Now that you know where the Marx Brothers were one hundred years ago this week (see yesterday’s post), I thought I’d show you why we care about them.
This is the famed Stateroom Scene from A NIGHT AT THE OPERA, which many people think is their best film. It’s certainly their most successful conventional comedy, with a straight romantic subplot. It’s not quite as anarchic as their first five Paramount features, but it revived their film career, thanks to producer Irving Thalberg (Groucho considered Thalberg a genius; he died while in the middle of production of their following picture, A DAY AT THE RACES).
Legend has it that this was written by Al Boasberg, a quirky, oversized writer who usually worked in his bathtub. The studio kept bugging him to finish the scene, annoying him greatly. When he was finally done, they sent someone over to pick up the finished script, but he couldn’t find it. After much searching, he found that each individual line had been cut apart and taped to the ceiling. Enjoy.
One hundred years ago today was a great day to be in my home town of Ottawa, Illinois.
It was a century ago on January 1-3 that the Marx Brothers appeared live on stage in “Mr. Green’s Reception,” along with their company of 22 actors, singers and dancers at what was then the Gayety Theatre (which burned down in 1930, and was replaced in September 1931 by the Roxy Theatre, which still stands.
The four Marx Brothers–Groucho, Harpo, Chico and Gummo performed before packed houses–not surprisingly, as if you were alive in Ottawa in January 1914, what could possibly be more important than seeing the Marx Brothers? (Zeppo later replaced Gummo, but in 1914, he was apparently too young to be an official Marx Brother.)
The Marx Brothers also appeared in Ottawa in September of 1912, performing “Fun in Hi Skule.” Neither of these shows were ever filmed, though portions were apparently cannibalized and used in some of their Broadway shows and films. So excuse me for a little civic pride, even though I was born a hundred years too late. I’m going to go watch Horse Feathers.