Showing posts with label marx bros. Show all posts
Showing posts with label marx bros. Show all posts

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Marx Bros Watch: At The Circus (1939)

Watched: 06/29/2019
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing: First
Decade:  1930's

Well, this was a bit of fun.

The Marx. Bros had been in Hollywood a full decade by the time (Marx Bros.) At the Circus (1939) was released.  It''s basically not all that different from A Night at the Opera or other Marx Bros. outings, at least in format.  There's a Groucho song, Harpo plays the harp, Margaret Dumont (bless her) plays the wealthy dowager.  There's a couple in love who have a song or two that would have gone to Zeppo and someone else back in the day. And an antagonist in need of a good come-uppance.

But if you're watching ta Marx Bros. film for structure or plot, something has gone terribly wrong. 

All in all, the circus is a terrific setting for the Marx Bros, animals and acrobats and all, setting up an ideal finale under the big top.  There's stunts and great visual gags, a flying Margaret Dumont, and a gorilla.  How can you not like it?

It doesn't hit the levels of absurdity that Duck Soup reaches, but nothing does. 

One thing I find curious about the Marx Bros. movies is that some, such as this one, contain scenes with all-Black casts plus a Marx Bros or three.  It's not unheard of for this in other movies, but clearly they were trying to bring people to the screen who weren't always there.  You always cringe a little when you're not sure we're not going to wind up in Blackface (they do in at least one picture), but not here. 

The movie also has a terrific scene with Groucho and a very young Eve Arden that now has one of my favorite "breaking the fourth wall" moments in a movie as he bemoans how he doesn't know how to do the scene without trouble from the Hayes Office. 

Anyway - we were going back and forth about what makes comedy work, what makes it feel like a movie versus comic actors just doing their thing as the camera rolls, and I'd argue, come back to a Marx Bros movie for what's possible on the screen.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Marx Bros. Watch: Duck Soup (1933)

If you want to see Patient 0 for a goodly portion of American comedy, you really need look no further than The Marx Bros.  I can't even say the Marx Bros. are an acquired taste, because you either like them or you're dead inside.

I've written before, at some point, that few things in this world please me more than Margaret Dumont, and she is very much in the middle of this movie.  Here's our introduction to Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho) as he's introduced as the new Regent of the nation of Freedonia, thanks to Dumont, who has a crush on Firefly, getting him placed in office.

Harpo and Chico play spies from the neighboring nation of Sylvania, and, eventually, there's a war between the two countries.  Because.

Anyway, this is one of my favorite of the Marx Bros. movies.

Sure, the set-up mostly seems like an excuse for the Marx Bros. to recycle bits from their vaudeville act, and that's okay.  As Jamie rightfully pointed out - the thing about the Marx Bros. is that they don't rely on the sitcom formula of set-up, punchline, set-up, punchline that creates a sort of rhythm to the show (see: The Big Bang Theory).  They just go for punchline, punchline, punchline, and you just need to keep up.

If you've never seen it, well, it's a bit too late to catch it last night on TCM, but it'll be on again at some point.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Movie Watch: Horse Feathers & Niagara (and one day I will learn to spell "Niagara")

I am going to mention every single movie I watch this year.  I'm sort of curious.

Horse Feathers (1932) - The Marx Brothers.  Nothing will beat Duck Soup for me, but I'd definitely watch it again.  "Where's the seal?" won for best visual gag, but it had stiff competition.  I'm a sucker for any Marx Bros. flick, and this was a better way to spend 1.25 hours than whatever else was on TV.

Also, who doesn't like a movie about college football that includes cigar smoking on the field?

The movie co-stars the lovely Thelma Todd, who has a pretty chilling Bio page on IMDB.

Niagara (1953)  - For something so amazingly noir, this was one bright, colorful movie.  As I understand it, this was one of the movies that catapulted Marilyn Monroe to stardom, and its not hard to see why.  We forget sometimes that she's not just a still shot, she was an actress, and a pretty good one.  Not as good as Jean Peters (also an extraordinarily lovely woman), who is also in the movie playing a woman caught up in the noir story going on in the next bungalow over, but Monroe just fills a frame like few others, even when you know she's coming.  Also stars the always terrific Joseph Cotten as Monroe's anxiety-ridden husband on the path to Dark City.  And you will want to strangle Max Showalter (who would go on to play goofy Grandpa Fred in Sixteen Candles) for his corn-fed dorkiness.

And starring Jean Peters!  Who, yeah...  on the poster?  Is she one of those silhouettes on the bridge?  No?