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Hooray for Animal Crackers!
director161613 November 2004
Animal Crackers is one of the best films ever done by the 4 Marx Brothers. For a start, the comedy completely works on screen, especially considering that the film was adapted from the musical stage play. And although Zeppo's comedy has always been underrated and underplayed in the five films that the 4 Marx Brothers did for Paramount Pictures, he proves in this film, as well as the four other movies he appeared with Groucho, Chico, and Harpo, that the 4 Marx Brothers made better films when the four of them worked together; as opposed to when it was just Groucho, Chico and Harpo. All the Marx Brothers films which included Zeppo were zanier films and, to me, the best of their work. Verbally, Groucho is at his razor-sharp best in Animal Crackers, with almost every one-liner dripping with comedic insults and sarcasm. Chico and Harpo perfectly add to the mayhem. The direction by Victor Heerman showed the type of skill needed to professionally control the 4 Marx Brothers to make Animal Crackers the tremendous success that it was. Though the Great Depression was taking hold on the American psyche in 1930, Animal Crackers was the perfect comedy which allowed ordinary Americans to enjoy the spoofing of America's 'Hoi Polloi'.

Though the 4 Marx Brothers' succeeding films (Monkey Business, Horse Feathers, and Duck Soup) were even more of the Hollywood film-style comedy successes which crystalized their zaniness and on-screen craziness, one should not underestimate the cinematography of George Folsey, Sr., who made the film look like a movie written especially for the screen. The look of the film (specifically the sets) makes one feel like he or she wished they had been invited to Mrs. Rittenhouse's party in honor of Captain Spaulding. Lillian Roth never looked better, and the best song in the film is her musical number with Hal Thompson, "Why Am I So Romantic?" - which was the theme music for the entire movie. Animal Crackers is one of my favorite films that the 4 Marx Brothers did for Paramount Pictures - although all five films made at Paramount are absolute gems. I strongly suggest getting the Marx Brothers' Silver Screen Collection, which is now on DVD. They are a must for your film library!
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I attended the 1974 "re-opening" of this film
cinema_universe9 April 2005
When "Animal Crackers" was re-released after decades in hiding (due to copyright problems), the ticket-buyer & ticket-holder lines at New York's Sutton Theatre stretched down 57th Street for every showing. I was dazzled when I first sat through this film-- it seemed as if there was a kind of magic in the theatre that night. I can remember having goosebumps when Lillian Roth sang "Why Am I So Romantic?".

I was working as manager of the Paris Theatre on 58th Street when "Animal Crackers" opened at the Sutton, and because both houses were part of the Cinema-5 circuit, I was always able to get passes. -- In this case, because I had also worked as 'relief manager' at The Sutton on many occasions, I was well known to the staff and had entry to that theatre whenever I wanted. --During the 'opening' run of "Animal Crackers," I often walked over to The Sutton when my day's shift was complete at The Paris.

I can tell you that every screening of "Animal Crackers" that I attended was packed. And every time I was present for the film's end, I witnessed a standing ovation-- something that many film producers can only dream of.

I often tried to imagine myself attending a 'live' performance of this show. --As many have mentioned here, "Animal Crackers" was a hit Broadway show, starring the Marx Brothers, long before it was filmed by Paramount.

Rather than complaining that this film is "stagey", many who comment here would do well to remember that a film like this is as close to a Broadway show as millions of people will ever get. The annoying penchant some viewers have for wondering why the film version of a Broadway hit show (especially a musical-comedy) isn't more "opened-up" is both tiresome and moot.

Also, the constant comparison of "Animal Crackers" to other Marx Brothers films (especially the later MGM films) is an 'apples-to-oranges' kind of thing. It would make far more sense to compare it to other early filmed-versions of it's Broadway contemporaries, such as "Rio Rita" or "Flying High" or "Girl Crazy"....

Although the stage show of "Animal Crackers" was on Broadway long before I was born, (and the film's initial premier pre-dates me by almost as long), I am forever gratified to have been able to attend the 1974 "re-opening" of the film in New York, and to see, feel, and participate in, the audiences' jubilant reactions.

I rated this film 10/10. It's a perfect comedy, with (theatre-goers will recognize this-) honest-to-goodness Broadway music-- and with Lillian Roth, too. "Animal Crackers" is a great show in every respect.

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strangely modern and modernly strange
dr_foreman22 June 2004
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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Hooray for Captain Spaulding!
Mister-612 August 2002
Is it a surprise that "Animal Crackers" takes a simple plot and turns it on its ear in a matter of minutes as a launching pad for the insanity of the Marx Brothers?

