DISCLAIMER: I take no credit whatsoever for the synopsis below. It was mostly derived from Glenn Mitchell's The Marx Brothers Encyclopedia and is included here solely to make my Marx Brothers filmography complete. Click here for a far more comprehensive study of this missing movie.-- Webmaster Steve Bailey
SB: Supposedly, there was a Marx Brothers movie before The Cocoanuts, but the Marx Brothers didn't really want you to know that.
Humorisk (also known as Humor Risk or Humoresque) was a silent movie made by the Marxes themselves, with no studio funding. Its date of origin varies from 1920 or '21 to 1926, depending on which account you read.
The movie was financed by the Marxes, Jo Swerling (later known for co-writing Guys and Dolls), Max Lippman and Al Posen. Locations included Fort Lee, NJ., and an abandoned warehouse in New York. The director was one Dick Smith. Groucho said the movie's leading lady was Mildred Harris, who married Harold Lloyd in 1923 after playing the same role in Lloyd's movies.
The Marxes abandoned their stage personas to do a parody of movie melodramas. Harpo played Watson, a romantic lead wearing a high hat, using a coal chute leading to a basement to make his entrance. Groucho was evidently some kind of Snidely Whiplash villain, making his exit at movie's end while tied to a ball and chain.
It is said that the movie was screened only once, during a Saturday matinee in the Bronx, and the kiddie audience's negative reaction to Humorisk insured that this viewing would be the last; it has been gone ever since. Marx biographer Kyle Crichton claimed in 1951 that one copy was left, but nobody except the Marxes has ever admitted to seeing the movie. It is likely to remain one of the Great Lost Films only as long as it stays lost.
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