Films featuring the Sunshine State have been around since silent movies, depicting its greatness and quirkiness.
The Marx Brothers movie “The Cocoanuts” was about the tourism and real estate in Florida and the Tin Can Tourists literally drove Florida tourism in the 1920s…
“’The Cocoanuts’ by the Marx Brothers is a classic film,” says Fernandez. “It should be watched. It’s the beginning of understanding Florida hucksterism in real estate. They were unskilled men, not really real estate agents, selling never seen property that was underwater. There’s a line in the movie that Groucho Marx says: ‘You can have any kind of home you want. You can even have stucco. Oh, you can get stuck-oh!’”
(Groucho prefaces all this by saying to the actress Margaret Dumont, “Now whether you like it or not, I’m going to tell you about Florida real estate.” He also sings the praises of the nonexistent Cocoanut Manor, saying, “Why, it’s the most exclusive district in Florida. Nobody lives there.”)
“It was the real estate boom of the 1920s,” says Fernandez. “As a result, a lot of big hotels were built along the east coast and west coast, there was a railroad to Miami and to Tampa, and I think part of the center of the state. And because of that boom, there were a lot of different kinds of tourists who came.”
Tourists who came in cars were a different class than the rich who took trains from the north. People who arrived in cars were called “tin can tourists,” she says, because they lived in their model Ts, setting up camp sites and eating out of tin cans.
“It’s a kind of pejorative term. They were more middle-class people. That changed the nature of tourism a lot. That gave us a way to look at tourists in films and how they had been portrayed, accurately or inaccurately, and the whole issue of development, and what is a developed Florida? If you think a place is paradise, why do you have to change it? Why do you have to make it ‘better’?”