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>
The decision to cast Lillian Roth in this film was in essence a mild rebuke or punishment for the young star. Roth had proven difficult to work with while filming Cecil B. DeMille's Madam Satan (1930), and Paramount head B.P. Schulberg decided to put Roth in this film. Schulberg told Roth "We're sending you back to New York to be kicked in the rear by the Marx Brothers until you learn to behave." The brothers' antics had the intended effect on Roth, who recalled that her experiences working on the film were "one step removed from the circus." See more »
When Professor 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 awaiting his turn to enter the scene. See more »
Censored for a 1936 reissue to meet Production Code requirements; this censored version was the only one available for television showings and subsequent VHS/DVD releases. A surviving complete and uncensored print was found in England, and is the source being used for the 2016 blu-ray release. See more »
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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