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Captain Spaulding, the noted explorer, returns from Africa and attends a gala party held by Mrs. Rittenhouse. A painting displayed at that party is stolen, and the Marxes help recover it. Well, maybe 'help' isn't quite the word I was looking for--this is the Marx Brothers, after all... Written by
Ken Yousten <email@example.com>
Animal Crackers was the second of two Broadway shows that starred the Marx Brothers and was done at the Paramount Astoria Studios. After they went to Hollywood, with the exception of Room Service, all their material was original for the screen.
The Brothers were doing Animal Crackers on Broadway in 1928-1929 and it had a respectable run of 191 performances. In fact while they were doing Animal Crackers on stage, for a part of 1929 they were shooting The Cocoanuts at the Astoria Studios. Unlike The Cocoanuts, nearly the entire Broadway cast was used in the film, with the exception of the juveniles, Lillian Roth and Hal Thompson. Also unlike The Cocoanuts nearly the entire Bert Kalmar-Harry Ruby score was discarded with the notable exception of Groucho's immortal theme Hooray for Captain Spalding. Kalmar and Ruby did write the ballad that Roth and Thompson sing, Why Am I So Romantic for the screen version.
Margaret Dumont as Mrs. Rittenhouse of the Long Island horsey set is throwing a party and the guest of honor is Groucho with his secretary Zeppo as Captain Spalding. Crashing the party is Chico and Harpo.
But not only is Captain Spalding on display, Dumont is giving an unveiling of a famous painting for which two people have brought copies for different purposes. Of course the original does get stolen and there's no use me going on any further because the plot just dissolves with the various monkeyshines engaged in by the Marx Brothers.
My favorite bits are Groucho when he does a devastating lampoon on Eugene O'Neill's Strange Interlude. It turned out to be too good a satire because when the play made it to the screen two years later, no one took it seriously.
Secondly is Chico and Harpo, mercilessly threatening to expose hoity toity art critic Louis Sorin who they knew back in the day as Abie the Fishman. Actually that's kind of sad in a way because Sorin may be a snob now, but he did in fact educate himself out of peddling fish and rose in an honorable to a legitimate living. But you don't think about that while Chico and Harpo are doing their thing.
Although like The Cocoanuts it's a photographed stage play, Animal Crackers works a whole lot better. The play itself was primarily on one set on the stage and it transitions better to the screen than The Cocoanuts did.
The brothers are at their most anarchistic and zany here, try not to miss it.
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