Tag Archives: Margaret Dumont

The Set of 400: #2 – My Favorite Doghouse Tattoo

Today! Because you’re fighting for this woman’s honor, which is probably more than she ever did –

Duck Soup (1933)

Directed by Leo McCarey

Starring Groucho Marx (x8), Harpo Marx (x8), Chico Marx (x8), Zeppo Marx (x5), Margaret Dumont (x5), Louis Calhern (x2), Raquel Torres, Edgar Kennedy (x3)

There have only been a handful of movies I’ve ever serious proclaimed were my favorite of all-time, at any given point in my life. Sure, for purely comic purposes, I will often lean over to the wife in a movie theater and declare that whatever nonsense we’re watching is my favorite movie ever, usually after Captain America punches someone through a building, but the actual list is much smaller. Prior to ’89, I don’t recall informing of my parents over the morning’s Cheerios that, like, I Am Curious Yellow was now my favorite film – I just wasn’t ranking stuff back then, too busy mastering all the walking and talking that life requires. But, summer ’89, Batman got to the top of the list first, followed without break (I think) by Hook in ’91, Batman Returns in ’92, and then came the cinematic awakening when I put away childish things (shoutout, First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians!) and Unforgiven scaled the film mountain. Given this rapid adjustment of preferences, you’d think that the title would’ve changed hands many times in the subsequent years, but basically since then, only one of two movies has been #1 in my personal catalog. Tomorrow’s film most often has been named my favorite, but in any given month, Duck Soup could supplant it, so interchangeable is my love for these movies. Continue reading

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The Set of 400: #32 – My Favorite Dog Painting (Classical)

Today! Because if you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce, they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does –

Animal Crackers (1930)

Directed by Victor Heerman

Starring Groucho Marx (x7), Chico Marx (x7), Harpo Marx (x7), Zeppo Marx (x4), Margaret Dumont (x4), Lillian Roth, Louis Sorin, Hal Thompson, Margaret Irving, Robert Greig (x2), Edward Metcalfe

As mentioned previously, my roundabout path to discovering the Marx Brothers began with Go West, a lesser flick that nonetheless managed to find a place on this list. But I believe Animal Crackers is probably the gateway Marx effort for most people, after a certain age. It has the most famous songs from all their films – the later You Bet Your Life theme “Hooray For Captain Spaulding” as well as “Hello, I Must Be Going” – and is the role Groucho would forever be identified with, even if there aren’t a ton of shades between any of the brothers’ characters in their movies. It was the last of their stage efforts to be translated to the screen, while also working out a few of the technical kinks of their first film, The Cocoanuts, from the year before.

Animal Crackers had various rights issues for a number of years – due to the song copyrights reverting to the authors after a period of time, mistakenly not renewed by the studio – and so it remained out of circulation for decades, until the massive Marx revival of the 1970’s. Thus, I’d guess, if you’re a fan and over 60, you may not have seen this one for a while – but come on, you’ve had plenty of time to catch up to its greatness. Continue reading

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The Set of 400: #43 – My Favorite Party of the First Part

Today! Because you should have come to the first party. We didn’t get home until around four in the morning. I was blind for three days –

A Night at the Opera (1935)

Directed by Sam Wood (x2)

Starring Groucho Marx (x6), Chico Marx (x6), Harpo Marx (x6), Margaret Dumont (x3), Kitty Carlisle, Allan Jones (x2), Sig Ruman (x5), Walter Woolf King (x2), Edward Keane, Robert Emmet O’Connor, Billy Gilbert (x2)

So if you want to get really technical, the Marx Brothers have three distinct periods of their film career – The terrific Four Marx Brothers years (’29 through ’33) and the mediocre Three Marx Brothers years (’38 to ’49), bookending the shortest but most successful period, the two film set of great Three Marx Brothers pictures under Irving Thalberg, A Night at the Opera and A Day at the Races. They are no longer the zany, joke-heavy antics of the early films, plus the romantic lead duties have fallen to non-relative Allan Jones, in lieu of Zeppo. There are more songs, slightly more runtime, bigger budgets thus larger set pieces, and far bigger box office receipts at Thalberg’s MGM than their Paramount films before or RKO/UA/non-Thalberg MGM ones later.

A Night in Casablanca was a disappointment on all fronts

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The Set of 400: #173 – My Favorite Breeder’s Guide

Today! Because I really am a horse doctor, but marry me, and I’ll never look at another horse –

A Day at the Races (1937)

Directed by Sam Wood

Starring Groucho Marx (x3), Harpo Marx (x3), Chico Marx (x3), Allan Jones, Maureen O’Sullivan (x2), Margaret Dumont (x2), Sig Ruman (x3), Esther Muir, Douglass Dumbrille, Dorothy Dandridge, Leonard Ceeley

The last really good Marx Brothers movie (and even that is up for some debate), A Day at the Races functions as a solid last gasp for the team, even though they couldn’t have known it when production began. Like on A Night at the Opera two years earlier, they had the benefit of road testing some of the material, to get the jokes down solid and the timing together to hold for laughs. They had the enthusiasm and support of MGM boss Irving Thalberg, who threw them the money and resources to make this work, and got the film launched before cameras in the fall of ’36.

For two years, they were quite the team

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