Tag Archives: Marx Brothers

Harpo Marx plays Rachmaninov. Vigorously.

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Filed under Einen Kleinen Nacht Musik//

Comic Layering, via Marxes and Jackasses.

ANightAtTheOpera jackass_the_movie

Comedy relies heavily on the layering principle, meaning that when you take one normal activity or object, and layer it with several more, the layers could potentially lead to a comical situation. A Marx Brothers film brought intrinsic comic layering, with at least three of the five siblings (Zeppo being optional, Gummo never appearing onscreen), the prerequisite harp solo from Harpo, a piano solo from Chico, and the studio-mandated romantic interlude between whatever pair of twenty-somethings happened to be on the MGM lot that day. (See the GB,HR. Guide to the Marxes)

Take a look at the cabin sequence from the Marx Brothers’ 1935 film A Night at the Opera. Please note that being on a boat isn’t funny, having a large trunk isn’t funny, stewards aren’t funny, ordering room service isn’t funny, having the floor mopped isn’t funny, sleeping isn’t funny, getting a manicure isn’t funny, and looking for one’s aunt isn’t funny. But, add all of these elements together, and, voila: Continue reading

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Filed under Very Close Readings//

A Few More Thoughts on Duck Soup.

Though I’ve already written about the Marx Brothers’ 1935 film Duck Soup, I was re-watching it last week, and realized that, of all the Marx Brothers films, this one might be the closest they came to celluloid perfection. Though some may point to A Night at the Opera as being the Marx Brothers’ best film – to be sure, it is insanely, hysterically funny – it never feels too far off from Vaudevillian stage traditions. (Indeed, the Marx Brothers perfected Opera by taking it on the road as a stage show. Don’t see much of that these days.)

Throughout the film, the Marx Brothers remain a force of willful chaos directed against the old guard, with Groucho delivering a barrage of one-liners, any one of which could power the USS 30 Rock from here to Timbuktu. The big musical number, “We’re going to War!” would best be described as a cross between yodeling, line-dancing, tongues-speaking, head-standing and xylophone playing, capped off with the four brothers singing the spiritual song “All God’s Children Got Wings,” the lyrics aptly changed to, “All God’s Children Got Guns.” Continue reading

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Filed under Very Close Readings//

A Guide to the Marx Brothers.

The other day, I was shocked to find out that most people don’t have a working knowledge as to the names of the Marx Brothers. Imagine!  Seeing as the next few posts here at GB, HR. will revolve around all things Marxian, I thought it might be a fine idea to put up some sort of guide to the Brothers Marx. From left to right:

  • Chico Marx as the piano-playing, heavily Italian-accented punster, so-named because he was the one who – in real life – always got the chicks;
  • Groucho Marx, the grouchy wisecracker, in his trademark greasepaint mustache and eyebrows;
  • Harpo Marx, the mischievous silent partner – except for the occasional horn, whistle, or prerequisite/eponymous Harp solo – dressed in an oversized coat-of-many-tricks,
  • Zeppo Marx (the optional brother) as the pretty boy, named Zeppo because of a childhood affinity to Zeppelin airships;
  • Margaret Dumont (pictured below, sharing a sody-pop with Groucho) as the hoity-toity Gilded Age holdover and foil to the Marxs’ antics – indeed, Groucho sometimes called her “the fifth Marx Brother.”

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Filed under A Series of Fascinating Images//