No, but it makes sense.

The characters in "Animal Crackers" celebrate the return of world traveler Captain Spaulding (Groucho) while also dealing with the theft of a rare work of art at the home of the wealthy Mrs. Rittenhouse (Dumont), where the soiree takes place. But once the good captain arrives, along with Spaulding's stenographer Jamison (Zeppo), Signore Ravelli (Chico) and the Professor (Harpo), nothing sane or expected takes place afterwards. But really, what did you expect?

Perfect foils are the likes of Dumont and art patron Mr. Chandler (Sorin), the latter of which is revealed to be Abie the Fish Peddler from Czechoslovakia by fellow Czech Chico. in fact, here's a FAVORITE LINE: Chandler - (to Chico) "Hey! How did you get to be Italian?" Chico - "Never you a-mind; who's-a confession is-a this?". What's not to love?

Anyway, there's loads of quotable dialogue, sight gags galore, a great running gag with a picture of a horse and a finale that must be seen to be believed. Of course, this whole MOVIE must be seen to be believed!

Ten stars and a pair of elephant pajamas for "Animal Crackers" - the perfect side dish for four hams.

TIDBIT - The song "Hooray for Captain Spaulding" was later re-used by Groucho for his game show "You Bet Your Life". Can't say that I blame him.
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Hello, I Must Be Going
bkoganbing3 December 2007
Animal Crackers was the second of two Broadway shows that starred the Marx Brothers and was done at the Paramount Astoria Studios. After they went to Hollywood, with the exception of Room Service, all their material was original for the screen.

The Brothers were doing Animal Crackers on Broadway in 1928-1929 and it had a respectable run of 191 performances. In fact while they were doing Animal Crackers on stage, for a part of 1929 they were shooting The Cocoanuts at the Astoria Studios. Unlike The Cocoanuts, nearly the entire Broadway cast was used in the film, with the exception of the juveniles, Lillian Roth and Hal Thompson. Also unlike The Cocoanuts nearly the entire Bert Kalmar-Harry Ruby score was discarded with the notable exception of Groucho's immortal theme Hooray for Captain Spalding. Kalmar and Ruby did write the ballad that Roth and Thompson sing, Why Am I So Romantic for the screen version.

Margaret Dumont as Mrs. Rittenhouse of the Long Island horsey set is throwing a party and the guest of honor is Groucho with his secretary Zeppo as Captain Spalding. Crashing the party is Chico and Harpo.

But not only is Captain Spalding on display, Dumont is giving an unveiling of a famous painting for which two people have brought copies for different purposes. Of course the original does get stolen and there's no use me going on any further because the plot just dissolves with the various monkeyshines engaged in by the Marx Brothers.

My favorite bits are Groucho when he does a devastating lampoon on Eugene O'Neill's Strange Interlude. It turned out to be too good a satire because when the play made it to the screen two years later, no one took it seriously.

Secondly is Chico and Harpo, mercilessly threatening to expose hoity toity art critic Louis Sorin who they knew back in the day as Abie the Fishman. Actually that's kind of sad in a way because Sorin may be a snob now, but he did in fact educate himself out of peddling fish and rose in an honorable to a legitimate living. But you don't think about that while Chico and Harpo are doing their thing.

Although like The Cocoanuts it's a photographed stage play, Animal Crackers works a whole lot better. The play itself was primarily on one set on the stage and it transitions better to the screen than The Cocoanuts did.

The brothers are at their most anarchistic and zany here, try not to miss it.
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Unrefined But Lots of Fun
Snow Leopard14 June 2001
One of the Marx Brothers' earliest films, "Animal Crackers" is not nearly as refined as some of their later comic masterpieces, but it is a lot of fun. Some of the sequences are just as good as anything in their greatest films.

As in most of their movies, the actual plot is amusing but simple, and serves mostly as an excuse to tie together the various comic bits and songs. Compared with their later movies, this one seems much more stage-bound, and there is more screen time given to the other actors, slowing things down somewhat. But when Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Zeppo get their chance, they usually deliver.

Particularly funny in this one is a hilarious bridge game that matches Harpo and Chico against two society women. Zeppo gets a few good moments, too, as the secretary to "Captain Spaulding" (Groucho). And of course Captain Spaulding's theme song is always a favorite.

