Herval Rossano, Eva Wilma, Jô Soares, Eva Todor, Nancy Wanderley and Chocolate; villains Wilson Grey, José Lewgoy, Renato Restier, Jece Valadão, Augusto Cesar, Carlos Imperial and Roberto Duval; the hotties Renata Fronzi, Sônia Mamede, Anilza Leoni, Inalda de Carvalho, Maria Antonieta Pons, Rosa Rondelli, Cuquita Carballo, Odete Lara and Norma Bengell. Musical numbers? Well, we have Marlene, Emilinha Borba, Francisco Carlos, Joel and Gaúcho, Alvarenga and Ranchinho, Virginia Lane – who could also reinforce the hottie team –, Carmen and Aurora Miranda, Nora Ney, Jorge Goulart, Ivon Cury, Blecaute , Dick Farney, Ataulfo ​​Alves, Dalva de Oliveira, Ciro Monteiro, Carlos Galhardo, Francisco Alves, Benê Nunes, Luiz Gonzaga, Dóris Monteiro, Orlando Silva, Ângela Maria, Jorge Veiga, Nélson Gonçalves, Elisete Cardoso, Trio Irakitan, Dircinha and Linda Batista, Heloísa Helena, Herivelto Martins, Cauby Peixoto, 4 Aces and 1 Joker, Jackson do Pandeiro and Almira, Mary Gonçalves and Bob Nelson.

Roughly speaking, it is possible to highlight two distinct phases in the trajectory of Brazilian musical films and chanchadas. The first goes until approximately the beginning of the 1940s, and can be characterized by quite simple arguments, motives and situations and with homogeneous, carnival-like and sometimes even June musical numbers. Typical films of this phase would be, for example, Hello, hello, Brazil (1935) Hello, Hello, Carnival (1936) – both produced by Cinédia and Waldow, the first being directed by Wallace Downey and the other by Adhemar Gonzaga – and Earth Banana (1939), by Sonofilmes, directed by Rui Costa.

From the 1940s onwards, a new phase begins, which lasts until the beginning of the 1960s, a period in which the arguments, situations and plots become more complex and the musical numbers more heterogeneous. It is also the moment when the chanchada reaches its peak, due to the empathy with the public and the continuous production of a large number of films.

Luís Severiano Ribeiro Júnior, having in his hands from 1947 – when he became the majority shareholder of Atlântida – the production, distribution and exhibition of films, decided to increase the production of chanchadas, realizing that they could be a source of high income. profits. Thus, in less than twenty years of activity, Atlântida produced 62 fiction films, 2 documentaries and hundreds of newsreels.

In the mid-1950s, however, Ribeiro “began to compete in the market with two dropouts from his assembly line: Watson Macedo and cinematographer Herbert Richers, transformed into independent producers. Richers, sometimes alone, sometimes in partnership with Oswaldo Massaini, expanded the carnival block, smuggling other revelations from the radio (Zé Trindade), the circus (Ankito, Fred and Carequinha) and television (Ronald Golias) to its hosts. Gradually, carnival was being put aside, without, however, abandoning the spirit of Oscarito's antics and his rivals…” (p. 30).

In this second phase, with a guaranteed market for the chanchadas, it is observed that the carnival and June themes gradually become secondary, replaced by others, which refer to the daily life of urban man, to political aspects and to problems of the neighboring socio-economic reality: high prices, lack of water, deficiencies in urban transport, electoral demagoguery, political corruption, bureaucratic indolence, widespread employment in the public service, etc. But all this, with a lot of humor, ginga and naughty.

The scripts for the chanchadas ended up obeying a schematic elaboration principle, which remained intact in practically all productions. The basic situations were as follows: young man and young woman get into a delicate situation; comic (the friend of the good guy, the girl, or both) tries to protect them; villain has the upper hand, initially; villain loses the advantage and is defeated, with the decisive participation of the good guy and the comedian.

In addition, another fundamental mallet of the chanchada was the exchange (of objects, of identity). It is around an exchange, for example, that the entire delivery of Carnival on Fire (1949 – director: Watson Macedo), considered the model chanchada. Ricardo (Anselmo Duarte), the good guy, takes the place of “Anjo” (José Lewgoy), when he takes possession of his lost cigarette case at the entrance of the Copacabana Palace Hotel. The loss of the cigarette case meant, for the villain, the loss of his identity – of his attributes as a boss – since his new accomplices could only recognize him through that object. The girl (Eliana) and the boy would be protected by Oscarito, thus following the stages foreseen in the general scheme of the chanchadas (p. 15).

Sérgio Augusto also remembers that “everything was changed and stolen in the chanchadas”: lung plate (This world is a tambourine), passport (Notice aos Navegantes, 1950), necklace (It is Fogo na Roupa, 1952), wig (Neither Samson nor Delilah, 1954), Inca coins (College of Brotos, 1956), gossip columnist card (The Pickpocket, 1958), suitcase (The Camelô da Rua Larga, 1958). “Even social positions changed hands, especially in José Carlos Burle's comedies” (p. 15).

