Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Overlooked Films: The Cocoanuts (1929)
It had been WAY too long since I’d seen a Marx Brothers movie, so when I spotted a box set of their first six talkies at the library, I snatched it up.
The Cocoanuts (1929), was almost their first film. That honor went to a 1921 silent flick called Humor Risk, which is now believed lost (and may have been purposely destroyed). So The Cocoanuts is as close as we can get to the early, undiluted madness of the Marx boys.
It ain’t their best movie, not by a long shot, but it’s a great appetizer for the better and crazier films to come.
On the downside, there are several insipid songs by the insipid romantic leads (including one called, I kid you not, “Monkey-doodle-do”) and way too many Marx-free dance numbers. But tucked between the dreck, the Marx Brothers do their stuff and do it well.
My favorite scenes are the ones where Harpo eats everything in sight (including a telephone) and picks not only pockets, but steals the false teeth out of Groucho’s mouth and the underwear out of his pants. AND the first of many love/insult scenes between Groucho and the long-suffering Margaret Dumont. A couple of samples that had me laughing out loud . . .
GROUCHO: I'll meet you tonight under the moon. Oh, I can see you now---you and the moon. You wear a neck-tie so I'll know you.
And . . .
GROUCHO: Did anyone ever tell you that you look like the Prince of Wales? I don't mean the present Prince of Wales; one of the old whales, and believe me when I say whales, I mean whales. I know a whale when I see one
The Brothers had been performing this show for a year and half before it became a hit on Broadway, and had refined their gags to perfection by the time it was filmed. Still, rumor has it when they saw the final cut of the movie, they were so disappointed they tried to buy up all copies and stop the release. I’m damn glad they didn’t. Next up is Animal Crackers.
More (and mostly less wacky) Overlooked Films at Sweet Freedom.