Though the Marx Brothers would later make even better movies, "Animal Crackers" is great entertainment in its own right, and well worth watching.
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Hooray For Captain Spaulding, the African Explorer
theowinthrop13 February 2006
The first two surviving Marx Brothers films were based on their second and third major Broadway successes: THE COCONUTS and ANIMAL CRACKERS. As early movies they suffer from the rigidity of the early talkies. Papers used as props on the set had to be wet in order for the crackling of paper to be reduced as much as possible from being picked by the microphones. It is remarkable that the films survived to continue to bring pleasure to audiences. In the case of ANIMAL CRACKERS, for years it and the later A NIGHT IN CASABLANCA were tied up in copy-write problems that prevented them being released to the public. I did not see it until I went with my sister to see the film in 1974 in Manhattan.

This film is the one that established Groucho Marx's theme song, "Hooray For Captain Spaulding." Groucho's Jeffrey T. Spaulding has just returned from Africa, and has been invited to the Long Island estate of Mrs. Rittenhouse (Margaret Dumont). Her guests include the noted art collector and expert Roscoe W. Chandler (Louis Sorin). He's going to reveal a masterpiece of art that he has purchased. Mrs. Rittenhouse's "friend" and rival Mrs. Whitehead plans to steal the painting, and hide it to embarrass her hostess. Her daughter and her ex-butler Hives (Robert Greig) are in on this plot. Meanwhile Mrs. Rittenhouse's daughter Arabella (Lillian Roth) is trying to help her boyfriend John Parker (Hal Thompson), a struggling artist prove his abilities. Other guests include the musician, Signior Emmanuel Ravelli and the Professor (Chico and Harpo) and Spaulding's secretary Horation Jamison (Zeppo).

There are many similarities between this musical's book and THE COCONUTS, such as both having detectives named Hennesey, and both naming Zeppo Jamison. The struggles of Roth standing by her struggling painter-boyfriend mirror the struggles of Mary Eaton supporting her struggling architect-boyfriend Oscar Shaw. But here Groucho is a visitor, not the hotel owner/manager. And here there is more use for Zeppo. In fact, except for the third film (MONKEY BUSINESS)and the fifth film (DUCK SOUP), Zeppo never had as much to do that was funny in any of the Marx Brothers movies than here. He has to take dictation from Groucho regarding the legal team of Hungerdunger, Hungerdunger, Hungerdunger, Hungerdunger, and McCormick (pronounced "Hoongerdoonger"). It is a classic Marx routine.

There are some topical humor. Roscoe W. Chandler is a spoof on the noted millionaire and culture maven Otto Kahn, head of the Board of the Metropolitan Opera. Kahn was trying to find a location for the new opera house in the late 1920s, and we hear Chandler and Groucho discussing possibly putting it into Central Park. Kahn was from the old Wilhelmine Empire, and was an immigrant (though one who made good in banking). Chandler, in one stunning moment with Chico, turns out to be Abe Kabible, a fish peddler from Czechoslovakia (Chandler has to pay some blackmail to Chico and Harpo about this, but he does shoot back at Chico an inquiry of how long he's been an Italian!).

Another topical jab is regarding Eugene O'Neill's STRANGE INTERLUDE, where O'Neill had characters speak their minds separately from the regular dialog with each other. In fact, Groucho even admits he is going into a strange interlude of his own. His comments are spoken in a clipped, sad voice, and include a final set of lines where he sounds portentous - talking about strange figures, weird figures. Then he starts giving stock quotations!

The film is a little slow at spots, as was THE COCONUTS, but the brothers do well, as does Lillian Roth and Margaret Dumont. The film is very entertaining, and it is good that it is still around.
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The Search for Abe the Fish-Man
Glenn Andreiev4 December 2001
For many years, ANIMAL CRACKERS was a "lost" film. Paramount owned the audio, and Universal owned the Visual elements (It may of been vice-versa) During the re-birth of Marx Brother popularity, ANIMAL CRACKERS mad it's way back into theatres in the Fall of 1974.

It was a thrill to see the movie in a theatre (the best place to see a classic comedy). The plot concerns a wild, out of control explorer's (Groucho Marx) visit to a Long Island estate. He comes across stuffy snobs and a questionable musician for hire (Chico Marx and his lunatic partner, Harpo.) Groucho's dialog is superb. His verbal assaults on stuffed shirts are priceless "It's not safe to ask this man a simple question" Groucho says to the audience when he talks to a pompous "art critic".

Chico and Harpo provide the more manic visual antics, especially when they steal the birth mark of above mentioned art critic. Even straight man Zeppo gets to be funny and silly.

