After years of kicking around vaudeville, the scheming Chico managed to get the Marx Brothers one shot at Broadway--a plotless revue titled I'll Say She Is!. It paid off. After that, the Marxes were the toast of Broadway. There followed two more Broadway hits penned by legendary playwright George S. Kaufman and his partner Morrie Ryskind: The Cocoanuts and Animal Crackers.
Just when talkies were hitting it big and Hollywood started signing up anyone with stage talent, Paramount Pictures (which then had a studio in Astoria, NY.) paid the Marxes to do movie versions of their stage shows. At one point, they were filming The Cocoanuts during the day and performing Animal Crackers live at night.
Clearly, the more watchable of the two adaptations is Animal Crackers, but both of them look like what they are: filmed stage shows. When the Marx Brothers moved out to Hollywood, the staid pace of their first two movies burned up like so much film nitrate. Monkey Business, Horse Feathers, and especially Duck Soup remain among the Marx Brothers' most "pure" comedies, with little or no romantic distractions or padding in the scripts, and these movies are where their comedic personas solidified and got built upon.
After the indifferent box-office and studio response to Duck Soup, Paramount and the Marxes parted ways, as did Zeppo, who left his ever-diminishing role in the movies and became an agent. There are still plenty of funny moments after these partings, but one also can't help feeling that after 1933, a little bit of the Marxes' fire went out.
Click below to go to our site's review of:
The Cocoanuts (1929)
Animal Crackers (1930)
Monkey Business (1931)
Horse Feathers (1932)
Duck Soup (1933)
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