|Page 1 of 7:||      |
|Index||70 reviews in total|
Zeppo Marx is frequently considered with a trace of a sneer: the fourth
brother who was not worthy of membership in one of filmdom's two best
comedy teams. He was the fourth brother of Groucho, Chico, & Harpo Marx
(and is only slightly better remembered than fifth brother Gummo, who
never appeared in any of their films). He looked the best of the
brothers (he was the youngest) so he could play the romantic lead if
nobody else had the role (like Oscar Shaw did in COCONUTS). However
although his appearance was better than the other three brothers, he
was not a really handsome man like Robert Taylor or Tyrone Power. Also
he had a serious problem with his sense of humor - he had one but it
was remarkably similar to Groucho's. In fact, during the Broadway run
of COCONUTS, Groucho was ordered by a doctor to take a long, overdue
rest. He took off for two weeks, and was replaced by understudy Zeppo.
At the end of two weeks he talked to the producers, and they willingly
allowed him to take an additional week off. In fact, when that was
finished they said he could take more time off if needed. They were not
in a rush to get him back. Suspicious, Groucho went unannounced to the
theater one night, and watched Zeppo being so good the audience was
laughing hysterically at his delivery and acting. In a single day
Groucho returned to the show. Groucho never made that mistake again.
It would have been impossible for Zeppo to have played a smaller version of Groucho on screen. There would have been an imbalance with two Grouchos in the films. So Zeppo was usually put into the films as Groucho's assistant, or secretary, or even his son (in HORSE FEATHERS). His part in COCONUTS, as the film exists today, is not very impressive (there is one scene where he and Groucho try to greet Chico and Harpo as new customers at the hotel, and keep missing their hands). In ANIMAL CRACKERS he is Jamison, the secretary to "Captain Spaulding", and has an amusing sequence regarding the immortal firm of "Hungerdunger, Hungerdunger, Hungerdunger, Hungerdunger, & McCormick". In HORSE FEATHERS he did take part in the mad football game at the end of the film. In DUCK SOUP, as assistant to Rufus T. Firefly, he had more sequences that were funny, such as when he gets slapped for telling a story to Groucho that Groucho had previously told to him. He also takes part in the "Fredonia's Going to War" number, and in the battle section at the end. But only the Hungerdunger scene in ANIMAL CRACKERS (shared by Groucho), and this film, MONKEY BUSINESS, gives one an idea of Zeppo as an effective comic.
Here, unlike the other four appearances, he is not connected in the past with Groucho. He is paired with him, when he and Groucho are hired by Alky Briggs to be his torpedoes. However, he is frequently chased on the boat, and finds time to romance the film's heroine, in one particularly good moment telling her of his eternal devotion to her just before fleeing from her side to avoid being captured by members of the ship's crew. He also is able to romance her at her coming out society party, and rescues her from Briggs' gang. Here he finally does something normal to assist the film. He is a passably pleasant leading man, but nothing spectacular.
MONKEY BUSINESS was also surreal in it's humor, best in the puppet show sequence and also the attempt of the four brothers to get off the boat pretending to be Chevalier. It is a very funny movie - maybe not the best of all their films (DUCK SOUP or A NIGHT AT THE OPERA are that), but close to the best.
As for Zeppo, he remained part of the act and the films for two more years, and then quit both to become a successful film agent. He would always be in Groucho's shadow as a comic, and even in death (soon after Groucho's death in 1977) passed on with hardly any impact on the public. Had he branched out on his own (if anyone had shown interest in such a move) he might have had a chance to show his talents, but it is problematical.
MONKEY BUSINESS (Paramount, 1931), directed by Norman McLeod, and
written by S.J. Perelman, presents those four zany Marx Brothers in
their third feature comedy. Following their previous efforts in THE
COCOANUTS (1929) and ANIMAL CRACKERS (1930), each based on their 1920s
stage works filmed at Paramount's Astoria studios in Long Island, NY,
MONKEY BUSINESS, produced in Hollywood, was the team's first original
comedy and one of their most funnier outings. While no relation to the
20th Century- Fox 1952 comedy starring Cary Grant and Ginger Rogers,
except in title only, and having nothing to do with monkeys, this
presentation does get right down to business when comedy is concerned.
