Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Animal Crackers

One of my earliest memories is of watching Groucho Marx on TV's YOU BET YOUR LIFE and waiting for the duck to come down when somebody said the secret word. It was years later before I found out that he made movies...or had brothers! The first Marx film I saw on TV in the early seventies was LOVE HAPPY, their last film, which could well have ended any interest right there and then (and if you've seen it, you know what I mean!). After that, though, I caught a theatrical re-release of A DAY AT THE RACES and GO WEST and I was hooked! I bought Richard J Anobile's book, WHY A DUCK? and then his collaboration with Groucho (supposedly Groucho didn't like it!), THE MARX BROTHERS SCRAPBOOK. Then one day in 1975, I started seeing ads that ANIMAL CRACKERS was being re-released. It was being touted as the funniest film ever! Apparently there had been some legal mixups regarding various rights to the film (Mark Evanier wrote here NOTES from me about underground showings of the film!)when Universal took over Paramount's old library and, according to Groucho's later book, THE GROUCHOPHILE (like most of his books, probably ghosted), students in Southern California gathered enough signatures to convince Universal to settle the dispute and re-release it.
This was the first time I had seen the unique chemistry of all 4 Marx Brothers. the theater was packed in the way that only martial arts movies seemed to be in those

days only this crowd was a mixture of all ages! The laughter rang out and applause filled the theater at the end just like back in the old days. In retrospect, ANIMAL CRACKERS is, of course, in spite of its highlights and classic moments, a fairly stodgy, stagey affair. The kind of magic the Marx Brothers could create was and is magnified a thousand times on the big screen so while it's great to be able to pop in your personal DVD of ANIMAL CRACKERS, you just know you'd laugh more if you had five hundred of your close personal friends over to watch it with you.

No comments: