Tag Archives: Zeppo Marx

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: #55 – My Favorite Horse-Drawn Garbage Chariot

Today! Because I thought my razor was dull until I heard his speech. And that reminds me of a story that’s so dirty I’m ashamed to think of it myself –

Horse Feathers (1932)

Directed by Norman Z. McLeod (x2)

Starring Groucho Marx (x5), Chico Marx (x5), Harpo Marx (x5), Zeppo Marx (x3), Thelma Todd (x2), David Landau, Robert Greig, Nat Pendleton (x2), James Pierce, Florine McKinney

Admit it – you’ve missed the brothers Marx on this list! Nearly a hundred films have sailed by with nary a reference to the quiet one’s virtuoso harp skills or a discussion about how increasingly bitter the youngest must’ve gotten at his lack of jokes. Well don’t worry – even though we’re rapidly approaching the end, there are still a bunch of madcap Marx vehicles to come.

If differentiating between their early films is tough for you (which it shouldn’t be, come on), Horse Feathers is the one at the college. Groucho’s Professor Quincy Wagstaff is the newly appointed president of Huxley College, currently attended by his son, portrayed by his eleven years younger brother Zeppo. Chico and Harpo play their typical seedy types, brought in to steal football signals for a rival school, but obviously are out for themselves first and foremost, and so ending up switching sides, amidst much frivolity and spit balling.

No, literal spit balling

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The Set of 400: #149 – My Favorite Kippered Herring

Today! Because I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty –

Monkey Business (1931)

Directed by Norman Z. McLeod

Starring Groucho Marx (x4), Harpo Marx (x4), Chico Marx (x4), Zeppo Marx (x2), Thelma Todd, Rockliffe Fellowes, Harry Woods, Ruth Hall, Tom Kennedy

The Marx Brothers third feature film, and the first not based on one of their Broadway shows, Monkey Business attempts to expand their very stagey banter into a real motion picture, with largely good results. There are clearly some growing pains in this move – while the scope of the movie broadens out a bit, the team’s bread and butter remains the same, with extended comic dialogues and paired off routines between Groucho & Chico, Chico & Harpo, and Groucho & Zeppo. It would be another year before they truly figured out how to break the routine for good, in Horse Feathers.

Classic shtick!

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The Set of 400: #261 – My Favorite Viaduct

Today! Because I’ve got a waiting list of fifty people at that cemetery just dying to get in. But I like you and I’m gonna shove you in ahead of all of them –

The Cocoanuts (1929)

Directed by Robert Florey and Joseph Santley

Starring Groucho Marx, Chico Marx, Harpo Marx, Zeppo Marx, Margaret Dumont, Oscar Shaw, Mary Eaton, Cyril Ring, Kay Francis

The second oldest movie on this list, The Cocoanuts comes off as the worst, physically, due to the limitations of 1929 filmmaking. The advent of sound two years before afforded the Marx Brothers the chance to jump into motion pictures – too much of their comedy is wordplay to have functioned well in silents (And yet, their early lost silent short Humor Risk continues to fascinate with possibilities – if you’re harboring a copy, speak up!). However, the microphones in ’29 weren’t the greatest, so the movie does have an overall rickety feel that can be a bit distracting. Sopping wet papers are visible throughout the film, to dampen the crinkling being picked up by their super sensitive equipment, but that doesn’t help the other violent static and unintentional footstepping picked up. Also, technically, there is no known complete version of the film – what exists is a somewhat cobbled together assemblage of footage that runs fully seven minutes shorter than the purported original release.

There is still plenty of classic Marx Brothering going on

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