Mr. Hammer runs a bankrupt Florida hotel. He'll try anything to make money, even make love to rich Mrs. Potter. But his main scheme, selling real estate, is in danger of sabotage from zanies Chico and Harpo, who also reduce the schemes of a pair of jewel thieves to chaos. A subplot involves the star-crossed love of Polly Potter and architect Bob Adams. Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
Contrary to popular belief, Cocoanuts was not the first Marx Brothers movie. That honor belongs to Humorisk, a silent film which no longer exists. It was greeted with such hostility that one master reel was burned, and the other deteriorated in a producer's closet. It is difficult to imagine Chico and Groucho in a silent film, and while one might envision Harpo as the ultimate silent comedian, his whistling and horn-honking formed an essential part of his act.
By 1929, however, sound was here to stay, and many silent comics suddenly found themselves out of work. In fact, the only two comedians to successfully make the transition from silent to sound were Laurel and Hardy (Chaplin didn't make his first sound movie until 1940, and was never comfortable with sound). Comedy teams like Stan and Ollie and the Marx Brothers needed dialog; even Harpo communicated with his brothers using broad gestures and the aforementioned honks and whistles.
The biggest story of 1929 (besides the stock market crash) was the Florida land boom. Mr. Hammer (Groucho) is the manager of a struggling hotel, trying to lure customers so that he can sell them Florida lots. Of course, Astoria, Long Island, where this movie was filmed, is not exactly the Sunshine State, and the opening tribute to "sunny Florida" shows us some sand poured on a sound stage to simulate a beach and a painted backdrop of palm trees and coconut. Groucho pursues the rich Mrs. Potter (Margaret Dumont), whose daughter Polly (Mary Eaton) is in love with Bob Adams (Oscar Shaw). Also interested in Polly (or rather, her mother's money) is Harvey Yates (Cyril Ring). Together with his parter Penelope (Kay Francis), they decide to steal Mrs. Potter's expensive necklace and blame it on Bob, easing the way for Yates to marry Polly.
The highlight of the film is the famous "Why a duck?" routine. It's Chico versus the English language, and guess who wins? When Groucho tells Chico that there's going to be an auction, he replies: "I come from Italy on the Atlantic Auction." When Groucho talks about levees, Chico thinks that's the Jewish neighborhood. When he asks him what a radius is, Chico responds that it's WJZ, at that time a popular New York radio station. And when it comes to the word "viaduct" he is totally lost.
Groucho: "Here's a little peninsula and here is a viaduct leading over to the mainland."
Chico: "OK, why a duck? Waya no chicken?" Having been told by Groucho to keep the bidding high during the auction, Chico, in a very funny scene, takes over the whole show, refusing to let anyone else in on the action.
As far as the music is concerned, it is difficult to imagine Irving Berlin writing such drivel as "When My Dreams Come True" and "Monkey Doodle-Do." The former is sung in a duet between Mary Eaton and Oscar Shaw (whom Groucho described as "strictly no-talent"). Indeed it's hard to determine which is worse-Shaw's acting or his singing.
There was a song written for "Cocoanuts," however, that was rejected because it made the show too long. It became one of Berlin's greatest hits. The song was "Always."
The print quality varies from good to fair. It appears that Universal spliced together scenes from several different prints to make one entire movie.
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