Mineshaft Gap

It's a screening log, no more no less. Maybe I'll have something interesting to say one of these days...

Ahead of their time.

Sadly enough, I used to love the TV series Just Shoot Me. Not a great show in retrospect, but there will always be a line from it that will stick with me. The George Segal character once said, "There's a Marx Brothers movie on TV. I love the Marx Brothers, they make me laugh." Never have a truer words been spoken on a TV series.

The Marx Brothers are just plain funny. No matter what else is going on in their films, there is only one intention: they want you to laugh until it hurts. Played over an over on television, it seems that it would be impossible to live in this country and not seen one of their films, yet a quick survey of my friends, a fairly well read and knowledgeable group, showed none had seen even one of their movies. I decided this just couldn't continue, saw a couple days ago several of us attended a screening of the 1932 Marx Brothers vehicle, Horse Feathers.

The fourth film of the Brothers early Paramount period, Horse Feathers exists in that wonderful time known as pre-Code. Before Will Hayes and his Production Code reigned in all the sex and violence of 1920s Hollywood, there were a brief handful of sound years in which artists didn't have to conform to a set of standards. Coming in at he beginning of sound, the Marx Brothers early comedies stuck much closer to their vaudeville roots than did the later MGM period, which retained all the anarchy without most of the sexuality(though Groucho could always get a couple of lines through the cracks). It is amazing how hilariously dirty their movies can be.

It is amazing how well a film like Horse Feathers holds up today. The plots are always razor thin, Horse Feathers has to do with a college and the big football game, but telling a story isn't anyone's goal here. And sure the musical interludes play a little longer than they should and some of the references have dated, but the underlying weirdness of the setpieces are the obvious forefathers of even the current Frat Pack actors. How about this exchange between Chico and a man he is trying to kidnap:

You gotta brother?
Mullen: No.
Chico: You gotta sister?
Mullen: Yeah.
Well-a, you sister, she's a very sick man, you better come with us.
Yeah? What happened to her?
She hadda accident in her automobile. Mullen: Ah, she has no automobile.
Well-a, maybe she's-a fall off-a horse. I don't-a look very close. Come on, we take you in our car.

It's all just so amazingly odd, in a way that you can try to quote to others without ever being able to grasp the exact inflections that made it funny in the first place.

If it's at all possible, try and see any Marx Brothers film with an audience. They were meant to be see with people rolling in the aisles, and the best thing is that people still will. The Marx Brothers were so ahead of their time they may never lose their luster.

I can't finish this without one Groucho quote, so here's my favorite from Horse Feathers:

"I married your mother because I wanted children, imagine my disappointment when you arrived."

3 Responses to “Ahead of their time.”

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  3. # Blogger Al

    I hear that this movie may be considered legally suspect under the Patriot Act.  

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