Saturday, March 05, 2011
Screen Gem Saturdays: The Marx Brothers
My dad introduced me to the Marx Brothers when I was just a tyke; one of the nearby theaters used to show vintage films on the big screen on weekends. It was always a treat for me to be introduced to Charlie Chaplin, W.C. Fields, Laurel & Hardy, and of course The Marx Brothers. As a young boy in the 1930’s, my father used to spend hours in a darkened theater watching all of the old classics and he passed that love of film onto me.
I still remember going to see “Animal Crackers” and “A Day at the Races” for the first time in my youth. I couldn’t get enough of the Marx Brothers. I bought every book and made sure I caught them whenever their films were on TV. My favorite one was Harpo by a longshot. Sure, Groucho had the funny dialogue and was the driving force of each movie, but it was Harpo who really made me laugh. Always playing a silly imp, beneath his vacant look was the mind of a genius who was always at least 10 steps ahead of anyone else he shared the screen with.
The early Marx films are the true gems; I especially recommend “Duck Soup” and “A Day at the Races.” The later films, although still funny, seem a little labored and complacent. The Brothers were caught in their own successful formula for comedy and the audiences trapped them within that framekwork.
Harpo attempted to break out on his own, proving that he could carry a film by himself. Unfortunately, to get the financial backing for “Love Happy,” the other 2 brothers had to sign on as well. Harpo shines in this forgotten gem, while his brothers seem to drag down the pace of their film with their extraneous scenes.
“Love Happy” is probably best remembered for a bit part played by a young Marilyn Monroe.
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