The Phelps Department Store is about to be sold by its new part owner, Tommy Rogers with the permission of Martha Phelps, the dowager co-owner. The current manager doesn't want this as the irregularities in the books will show up. When an attempt is made on Tommy's life, Martha enlists the worst private eye in the world to protect him, Wolf J. Flywheel. Written by
John Vogel <email@example.com>
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was watching a private screening of this film when he received news that Nazi second-in-command Rudolf Hess had flown to Britain on an unauthorized mission to end the conflict between Britain and Germany during World War II. Churchill decided that the news was so unimportant he ignored it, went back into his screening room and watched the rest of the movie (in "An Evening with Groucho' , Groucho Marx' tells this anecdote but the movie he refers to is Monkey Business (1931)). See more »
When Martha Phelps comes to see Flywheel, he's pretending to talk on the telephone. When he hangs up, he puts the receiver upside-down in the cradle, but in the next shot it's in the normal position. See more »
After Zeppo Marx refused to move on with his brothers to MGM from Paramount, the Marxs usually secured the services of another player, usually a singer to function in Zeppo's nondescript place. Usually that person had a lot more personality than Zeppo did. It was Allan Jones in two films, Kenny Baker in one and in The Big Store it was Tony Martin.
The still very much alive, but retired Tony Martin, had one of the great voices of the last century. He never made the screen impact that other singers did, though he was in some very good films. His main media outlets were records, radio, and as one of the premier nightclub attractions, especially when he appeared with his second wife Cyd Charisse. Martin had two songs to sing in The Big Store, the much maligned Tenement Symphony and a really nice ballad, If It's You.
Martin is the heir to one half of Phelps Department store. The other half is owned by his aunt Margaret Dumont. The Hastings Brothers, who own a chain of department stores, are looking to buy this one.
Manager Douglass Dumbrille has been doing a little embezzling on the side and he's afraid that if Martin sells his half, he's taking a stretch up the river. After Martin becomes the victim of an attempted murder, Dumont hires who else, detective Wolf J. Flywheel who is of course Groucho Marx.
By a happy coincidence, Groucho has Harpo as a sidekick and Harpo's brother in the film Chico is a friend of Martin's. So now we have all the Marx Brothers working at the store.
The Big Store is usually dismissed as one of the Marx Brothers lesser films, but it's always been a favorite of mine. Another reviewer said there were too many musical numbers. I don't think there were any more or less than in other films of their's. The running time is a bit short so it might seem like there's more.
The highlight for me is always the final chase seen through the store, especially since Douglass Dumbrille joins in the fun. Dumbrille on screen usually plays some serious villains, probably his best known part is that of Mr. Cedar the lawyer who is milking the estate that Gary Cooper is inheriting in Mr. Deeds Goes to Town.
Dumbrille is just as successful dealing with the Marx Brothers over embezzlement as he is with Gary Cooper. But here this very serious and obviously classically trained actor joins right in the slapstick fun. Dumbrille looks like he's having a ball. Later on he would really cut loose in a couple of Abbott and Costello films.
A question to all movie fans. Who do you think had the most inventive screen character names, W.C. Fields or Groucho Marx?
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