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>
Fresh off the success of their previous film, The Cocoanuts (1929), their first, The Marx Brothers had gained the reputation for being a profitable and crowd-pleasing act, but they had also earned the reputation of being a rambunctious and unrestrained troupe during filming. Their nonconformist lifestyle attracted audiences, but proved to be a bit of a headache for Paramount Studios. While filming their first picture, the brothers had showed up late, slept in their dressing rooms, would walk out on filming to play a round of golf, or would call it a day after lunch. Paramount hired director Victor Heerman for this film due to his reputation for being a disciplinarian. The studio hoped that Heerman could extract the comedic magic from the Marx Brothers while also enforcing more professional work habits. See more »
In the scene where Harpo replaces the handgun for a rifle after he shoots himself in the foot, Hives can be seen in the background walking behind the column, clearly waiting to enter later in the scene. See more »
I haven't been on the case five minutes and there's another painting gone. I bet its not even five minutes. I bet its not over three.
[Searches his pants]
Now they've got my watch! This is going too far. It wasn't going and now its gone.
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Judging by the script, you'd never believe that "Animal Crackers" is over seventy years old. Think of all the "postmodern" things that happen in this movie: Groucho directly addresses the audience to apologize for a bad joke; Harpo shoots a gun at a statue, only to see the statue come to life and return fire; and Margaret Dumont freezes in time while Groucho has a "strange interlude" and rambles to the audience about the perils of marriage and living with your folks! Of course, the absolutely ancient and decaying print will remind you that "Animal Crackers" is older than the hills, but otherwise, it's much fresher and weirder than the stuff that passes for comedy today.
Like "The Cocoanuts," this movie is based on a play, and as such it is considerably longer and stagier than most of the later Marx movies. The pace does drag a bit towards the end, especially since the plot disappears (along with Zeppo) for long segments at a time. But many of the individual segments are classic, including the often (and rightly) praised bridge game and Harpo's gag with the cutlery-filled sleeves. Even the music segments hold up well, particularly Chico's piano routine that gets savaged by Groucho.
Interestingly, there is a prominent romantic subplot to this film, which puts paid to the fallacy that Marx Brothers movies didn't have romances until MGM got its hands on them. However, the romance isn't nearly as intrusive or annoying here as in their later vehicles, so there's still plenty of reason to be annoyed with good old MGM...
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