Here Groucho, Harpo, Chico and Zeppo play four stowaways aboard ship bound for the states who, after being discovered hiding in barrels singing "Sweet Adeline," they are pursued by First Officer Gibson (Tom Kennedy) and his crew, which has the foursome running all over the ship, eluding authorities and driving practically everybody out of their minds. Eventually the four stowaways separate, with Chico and Harpo posing as barbers; Groucho acting as the captain, invading the sanctity of the captain's quarters where he and Chico makes themselves at home by eating his meals; Harpo later chasing the young ladies as well as entertaining little children at a puppet show while at the same time making a fool out of Gibson. Harpo even finds time making friends with a frog, but keeps it under his hat. As for Zeppo, in between chases, he finds time escorting a young lady named Mary (Ruth Hall) around the deck. Afterwards, they all encounter rival gangsters, Groucho encounters Alkie Briggs (Harry Woods), after being found with his wife, Lucille (Thelma Todd) in her state room. Briggs, however, takes a liking to Groucho and offers him a job, along with Zeppo, as his personal bodyguards. Chico and Harpo encounter Briggs' rival, Joe Helton (Rockcliffe Fellows), Mary's father and Zeppo's love interest, each becoming Helton's bodyguards as well. After docking in New York, the Marx Brothers find they must get past custom officials to get off. After obtaining the passport belonging to the popular French entertainer, Maurice Chevalier (who does not appear), they pass themselves off as Chevalier, singing one of his current hit songs, "You Brought a New Kind of Love to Me," but to no avail. How the silent Harpo gets by with this must be seen to be believed. While the final 25 minutes shifts over to a swank party given by Kelton to introduce his daughter, Mary, to high society, the Marxes join in the function with dysfunctional tendencies as Groucho insults the guests, Chico and Harpo entertain with their traditional piano and harp interludes, while Briggs and his gang sneak in, posing as musicians, to carry out their plot of kidnapping Kelton's daughter, Mary, by holding her hostage inside a barn.
Virtually plot less in a sense, MONKEY BUSINESSS plays like an extended comedy short that would have worked equally well had it starred the Three Stooges. MONKEY BUSINESS is pure Marx Brothers nonsense that appears to be every bit as funny today as it possibly was way back in 1931. Anything goes with this film, including many memorable shipboard moments including Groucho's comedic dance with Thelma Todd; Groucho doing his bit by posing as a reporter interviewing and insulting the cultured Madame Pucchi (Cecil Cunningham, in a manner somewhat similar to Margaret Dumont, Groucho's frequent foil and straight-woman). GROUCHO: "Is it true you're getting a divorce as soon as your husband recovers his eyesight? Is it true you wash your hair in clam broth? Is is true you used to dance in a flea circus?" MADAME PUCCHI: "This is outrageous! I don't like this innuendo." GROUCHO: "That's what I always say. Love flies out the door when money comes innuendo."; the Chico and Groucho exchange regarding Christopher Columbus: GROUCHO: "Columbus sailed from Spain to India looking for a short cut," CHICO: "Oh, you mean a strawberry short cut?;" Harpo coming out from a barrel of hay in the barn and seen kissing a calf, and much more.
As with most of the Marx Brothers films produced by Paramount, MONKEY BUSINESS is pure comedy at best. Had this been done over at MGM, where the Marx Brothers would be employed (1935 to 1941), MONKEY BUSINESS most definitely be toned down some in comedy antics with extended romantic subplots and straight-forward and lengthy musical numbers. MONKEY BUSINESS has none of that. Unlike most Marx Brothers comedies, their characters in MONKEY BUSINESS have no background, no professions and no spoken character names (the closing cast credits them with their first names only). They are just unusual stowaways trying to keep themselves from being caught and taken to the brig. However, in this case, MONKEY BUSINESS has its full quota of belly-laughs. Nothing really drags and nothing provided is unnecessary. And whatever scenes may not be of importance or interest to the viewers, it passes by very quickly.
