No, I’m not that kind. I think I was 10 when I saw my first Marx Brothers film on television and I have been hooked ever since. I am proud to be that kind of Marxist.
I had not seen one of their films during the last couple of years until this summer. Late last week, I had some major dental surgery and what better way to recover that watch a Marx Brothers marathon on Turner Classic Movies. The following are some recommendations of some of my favorite Marx Brothers movies whenever you are in the mood for some anarchy.
“A Night at the Opera” (1935) — This is a cliche, but it’s a correct description. Putting the Marx Brothers in the world of opera was like putting kids into a candy store. This is the best movie of their career. They were at the top of their game and no comedic moment fell flat. The scene where Groucho orders dinner on the boat sailing from Europe to the United States while chaos reigns in his room does not get dull with repeated viewings. Even the musical numbers were nice instead of causing nausea which certainly could not be said of most of their other movies.
“Horse Feathers” (1932) — Groucho becomes president of fictional Huxley College and immediately puts the emphasis on football instead of learning. Sound familiar? In one scene, he asks a professor if there is a stadium and if there is a college. The professor says yes and Groucho says they can’t support both and to start tearing down the college. Again, except for Chico’s piano playing and Harpo showing his talent on the harp, I can’t stand most of the musical numbers in Marx Brothers movies. But Groucho gets this movie off with a bang as he sings “Whatever it is. I’m against it.”
“Duck Soup” (1933) — An extremely funny political satire on fascism, dictatorships and war. Unfortunately, it was all too true and not funny six years later when World War II started. Groucho takes over as president of the fictional country of Freedonia and determined to stand his ground against neighboring nation Sylvania.
WORTH A LOOK
“A Day at the Races” (1937) — A good, but not great follow-up to “A Night at the Opera. It’s set in the world of horse racing and Groucho is a vet that is pretending to be a real doctor.
“Monkey Business” (1931) — The brothers’ first two movies “The Coconuts” (1929) and “Animal Crackers” (1930) were both Broadway hits. The film versions were made in a studio in New York and feel like a camera was put in front of the stage version. This was the first Marx Brothers movie to be made in Hollywood and you get a sense that all restraints on the group were removed and they were allowed to be at their anarchic best as stowaways on a cruise ship and being chased by the mob.
THEY HAVE THEIR MOMENTS
“The Coconuts” (1929), “Animal Crackers” (1930), “Room Service” (1938), “At the Circus” (1939)
ON THE DOWNWARD SLOPE OF THEIR CAREERS
“Go West” (1940), “The Big Store” (1941), A Night in Casablanca (1946) and “Love Happy” (1949)
UNTIL NEXT TIME. . .