The only real problem with the film is well voiced in critic's Richard Anobile's review "This is a RECORDING of a stage play. The camera barely moves. it just sits there and records the Marx Brothers" Still in all, see ANIMAL CRACKERS to enjoy the joy of Marx mayhem
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Entertaining - Of Course, But I Wouldn't Rank It Their Best
ccthemovieman-125 November 2006
Once again, this Marx Brothers film is different from most comedies in that is features a mile-a-minute gags, either verbal or sight, constant silliness and some music thrown in the mix. All of it runs the gamut from very clever to stupid. However, if it gets stupid hang around another minute or so and you'll find something to laugh at.

One problem, especially with this film, is that some of the humor is dated and/or topical, meaning what was funny back then isn't necessarily now or the subject Groucho or Chico is talking about was big news back then but unknown now.

Nonetheless, I still enjoyed this and found a lot of funny material. I enjoy the Marx Brothers clever stuff and their slapstick. I particularly appreciated Groucho apparently ad-libbing one scene. In a few others he acted like he was ad- libbing, turning his head and talking to the camera. You don't see much of that stuff, and it's funny.

Two of the three songs were instrumentals, and they seemed to take away from the pace of the story. Groucho's song, "Hooray For Captain Spaulding," is a classic.

Some consider this to be the best Marx Brothers movie but I found several others I liked a lot more, such as "Horse Feathers" and "Duck Soup," just to name two.
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"The gates swung open and a fig newton entered."
classicsoncall20 February 2005
Warning: Spoilers
"Animal Crackers" is a sure fire way to spend an entertaining hour and a half dazzled by zany quips and brilliant one liners. The film is an absolute showcase for the Marx Brothers talents, particularly Groucho's frenetic, non stop verbal barrage. His character, Captain Spaulding is a famed African explorer, though that distinction is entirely unnecessary. Any backdrop would have served for the socialite party hosted by Mrs. Rittenhouse (Margaret Dumont) for the unveiling of the famed Beaugarde painting at the center of the film's madness and controversy. The painting elicits a great response from it's new owner, Roscoe Chandler (Louis Sorin) upon it's first review - "Now even the prince is well hung".

Pay attention during the card game between Spaulding, Signor Ravelli (Chico), The Professor (Harpo) and Mrs. Rittenhouse. In a rare display, in fact the only time I've seen it, Chico actually responds verbally to a remark from Dumont's character who says "I'm not the dummy." Chico's Ravelli does a quick aside stating "Well, you could be."

The thought came to me as Groucho delivers his witticisms throughout the film - I wonder what it would be like if Groucho Marx, Jonathan Winters, Robin Williams and Jim Carrey were all put together in the same room. Think about that scenario!

Though only the second Marx Brothers film, "Animal Crackers" is a delight and a great forerunner to their other comedy gems. What more could one say, except that "This would be a better world for children if parents had to eat the spinach."
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Hooray for Captain Spalding!
johnny-1439 June 2001
This is one of my favorite Marx Brothers movies. Just sit back and watch the mayhem come at you, and everyone else in their way. Filled with some of their reliable stock players and plots, there's nothing new about this at all- except for their astounding wit and polish and amazing routines. George Kaufman wrote the script, which is one of their strongest, and it's just sublime silliness from the first word. Watch it when you're sick, it'll lift up your spirits.
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Blu-Ray restoration of pre-Code Animal Crackers ~ Wonderfully sexy with newly added scenes!!!
larry41onEbay26 December 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Blu-Ray restoration of pre-Code Animal Crackers ~ Wonderfully sexy with newly added scenes!!!

Animal Crackers has been my favorite Marx Brothers film since the first time I saw it on the Big Screen back in the late 1970s after it was rediscovered. Animal Crackers has more quoted lines from it than any other Marx Brothers feature, and for good reason. The writing in it sparkles. It was only their second sound film, but it was the last based on one of the Marx Brothers Broadway plays. It was a smash hit on stage because the brothers had time to polish the script, their delivery and added improvisations based on the live audience reactions. All of which was built on their decades long Vaudeville career and their recent Broadway smash Coconuts also turned into one of the finest musical comedies ever, let alone 1929!


But the recent Blu-Ray restoration added several censored lines that have been missing for decades. I noticed at least four: 1) At the party scene at the beginning of Groucho's speech about going on safari in Africa he talks about a rhinoceros aiming a gun at Groucho. When asked what he did, he answers married the rhinoceros' daughter. 2) At the dictation scene at the beginning of Groucho's letter he mentions a girl getting scratched. 3) At the end of the letter Zeppo as his secretary mentions a girl getting scratched and Groucho says it's the other way around the man scratches the girl! 4) In the scene where Harpo wakes up on the bench, sleeping on the paintings the neighbor lady tries to get the stolen paintings away from him saying she knows what a woman wants and Harpo then spanks her rear end using the painting.

Bottom line: A very funny film with some pre-Code risqué lines put back in. 10 stars!
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"The gates swung open and a Fig Newton entered..."
utgard1415 August 2015
The Marx Brothers' second movie is one of their funniest, despite suffering from some of the same limitations of the early sound era as their first film, The Cocoanuts. It's a great movie with the Marx Bros. at their zany best. Groucho is Captain Spaulding, Chico is Signor Emanuel Ravelli, Harpo is The Professor, and Zeppo is....well, who cares who Zeppo is? He actually gets a funny scene in this movie, taking dictation from Groucho. That's uncommon as he was usually just the straight man. The movie's plot, such as it is, revolves around a painting stolen at a party thrown by a rich dowager (Margaret Dumont) for famed explorer Capt. Spaulding. The guys are all funny and the movie's full of memorable sketches, songs, and one-liners. Lllian Roth is enjoyable as half of the obligatory romantic subplot. That's a rarity for the Marx Bros. movies, where typically the two young people shoehorned in for a romantic subplot are the worst part of the picture. Roth's charming presence makes it more bearable this time. Special mention to the amazing Margaret Dumont, who was a vital part of the success of the best Marx movies. Here she even gets to do some physical comedy in a hilarious scene with Harpo.

I love the Marx Bros' Paramount films for their energy and eccentricities. From this movie until Duck Soup, the boys were at their best, in my opinion. Yes, they made some good ones after that but they were more polished and structured than the Paramount movies. Animal Crackers is a classic with many great jokes and routines, including "Hello I Must Be Going," breaking the fourth wall, the bridge scene, "elephant in my pajamas" and pretty much every line of dialogue Groucho has.
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Flawed early Marx comedy.
gridoon26 December 2002
The Marxes second film is an even more uncinematic production than their first ("The Cocoanuts"). The camera barely moves throughout the picture, and matters are not helped at all by the fact that the print is in fairly poor condition, with entire frames missing from several scenes. And, as usual, the film contains far too much music. Nevertheless, the brothers (and especially Harpo and Chico, who in my opinion have all the funniest scenes) are amazingly lively for a 1930 film, and they make it worth seeing after all. (**1/2)
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Alanjackd7 August 2015
Can you imagine seeing the brilliant Marx brothers on the vaudeville stage? Must have been the best thing ever. Sadly this movie is the closest we can be to it. What a magical essence in every scene. The card scene has to rate as one of the funniest piece of celluloid EVER! Every modern cinema so-called comedian ( Sandler,,Wilson,,Stiller,,,the list goes on) should be strapped to a chair in front of these guys and be educated in how to make funny. The haunting silence of Harpo just shows how clever he was to make us laugh without speaking ,just using whistles , props and honkers. Chico plays the straight but funny guy perfectly and Groucho steals every scene. While it does look like a filmed stage play it adds to the vaudeville silliness. If ever you need cheering up put this on..I literally laughed till i nearly cried..God bless 'em all!!
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The Marx Brothers at their best
tomgillespie200224 October 2013
The greatest thing about the Marx Brothers was the diversity of their comedy. Groucho was ultimately a master of the one-liners, Chico alluded to ethnic stereotypes that were popular during his days doing vaudeville, and Harpo was the clown, pulling sight gags from every pocket he had in that huge overcoat he wore. Animal Crackers, their second film as The Marx Brothers, allows them free reign to indulge in their manic brand of comedy due to an absence of plot. What is immediately apparent upon viewing the film is just how postmodern it is. Groucho laments his inner thoughts to camera and a statue shoots back at a startled Harpo, all combining to make one truly insane 95 minutes, made all the more risqué with this being before the introduction of the Hays Code.

Famour explorer Captain James T. Spaulding (Groucho) arrives at a house party hosted by the upper-class Mrs. Rittenhouse (Margaret Dumont). Whilst there, he manages to swindle, insult and charm the various guests who are in attendance, namely Roscoe Chandler (Louis Sorin), an art collector who has brought one his most prized paintings to display to the guests. Also there is musician Signor Ravelli (Chico) and his mad sidekick The Professor (Harpo), who are harbouring a plan to steal the painting and replace it with a forgery. Unfortunately for them, there are others who wish to pull off the same trick for different reasons.

While the songs are nice and catchy (Groucho's intro song "Hooray for Captain Spaulding" was used in TV quiz show You Bet Your Life, which Groucho hosted), the technical aspects suffer the same way as many films did with the sudden introduction of sound. The screen is crammed with characters, much like a play would be, and this sense of disorganisation takes a little away from the film.

But it is all about the comedy after all, and here all three of the brothers are on top form, with Groucho providing the killer lines "one day I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas, I don't know" and "we took some pictures of the native girls, but they weren't developed. But we're going back again in a couple of weeks!" (Zeppo also appears, but only briefly). When the plot becomes too ridiculous or the action moves away from the Marx Brothers, stick around for another 30 seconds and they'll be something else to laugh at - it's just that funny.
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Picture Snatchers
lugonian8 May 2006
ANIMAL CRACKERS (Paramount, 1930), directed by Victor Heerman, is not the one where the popular song "Animal Crackers in My Soup," wastheir second feature comedy following their debut screen performance in THE COCOANUTS (1929), also a reworking of their Broadway success.

The plot centers upon a social function at the Long Island estate of Mrs. Rittenhouse (Margaret Dumont) where her guests of honor for the weekend are Captain Jeffrey (or is it Geoffrey?) T. Spaulding (Groucho Marx), the African explorer, accompanied by his personal secretary, introduced, but a film adaptation to the 1928 Broadway play by George F. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind starring those four Marx Brothers in

Horatio Jamieson (Zeppo Marx); and Roscoe W. Chandler (Louis Sorin), a fish peddler posing as a wealthy European art patron, who is to exhibit Beaugard's famous painting, "After the Hunt" valued at $100,000. Also in attendance are musicians Emanuel Ravelli (Chico Marx) and his partner, the Professor (Harpo Marx), who spends much of his time chasing girls. Mrs. Rittenhouse has a vivacious daughter named Arabella (Lillian Roth), whose romantic interest is John Parker (Hal Thompson), an struggling young artist who has made a copy of the Beaugard while as a student in Paris. Because John's painting looks so much like the original, Arabella stumbles upon an idea of switching the paintings in hope that at the unveiling his work will be recognized so that they could get married. She hires Ravelli and the Professor to help with the switch. At he same time, Grace Carpenter (Kathryn Reece), who has also made a copy of the painting while in art school, decides to make the switch as well, with the help of Mrs. Whitehead (Margaret Irving), a society friend of Mrs. Rittenhouse. Hives (Robert Greig), a former employer of Mrs. Whitehead with a questionable past, now under Mrs. Rittenhouse's employ, agrees to assist her with the switch. When the painting is discovered missing, Inspector Hennessy (Edward Metcalfe) and his men are called to investigate, but after the paintings are recovered, confusion arises when no one is able to determine the copies from the original.

ANIMAL CRACKERS spoofs high society, eliminating much of the songs originated from the play, focusing more on the comedic gags than plot, stretching its limited scenario to 97 minutes, becoming longest of the Marx comedies for Paramount. The surviving tunes, composed by Harry Ruby and Bert Kalmar include: "You Must Do Your Best Tonight" (sung by Robert Greig and The Music Masters); "I Represent" (sung by Zeppo Marx); "Hello, I Must be Going" (sung by Groucho Marx); "Hooray For Captain Spaulding" (sung by Groucho, Zeppo, Margaret Dumont, and guests); "Why Am I So Romantic?" (sung by Lillian Roth and Hal Thompson, harp solo by Harpo Marx). Of the songs, two have become synonymous with Groucho: "Hello I Must Be Going" used as a title of one of his biographies, and "Hooray for Captain Spaulding" becoming the opening and closing theme song to Groucho's 1950s radio/ TV game show, YOU BET YOUR LIFE.

Besides its stage origins, COCOANUTS and ANIMAL CRACKERS each have something in common: both were filmed at Paramount's Astoria studios in New York; younger brother Zeppo assumes the character name of Jamieson; the plot involves thievery, followed by the presence of a police inspector named Hennessy. Unlike the other Marx comedies, ANIMAL CRACKERS was the only one unavailable for viewing due to some sort of copyright dispute, with the sad possibility of never to be shown again again. After many years of uncertainty, ANIMAL CRACKERS was finally resurrected in revival theaters in 1974, much to the delight of many Marx Brothers fans, and premiered on network television (CBS) on that historic evening July 21, 1979. Afterwards, it was presented on numerous cable channels, such as Arts and Entertainment, American Movie Classics (1991-92) and finally Turner Classic Movies (TCM premiere: December 17, 2001). Due to its sort-after popularity, it was one of the first Marx Brothers comedies distributed on video cassette in the 1980s, and can currently be seen and appreciated in its DVD format.

Although a huge success during its initial release, ANIMAL CRACKERS is not as funny as the Marx's previous effort. Production values have much improved over its prehistoric visuals of THE COCOANUTS, but as Groucho points out while looking towards the camera, "Well, all the jokes can't be good. You got to expect that once in a while." He's so right. It's not so much the odd mixture of good and bad jokes combined that weakens the film, but some dated doings that are a total loss for viewers today, namely Groucho doing a "Strange Interlude" by speaking his thoughts out to the audience, or making a reference to character actor "Chic" Sale. (Who?) The Groucho/Chico exchanges don't come close to the height of hilarity as their "Why a Duck" skit from THE COCOANUTS, particularly with Chico's deduction of the painting stolen by "left handed moths." (What?) Of the leading ladies assisting in the romantic subplot, Lillian Roth is a welcome change of pace from the sophisticated, straightforward actresses due to her down-to-earth and lively screen presence. She and Hal Thompson do get a chance to have a duet song to themselves. It's no highlight, but not bad either. Margaret Dumont's encounter with Groucho's love making,along with her card game with Chico and Harpo are truly memorable. And poor Zeppo. While he's the first Marx Brother to make an appearance, he's more off-screen than on. In conclusion, ANIMAL CRACKERS remains an amusing vintage Marx comedy that will never disappear again. "Hooray, hooray, hooray!" (***)
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Not their best
Matthew Dickson7 August 2005
A much better production than the Marx Brothers' first effort, The Cocoanuts. You can tell more money was shelled out for this one. The sets are bigger, the decor is finer, and even the supporting cast is better (which isn't saying a lot, of course). The dancing chorus girls from The Cocoanuts were wisely done away with, and the musical numbers are given more motivation. Despite these improvements, though, Animal Crackers is simply not as funny as their first film. The movie seems slow for a Marx Brothers picture, with too much time given to the romantic leads and the flimsy story. Having been adapted from one of their Vaudeville shows, many of the comic bits drag on too long, or don't work as well as they would have on stage. Probably the best scene in the film is Chico's piano act in which Groucho and Harpo both get involved, but moments like these are few. Classic film buffs might enjoy seeing Lillian Roth as the heroine.
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Animal Crackers in my soup...
Spuzzlightyear5 November 2005
Animal Crackers is not my favorite Marx Brothers movie, (Night at The Opera does it for me). The reasons for that are plenty. Although this movie is very funny in some spots, it's downright implausibility distracts from the "storyline" a lot, so in my case, it was mostly a "spot the implausibility" fest happening from my end. Let's see, a wealthy matron of the arts (who seems to have an infinite number of people milling around the place doing nothing) hosts a party for a captain just returning from a trip to Africa. As well, the party is used to show off a famous painting by Beaugard. But somehow that's stolen, will the Police be able to track the culprits down before the lame ending? Although the house is huge, all the characters just can't stop bumping into each other (except Zeppo, which could be a good thing) Actually, the three Marx Bros are all okay here. They have some lines that work and some that don't. So the whole thing is good for a laugh or two. As well, there is the obligatory awful song sung by the couple who are almost instantly forgotten after they sing it, and Chico's piano playing and (sigh) Harpo's playing. (he plays in the middle of a police investigation into stolen art).

So all in all, not going to change the world,. But good for a laugh or two..
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Smart and funny movie
The Movie Buff6 March 2002
This movie is where the Marx brothers legend started. They all come to work in this one, Groucho with his legendary one-liners, Harpo, with is "ball-busting", and Chico with his great ideas. Groucho, by far makes this movie what it is, however chico and harpo are very funny to, such as the bridge game. Its a wonder why this movie does not get as much respect as their later one's such as Duck Soup and Horse Feathers. I would say that this movie is as funny and enjoyable as any Marx Brothers movie.
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Has not aged well
smatysia19 March 2014
I realize all about this being such early cinema, and all of its (and the Marx Brothers) vaudevillian roots. But the general senses of humor have changed since then. (and changed again, and again, for that matter) So I feel that Animal Crackers has not aged well. It can't decide if it wants to be a musical or not. Of course Chico and Harpo were talented musicians, and it was the vaudeville style to show off whatever abilities one had. Groucho's rapid-fire wisecracks are classic, with the befuddled, but good-natured Margeret Dumont as his foil. But watching yesterday, I scarcely ever cracked a smile, and felt largely bored.
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Formula Marx Brothers' Lunacy
mdm-1120 May 2005
Groucho Marx in one of the Marx Brothers' Classics, surrounded by the usual cast of High Society bubble heads, delivers what many consider their very best work. The lunacy begins when Groucho arrives back from an African Exploration, just in time to be the guest of honor at a Society Dinner Party. The craziness is fueled by some twists and turns about a valuable painting (which seems to be easily copied onto what appears like a roll of wall paper). The predictable plot keeps rolling along, while Groucho seems to consume 95% of the script with one-liners.