MONKEY BUSINESS, hailed as one of the top 100 comedies by the American Film Institute, has become a perennial favorite to many Marx Brothers enthusiasts. After many years being presented on commercial television on the afternoon or evening to after midnight hours, it became available on video cassette through MCA Home Video in the 1980s, and to cable television on several channels, from the Comedy Channel shortly prior to 1990, then to American Movie Classics (1991-1992), and, a decade later, on Turner Classic Movies (TCM premiere: December 17, 2001). Regardless of its age, MONKEY BUSINESS, for all its silliness, continues to bring laughter to a new generation of movie lovers whenever shown, thanks to those funny men billed as The Marx Brothers. Because of them, no ocean voyage would ever be the same again, which is why no self respecting ship should ever set sail without them either. Bon Voyage. (***)
How does one review a plotless movie? In "Monkey Business," the Marx
Brothers spend the first hour running around on a ship, then they crash a
fancy party, then they fist-fight gangsters in a barn. Is there connecting
material? Well, yeah - of the thinnest sort imaginable. Does the lack of a
coherent plot hurt the film? Not really. Bottom line: it's hilarious.
Groucho in particular steals the show with his weird combination
It's worth noting that, while I laughed a lot at "A Night at the Opera," I laughed even more at this movie. In fact, I was in exquisite pain by the end. Of course, "Opera" actually makes some sense, so it might still be the better movie.
Definitely the best Marx Brothers film that doesn't feature Margaret Dumont, and the strongest showcase for the brothers' talents as physical comedians.
In all my years of criticing films, I have never found a team of comedians
more funny, more satirical, or more flexible as the four original Marx
Brothers. Their comedy and their formula works in ways that no other comedy
team has ever worked, and results like this, their third and, IMHO,
film, prove what film historians already know: Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and
Zeppo are some of the most influential Hollywood legends to ever
"Monkey Business" works because all of the brothers are given the same amount of screentime, and each of their characters were very important to the plot. In movies before and after this picture, more emphasis would be spent on different brothers in each film (i.e. Groucho in "Animal Crackers," Harpo in "Love Happy"), and the other bros would have little to do but stand their with their mouths open. Not so in this. They are all main characters here, and each of them are allowed to stick to their own unique formulas that they are best at: Groucho with his wisecracks, Chico with his conning, Harpo with his silent antics, and Zeppo the straight man with his women-swooning.
As far as plotline goes, the four brothers play themselves, stowing away on an ocean-liner and constantly avoiding the captain and his crew by any means neseccary (and I do mean by any means!). The story itself is a very serious one, and it could have passed for a pretty good, if by-the-numbers gangster movie: There are two dueling mob bosses on this boat, one of which is trying to come clean after making his fortune. He has a beautiful young college daughter, and he is trying to get his life straightened out. The other mob boss has a failing marriage with a beautiful young wife (Thelma Todd), and he by no means is trying to reform. He wants his part of the other boss's money, or else he plans on kidnapping the daughter and holding her for ransom.
So what we have here is a pretty standard, serious plotline....The writers were very smart in choosing to make it one, so that it would eventually become all-the-more funny. Suddenly, into this serious movie, the Marx Brothers are dumped into the scene, and everything becomes chaotic. Groucho falls for the bad guy's wife. Zeppo falls for the good guy's daughter. Harpo falls for any girl in a dress. Chico falls for a cow. Chico and Harpo are hired to protect the goodguy. Groucho and Zeppo are hired to kill him. In the meantime, they are still on the run and are constantly trying to foil the plans of the Captain, who wants to put them in irons. The results of their slapstick are all the better now, because they are surrounded by a bunch of straight men who are acting in a very serious film...and it is their job to make it funny.
