41 user 9 critic

The Big Store (1941)

Not Rated | | Comedy, Musical | 20 June 1941 (USA)
A detective is hired to protect the life of a singer, who has recently inherited a department store, from the store's crooked manager.


Charles Reisner (as Charles Riesner)


Sid Kuller (screen play), Hal Fimberg (screen play) | 2 more credits »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Groucho Marx ... Wolf J. Flywheel
Chico Marx ... Ravelli
Harpo Marx ... Wacky
Tony Martin ... Tommy Rogers
Virginia Grey ... Joan Sutton
Margaret Dumont ... Martha Phelps
Douglass Dumbrille ... Mr. Grover
William Tannen ... Fred Sutton
Marion Martin ... Peggy Arden
Virginia O'Brien ... Kitty
Henry Armetta ... Guiseppi
Anna Demetrio ... Maria
Paul Stanton ... George Hastings
Russell Hicks ... Arthur Hastings
Bradley Page ... Duke


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 <jlvogel@comcast.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The big new musical comedy! (Newspaper ad cut). See more »


Comedy | Musical


Not Rated | See all certifications »






Release Date:

20 June 1941 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Bargain Basement See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


This film received its initial television broadcasts in Chicago Sunday 30 December 1956 on WBBM (Channel 2) and in Seattle Tuesday 1 January 1957 on KING (Channel 5); it first aired in New York City 1 February 1957 on WCBS (Channel 2), in Altoona PA 16 April 1957 on WFBG (Channel 10), in Norfolk VA 9 May 1957 on WTAR (Channel 3), in Honolulu 11 June 1957 on KHVH (Channel 13), in Philadelphia 21 June 1957 on WFIL (Channel 6), in Minneapolis 28 September 1957 on KMGM (Channel 9), in Los Angeles 9 October 1957 on KTTV (Channel 11) and in San Francisco 14 February 1958 on KGO (Channel 7). See more »


During the chase scene, when Wacky roller skates into the elevator, a store directory posted on the wall is backwards, indicating that the shot has been flipped. See more »


Martha Phelps: Tell me, Wolfie dear, will we have a beautiful home?
Wolf J. Flywheel: Of course. You're not planning on moving, are you?
Martha Phelps: No, but, uh, I'm afraid after we're married awhile, a beautiful young girl will come along, and, uh, you'll forget all about me.
Wolf J. Flywheel: Don't be silly. I'll write you twice a week.
See more »


Featured in Inside the Marx Brothers (2003) See more »


Old Folks at Home (Swanee River)
(1851) (uncredited)
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Foster
Sung in the "Sing While You Sell" number
See more »

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User Reviews

"Flywheel's in Command."
8 January 2006 | by bkoganbingSee all my reviews

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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