In 1930 this may have been a welcome distraction from Depression Era hum-drum life. I tried to find the same amusement a lifetime later, and can't agree with the critics. Aside from a few clever (even risqué) jokes, I was missing the rolling-on-the-floor-with-laughter effect. Animal Crackers left me only with Luke-warm feelings, while I found the "other" Marx Brothers Classic, "Duck Soup" hilarious. I would rather see "Duck Soup" 5 more times than view "Animal Crackers" ever again. Not a total loss of 1 1/2 time, but don't expect any "mirror scenes", because this film doesn't have any.
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Why I'm not a Marxist
enw9 August 2007
I've always found it very hard to see the attraction of the Marx canon – Marx Brothers, that is. Their act seems to me to be of the kind that one is likely to be treated to by gifted amateurs at a party, delivered with an understandably embarrassed smile.

This installment is an operetta of sorts, with nouveau riche protagonists and singing staff, plus a chorus line of morons in swimsuits. The jokes are all delivered at breakneck speed, but not fast enough for my taste – you can still catch most of them.

When they are not just silly puns, they're mild insults, requiring the various straight men and women to constantly register amusement, consternation and disorientation, instead of ending a pointless and boring conversation.

Well, one of these guys plays the piano, and another the harp, with the usual dire consequences for a captive audience, and they also seem to have prepared a few routines for our polite amusement.

The action (if you can call it that) conveniently takes place at such a party, where three identical paintings are being switched, stolen and returned – simply riveting.

The guy with the mustache is supposedly so charming that the hostess finds him irresistible in spite of his constant derogatory remarks on her appearance and age and his designs on her money.

"Captain Spaulding," she exclaims, "you stand before me as one of the bravest men of all time!" So he stands before her.

Then there's a funny Italian and a bisexual rapist in a curly wig. None of these disgusting people ever seem to outstay their welcome at the house, although as far as I'm concerned they outstayed it just before the main titles.

"If I had any brains, I'd get a regular job," the leading man muses. I think I can safely say that goes for the entire cast.

The only marginally funny scene is a parody of Eugene O'Neill, who used to have even worse material. Let's face it: This can be of interest only to complete idiots and Woody Allen.
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The one Marx Brothers film that MIGHT be better than Duck Soup
Robert Reynolds24 May 2001
This is the one film the Marx Brothers made that someone might be able to covince me is better than Duck Soup-maybe. Excellent script, about as believable a plot as they ever had and just an overall Gem of a movie. It also provided the song with which Groucho was most identified in later years-"Hooray For Captain Spaulding". Great fun. Highly recommended (but I still like Duck Soup better!)
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The Brothers Continue to Make Their Marx…On to Hollywood
LeonLouisRicci19 August 2015
When Discussing a Marx Brothers Film it is Obligatory to Condescend to the Extraneous Musical Numbers (those without the Brothers) and the Plot.

In this, the Second Marx Feature and the Second Filmed Stage Play, the Plot is Heavily Intrusive and the Music is Forgettable at Best.

The Marx Brothers, perhaps more than Any other Comedy Team, seem to Contrast greatly with the "Filler" of Burdensome Baggage because Their Zany Anarchy is so Wildly Untamed and Ill Fitting to the Society Surrounding Them. It is a Catastrophic Collision.

When Groucho, Chico, and Harpo are doing Their Thing it Commands attention and admiration. The Timing is Pure Punctuated Pandemonium and the Appearance of the Odd Looking Brothers demands Comment just because of the How Strange They Look. They are like Another Species Invading Our World.

"Sometimes" Zeppo is On Hand in this one as is Fan and Groucho Favorite Margaret Dumont. The "Straights" are Lillian Roth and Louis Sorin. The Camera is "Still" in the Motionless Mode of 1930, however the Sound has Improved since "Coconuts" (1929).

Overall, it is Better than Their Deut but Not as Good as what was to come as the Marx Brothers Continued to Improve, Peaking with either "Duck Soup" (1933) or "A Night at the Opera" (1935) depending on Who is Doing the Talking. You can bet it won't be Harpo.
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