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The Marx Bros. Still Zany After All These Years

September 23rd, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments


The other night I attended a special screening of Animal Crackers, the 1930 Marx Brothers classic, at the Music Box Theatre. The audience was full of people, both young and old, who were laughing hysterically throughout its 97 minute running time. It’s remarkable that a film, now eighty years old, can still hold up so well today.

Animal Crackers is based on a 1928 Broadway musical of the same name by George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind, which featured the same cast of the movie (Groucho, Harpo, Chico, Zeppo and the ever played upon Margaret Dumont).

The madcap plot revolves around a valuable painting that turns up missing during a party to celebrate the return of explorer Captain Spaulding (Groucho). Zany antics, elaborate set-pieces and memorable song-and-dance numbers ensue (including Groucho’s signature tune, “Hello, I Must Be Going”).


Following the screening, the Goodman Theatre presented a panel discussion on the craft of the Marx Brothers, in honor of their revival of the original play, which debuted on Sept. 18 and will run through Oct. 25. Director Henry Wishcamper tells Theatre In Chicago.com,

Our production will be dynamic and surprising, but at the same time will maintain the Marx Brothers’ integrity… As was its original production, Animal Crackers today remains an extraordinary antidote for the times we live in.”

He also promises “never-before experienced jokes” and  “subtle plot twists.” I suppose that’s a good reason to see it. Because if there’s one thing that bothers me about the Marx Brothers’ films, it’s that their deep, intricate plots always leave you hanging. Maybe for the Goodman’s next production they can fill in the gaping plot holes for Al Jolson‘s The Jazz Singer.

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