What about types and characters? Oh, it had it all: sinister magicians and hypnotists, mad scientists, mysterious laboratories, nobles (both fake and authentic), princes, monarchs, baronesses, countesses, pashas and other lesser-known ones. In turn, critics were furious with the “pineapples” (blue or not) that they were forced to watch. Antônio Moniz Vianna, from Morning mail, summed up his opinion in a single sentence: “another mango fell”.

When Carlos Manga launched College of Brotos (1956), Moniz Vianna returned to the charge, insinuating that the owner of Atlântida (Severiano Ribeiro) or Manga (director), one of the two, or both, were lovers: “what is going on between these two?”, he asked astonished. Pedro Lima, Fred Lee, Jonald, Salvyano Cavalcanti de Paiva, Alex Viany and many others, to a greater or lesser extent, were irritated by what they saw (Glauber Rocha even called chanchada the “reformist cancer of underdevelopment”).

Add to what has already been written here some formulations by Miguel Chaia, in his master's thesis entitled The Stuck Penny. According to him, one lucky Strike (inheritance, prize, lottery, etc.) changes the lives of the main characters – usually a good-hearted, up-and-coming hero, belonging to the condition of a subordinate class. The simple character of the chanchada has its existence closer to a status social order than to a class structure.

It is an estate universe mixed with class foundations that ends up characterizing characters such as the manicurist, the street vendor, the actress, the shoe shiner, the slum composer, the rich without possessions, the disqualified, pretenders to stardom, etc. They move their collective values ​​of family, neighborhood, kinship and work. They are agents that have not assimilated the individualization of urban-industrial society, but they are not crushed or flattened by the relationships that are established within this society.

When the characters work, they are not workers of the system, thus often configuring marginal work; they are not protected by social or labor laws. In short, in Chaia's understanding, the chanchada deals with simpletons who do not play the developmental game. In fact, there is no place in this game for peddlers, maids, womanizers, lazy people, rascals, innkeepers, manicurists, barbers, etc. – see about Catani and Souza, 1983.

The text follows in detail the careers of Luiz (Lulu) de Barros, Watson Macedo, Moacyr Fenelon, Alinor Azevedo, Cajado Filho, J. Rui Costa, José Carlos Burle, Carlos Manga, JB Tanko and Victor Lima, screenwriters, screenwriters and directors (among other skills) of the most significant chanchadas performed. Also studied are the careers of Oscarito, Grande Otelo and Zé Trindade (the latter so far little researched). Carlos Augusto Calil, author of the book presentation, calls Zé Trindade “the devil incarnated in national malice”, while in the penultimate chapter we learn that Sérgio Augusto had been announcing his book for about ten years, creating great expectations about his detailed research. about the cracks.

This meant that, having just left, criticism was directed at him here and there. Some expected the work to contain more analytical content; others recalled that the author does not provide all the credit due to the information obtained from unpublished or already published sources; moreover, there are those who have noticed that at various times, factual or interpretative gaps are circumvented with a witty and well-written tirade, leaving doubts to remain. I believe that all these objections are justified.

However, Sérgio Augusto's book is, among the publications on the subject, the most exhaustive to date, allowing other aspects to be explored. As I saw most of the chanchadas made from the mid-40s onwards, I laughed out loud as I read. However, younger readers will find it difficult, sometimes insurmountable, to consult the excellent and detailed filmography inserted at the end of the volume, since it is arranged in chronological order of film production - and, within each year, in alphabetical order – and, throughout the text, the year in which the film was completed is not always mentioned. The traditional alphabetical order, pure and simple, would make things easier.

This World is a Tambourine brought me back to Sunday matinees in the countryside, to the series, to the exchanges of comics, to the dribbles we had to give the ushers, to the round drops that, if they fell, would roll out of our reach, to the wonderful chanchadas…The last chords of these unforgettable musicals were still ringing in my head when, out of breath, I arrived in the opening minutes at the Roberto Gomes Pedrosa Stadium – later, at the Barão de Serra Negra – to see my XV de Piracicaba play.

*Afranio Catani is a retired professor at USP and visiting professor at UFF. Author, among other books, of 4 essays on Brazilian cinema (Panorama).



AUGUST, Sergio. This world is a tambourine (Getúlio's chanchada to JK). São Paulo, Companhia das Letras / Cinemateca Brasileira, 1989.

CATANI, Afranio; SOUZA, Jose Inácio de Melo. The Chanchada in Brazilian Cinema. São Paulo: Brasiliense, 1983.


This review was originally published in the “Saturday Notebook” of the Jornal da Tarde in 02.09.1

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