The Marx Brothers


(John Welles) #1

I’ve just started descovering the Marx brothers films, and I must say, along with W. C. Fields and Laurel and Hardy, they are the greatest talkie comedians.

I have “A Night at the Opera”, “A Day at the Races”, “At the Circus” and “Love Happy” at the moment.


(Starblack) #2

Then the best is most definitely still to come.

As I’m sure you know, Duck Soup, Animal Crackers and Horse Feathers are considered the real classics, and for good reason. Each one is an embarrassment of riches in terms of visual gags, acerbic put-downs and all-round comedic anarchy.

I give the edge to Duck Soup, if only for a priceless mirror routine involving Groucho and Chico, but you can’t go wrong with these three films.

Of course, Opera, Races and Circus all have brilliant moments, too, and benefit from the participation of the peerless Margaret Dumont - the Marxes’ finest comic foil, just ahead of Edgar Kennedy - though none of them are as consistently funny as the earlier works.

The Coconuts, their first talkie (IIRC), has its moments too, although they began to lose their touch with the likes of Go West, The Big Store and A Night in Casablanca. I think I once saw Love Happy, too, but have no memory of it, which is a bad sign.


(Spaghetti Monkey) #3

Love THE COCOANUTS ;D


(scherpschutter) #4

Nothing wrong with Laurel & Hardy of course, but their humour always seemed more visual than verbal to me. They talk of course, still they very much seem to belong to the silent era.

On the other hand the routines of Fields and Groucho Marx often are completely unthinkable without words.


(scherpschutter) #5

I voted Duck soup too, but it’s close with Animal Crackers and A Night at the Opera

The longer ones suffer from those musical interludes, but you can always pour out a glass of wine when the music starts (or a glass of milk in case your name is Ringo)


(Starblack) #6

Or pull a cup of coffee from your trouser pocket if your name is Harpo.


(John Welles) #7

I myself voted for “A Day at the Races”. The main reasons are that, at of the three Marx Brothers films I’ve seen (I have not seen “At the Circus” yet), it has the least amount of musical numbers and the ones that are in the film are good. Whereas “A Night at the Opera” has some very funny moments, the songs are quite poor. Plus, with “A Day at the Races”, the romantic leads are bearable.


(chuck connors brother) #8

I’ve only seen Duck Soup, it was great


(AceHigh) #9

Love the Marx Brothers. I’ve seen pretty much all of their movies numerous times. They were amazing! By the way, I voted for Animal Crackers. - Are any of you on here Ma and Pa Kettle fans? They’re hilarious too, even if not so politically correct.


(John Welles) #10

I’m afraid to say that I have never heard of “Ma and Pa Kettle”. What were they?


(Starblack) #11

It should be noted that there are musical numbers in Duck Soup, Animal Crackers and Monkey Business, but, by and large they are great songs and very funny (Groucho’s Whatever it is, I’m Against It and Hello, I Must be Going are personal favourites).

My attention does tend to wander whenever Harpo sits down by a harp or Chico hits the piano keys, though…


(John Welles) #12

Me too. In “A Night at the Opera”, the harp and piano stuff I found was quite boring. But in “A Day at the Races” it wasn’t too bad because it was pretty short.


(AceHigh) #13

Marjorie Main and Percy Kilbride played “Ma and Pa Kettle” in a series of comedy films in the early '50s. They were a country bumpkin older married couple with who-knows-how-many kids. They’re not as famous as The Marx Bros., Abbott and Costello, or Laurel and Hardy but, to me, every bit as funny. Classic greatness, especially Pa Kettle.


(John Welles) #14

I’ll have to look out for those films.


(John Welles) #15

Has anybody here seen the Marx Brothers “Monkey Business”? Because I wold be interested in finding out how good it is, what’s it about etc, etc…


(Stanton) #16

The best Marx films are the first 5, the Paramount films. With Duck Soup being the best (also the best directed by Leo McCarey) and Monkey Business maybe being a bit more conventional than the others.

After there change to MGM all went down. I never understood why A Night at the Opera is called a masterpiece. It’s so much of this cheesy MGM stuff in it, all these terrible romantic sub plots and this singing parts which aren’t a frenetic parody anymore, but simply sentimental love songs.
MGM pulled out their teeth quickly.


(Phil H) #17

I like Monkey Business a lot. It has some great stuff in it.

As Stanton says, the rule of thumb is that the earlier Paramount films are the most consistant. At this time they were still given pretty much free rein and their films had, for the most part, been tried out on the road. Cocoanuts and Animal Crackers started as Broadway vehicles for the brothers the others were ‘road tested’ to gauge audience reaction and fine tune the gags.

[quote=“Stanton, post:16, topic:1833”]The best Marx films are the first 5, the Paramount films. With Duck Soup being the best (also the best directed by Leo McCarey) and Monkey Business maybe being a bit more conventional than the others.

After there change to MGM all went down. I never understood why A Night at the Opera is called a masterpiece. It’s so much of this cheesy MGM stuff in it, all these terrible romantic sub plots and this singing parts which aren’t a frenetic parody anymore, but simply sentimental love songs.
MGM pulled out their teeth quickly.[/quote]

I agree that MGM diluted the Marx Bros but, credit to Irving Thalberg where it is due, without this approach the Brothers wouldn’t have made another picture after 1933. We may think of Duck Soup as a classic but it pretty much bombed at the box office and Paramount had dropped them. They were a few years in the wilderness before Thalberg signed them for MGM and reinvented the structure of their movies. The romance and music seems like an annoying interruption these days but it made the Marxes more palatable to a general audience back then.

As for Night at the Opera, I think it is considered such a classic because it contains some of their best scenes despite all the singing/kissing nonsense. The stateroom scene and the sanity clause scene stand as high as anything they did. Like Scherps said, you just have to consider the other stuff as a drinks opprtunity.


(Bill san Antonio) #18

yeah, Duck Soup is the best comedy ever made!


(Stanton) #19

Opera and Races are still ok, but not half as funny as their early work. The then following films are all nothing special in my memory, only maybe the Casablanca parody wasn’t that bad. But I haven’t seen all the later films for ages.

What do you think which is the best from the films after A Day at the Races?


(Phil H) #20

[quote=“Stanton, post:19, topic:1833”]Opera and Races are still ok, but not half as funny as their early work. The then following films are all nothing special in my memory, only maybe the Casablanca parody wasn’t that bad. But I haven’t seen all the later films for ages.

What do you think which is the best from the films after A Day at the Races?[/quote]

Fundamentally as the films went on the returns diminished in terms of quality. All still had moments but less and less. So after Day at the Races I would say At the Circus was best, followed by Go West. Room Service is ok but is unlike any other Marx Bros film as it wasn’t written specifically for them but was an adaptation of a stage play. Casablanca is good in parts too but they were starting to look a bit old and tired by this time. Love Happy is pretty poor on the whole.