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
John Vogel <firstname.lastname@example.org>
When Gordon Miller calls to reception pretending to be Dr. Glass, he is holding the phone receiver with his right hand. Seconds later, when he is about to hang up, he is holding it with his left hand. See more »
Carefully worked out scenario, clever dialog, veteran Director and excellent cast make for a great comedy; but a sub-par Marxian Romp.
The blessing of civilization is structure. "A Place for Everything and Everything in its Place"; now there's a neat old proverb for you! We don't know who originally coined that phrase, but they really knew the importance of brevity. And one thing about these classic old sampler proverbial sayings is; that like most things under the Sun, they always have exceptions.
Let's consider the cinema and its relation to the saying. Even more particularly, we'll zero in on the most anti-order film 'commodity' that we know. That would be the Marxes.
The Marx Brothers act was one of rapid fire lunacy. They need to have room to operate; that is, the material that they use must be constructed to give the appearance of Ad Lib. It also must be loose enough to allow for the occasional real Ad Lib to fit in, when it does manage to come down the pike. This is all clearly evident in their 5 Paramount Pictures features. The art was perfected with their arrival on the lot over at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Mr. Irving Thalberg's desire to make even better Marx Brothers vehicles.
The Thalberg prescription called for a road trip by the now 3 Marx Brothers in a sojourn into some live stage appearances. The object was not to make for a Las Vegas type Act in some exclusive engagement; but rather to take some proposed material and try it out before a live theatre audience. The most obvious example of this method would be the State Room Scene in A NIGHT AT THE OPERA (MGM, 1935).
Up to the point of ROOM SERVICE (RKO Radio Pictures, 1938), all of the Marx Brothers' movies had been films written just for them. Their Movies' genesis either one of two categories. Either they were filmed versions of their highly successful Broadway Farces, THE COCONUTS, ANIMAL CRACKERS or MONKEY BUSINESS (which contained much of the material from their 1923 Broadway Show, "I'll Say She Is!" The rest were all original screenplays written for the screen' They had expressed interest in doing a film using a play that was already written; so that when they had the offer to go on loan to RKO to do ROOM SERVICE, they jumped at it. ROOM SERVICE being a story of a conniving Producer, Gordon Miller (to be played by Groucho) and his conning his way into getting his Play produced. They had the time and the extra spending money would come in handy; particularly for eldest brother Chico, who gambled for a hobby.
So, with some tiny little changes (like changing the name of the Director from Binion to Binelli, so that Chico could apply his pseudo-Italian to the part.) And as for Harpo, well there was no part for him to do. He was just sort of an 'ad-on person'; though to his credit, he managed to be Harpo long enough and to be the main player in the finale's show stopping gag.
The cast was filled up with enough top talent though. Whatever the parts called for, they delivered. We had. Veteran Director William A. Seiter, who had done quite a few types of films and had done Comedies with Laurel & Hardy (SONS OF THE DESSERT, Hal Roach/MGM, 1933) and Wheeler & Wolsey (GIRL CRAZY, RKO Radio, 1932). Others in the comedy line that he had worked with were: the Ritz Brothers and Abbot & Costello. He had done just about all, and would continue working into the days of Television 1n the '50's and up to 1960.
A lot of the action is like so many of those Stage Plays, with a lot of people running around, like Turkeys with their heads cut off. ("Turkeys" instead of "Chickens" 'cause it's only 2 days to Thanksgiving as this is being written.). There would be a lot of door slamming, hollering, laughing and loss of temper.
Others filling out the cast were lovely young ladies Ann Miller & Lucielle Ball (double Woo, woo, woo, woo!!), Frank Albertson, Chris Dunstan, Donald McBride, Phillip Loeb, Phillip Wood, Alexander Asro and Charles Halton.
Well, the Brothers had done what they had wanted to try. And we may be thankful for it; for without it, we'd be forever wondering just what it would have been. Imagination being what it is, who knows just what our minds would have cooked-up?* Lively and amusing, yes; but is it a real, dyed in the wool Marx Brothers movie? Sorry Charlie, I no think so!
NOTE: * The folks at RKO went and re-made ROOM SERVICE in 1944, but this time as a musical. STEP LIVELY RKO Radio, 1944) starred Frank Sinatra, George Murphy, Gloria DeHaven, Adolph Menjou, Walter Slezak, Anne Jeffreys and Grant Mitchell. Oddly it also featured on of the Movie Comedy Teams of the day. It was Wally Brown & Alan Carney; who were known as "RKO's answer to Abbot & Costello".
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