There is no greater film that better demonstrates just how genius the Marx Brothers' brand of comedy truely is. Groucho's constant insults and depression puns, Harpo's....whatever you call what Harpo does.... Chico's conning and comebacks, and Zeppo's romantic Renniasance man ("Mary, I'll never leave you," he promises his love before deserting her as he runs away in terror at the sight of the approaching the Captain) all make this the greatest of comedies. It also features probably their greatest screen moment: All four must do a Chevalier impression to get off the boat, and the results are....well....interesting.
Don't miss this movie if you want your sides to split in half!
"Would you mind getting off that flypaper and giving the flies a chance?"
**** out of ****
It starts off fantastically, with the four brothers playing stowaways on a ship who are hiding in barrels and singing "Sweet Adeleide". Harpo is fantastic as he goofs in his own unique silent way, and there is a hilarious scene involving him and a Punch And Judy show. Chico is as usual on top form as the Italian who has sent for his grandfather's beard by "hair mail". And Groucho gives his classic wisecracks. Zeppo has more to do in this film than he did in other films and he isn't too bad considering that he didn't want to be in the films but had to due to his contract. Two historically funny Marx Brothers scenes in this film are one where they each in turn pretend to be Maurice Chevalier, and one where Chico and Harpo are cutting a man's mustache ("That sides-a-too short"). You must see this film; it's the Marx Brothers at their best. 10/10
Monkey Business contains three or four of the Marx Brothers' best sketches. Possibly the funniest Marx Brothers scene, too, where all four of the brothers take turns impersonating Maurice Chevalier, whose passport they've stolen. If you're a Zeppo fan - and, hey, who isn't - this is his biggest part (although I haven't seen Horse Feathers yet). He ends up being the leading man, if you can believe that! Well, he's still not very funny, even if he did elicit two laughs from me. That's two more than he'd ever gotten before! 9/10.
Much better than the first two Marx Brothers efforts. This is the first Marx Bros. movie written directly for the screen rather than adapted from one of their Vaudeville shows. The result is a faster pace, a bigger production and a wider variety of scenes. This was exactly what the brothers needed to become more effective on screen. The supporting cast is trimmed down, with Zeppo filling the romantic lead, thus combining two non-funny characters into one. This gives more screen time to Groucho, Harpo and Chico, who are on top of their game here. The comic bits don't drag on too long, and the musical numbers don't kill the momentum; both improvements from their earlier films. The storyline and the rest of the cast are just as bad as always, but what do you expect? The point is that the movie is hilarious and entertaining from beginning to end. Monkey Business is where the Marx Brothers really began to hit their stride.
Nothing fancy, but plenty of anarchic fun, "Monkey Business" won't disappoint anyone who likes the Marx Brothers. While a little less riotous than their very best movies, it features a couple of extremely funny sequences, with the favorite probably being the 'Maurice Chevalier' scene. (As you watch that scene unfold, you start wondering how Harpo is going to play it, and it's quite clever when you find out.) Harpo has another fine scene when he gets tangled up in a puppet show. Zeppo gets a little more action than usual, and the others have some great moments, too. This one certainly should not be missed by any fan of Groucho and company.
Here's more typical Marx Brothes zaniness....and plenty of it, with a
few instrumentals thrown in (Chico on piano nd Harpo on harp) near the
Most of this "story" is just madcap chases with the four boys (yes, Zeppo is in here, too) being stowaways aboard a ship.
The last part of the film shows a swanky party where Zeppo's girlfriend is kidnapped and the bothers go to rescue at an abandoned barn. That's a very funny scene and better than the boat segment, although a bit short. I'd like to have seen more of that latter scene.
However, those earlier boat scenes are good, too, with a lot of clever puns which I thoroughly enjoyed. It was still a lot of solid entertainment in the Marx Brothers tradition. To my surprise, I found myself missing Margaret Dumont as Groucho's main foil. Thelma Todd takes over that part here.
The Marx brothers are on an intercontinental voyage in this film which offers more than one hilarious moment. My favorite scene involved the four brothers doing their impressions of Maurice Chevalier at customs -- one after the other!
|Page 1 of 7:||      |
|External reviews||Parents Guide||Plot keywords|
|Main details||Your user reviews||Your vote history|