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The Marx Brothers try and put on a play before their landlord finds out that they have run out of money. To confuse the landlord they pretend that the play's author has contracted some terrible disease and can't be moved. Originally a stage play, the setting shows it's origins, but this is vintage Marx Brothers. Written by
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"The Best Performance You'll Ever See In A Hotel Room"
As was pointed out by another reviewer, the Marx Brothers were languishing at the MGM studio under Louis B. Mayer because they had been brought there by his rival, Irving Thalberg. There last film had been A Day At the Races and they were idle for over a year when RKO requested their services for Room Service. Which L.B. Mayer gave them I'm sure for a good price.
Room Service is a fast moving slapstick farce which the Marx Brothers adapted easily to. There's even a Zeppo part which in this case is filled by Frank Albertson as the naive kid from Oswego who wrote the play that Groucho is trying by hook or crook to get produced. Emphasis on the latter.
Room Service ran for 500 performances on Broadway in the 1937-1938 season and the great George Abbott directed it. Here he was the supervising producer and I'm sure credited director William Seiter served under some real strict supervision. Frank Albertson's role was played by Eddie Albert and the three Marx Brothers parts were played by Sam Levene, Phillip Loeb, and Teddy Hart. Loeb who had Chico's role in the Broadway show played the bill collector trying to get $42.00 on Albertson's typewriter. Well money stretched a lot farther in 1938.
Repeating their Broadway roles were Alexander Asro as the waiter with ambitions to be an actor and Cliff Dunstan as Gribble the hotel manager who is Groucho's brother-in-law. And of course Donald MacBride who had the slowest burn in film next to Edgar Kennedy and could get exasperated faster than anyone else on screen is Dunstan's boss. MacBride usually gets as many laughs as stars do in their films and Room Service is no exception. JUMPING BUTTERBALLS.
The key to the whole plot is the fact that a big backer of Groucho's show pulled out and stopped payment on a $15,000.00 check. But the bank is in California and it took five days for the stop payment to go through. That was interesting to me because in the film Catch Me If You Can, forger/confidence man Frank Abegnale played by Leonardo DiCaprio used that exact same gimmick in the sixties to get a whole lot of money by memorizing codes for routing on checks. Was Abegnale inspired by Room Service?
Favorite scene, the Marx Brothers and Albertson chasing a turkey through their room that Harpo finagled. Favorite line belongs to Frank Albertson which is ironic with Groucho Marx in the same film. When they decide to fake the fact that Albertson is dying, Albertson says that, "I'll give the best performance you'll ever see in a hotel room."
How did that one get by Mr. Breen?
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