|Directed by|| Robert Florey |
|Written by|| George S. Kaufman (play)|
|Produced by|| Monta Bell |
Walter Wanger (uncr.)
|Starring|| Groucho Marx |
|Cinematography|| George J. Folsey |
J. Roy Hunt
|Edited by||Barney Rogan (uncr.)|
|Music by|| Irving Berlin |
Victor Herbert (uncr.)
Frank Tours (uncr.)
Georges Bizet (uncr.)[ citation needed ]
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|May 23, 1929 (New York City)|
August 3, 1929 (United States)
|Box office||$1.8 million (worldwide rentals)|
The Cocoanuts is a 1929 pre-Code musical comedy film starring the Marx Brothers (Groucho Marx, Harpo Marx, Chico Marx, and Zeppo Marx in his first starring role). Produced for Paramount Pictures by Walter Wanger, who is not credited, the film also stars Mary Eaton, Oscar Shaw, Margaret Dumont and Kay Francis. It was the first sound film to credit more than one director (Robert Florey and Joseph Santley), and was adapted to the screen by Morrie Ryskind from the George S. Kaufman Broadway musical play. Five of the film's tunes were composed by Irving Berlin, including "When My Dreams Come True", sung by Oscar Shaw and Mary Eaton.
The Cocoanuts is set in the Hotel de Cocoanut, a resort hotel, during the Florida land boom of the 1920s. Mr. Hammer runs the hotel, assisted by Jamison. Harpo and Chico arrive with empty luggage, which they apparently plan to fill by robbing and conning the guests. Wealthy Mrs. Potter is one of the few paying customers. Her daughter Polly is in love with struggling young architect Bob Adams. He works to support himself as a clerk at the hotel, but has grand plans for the development of the entire area as Cocoanut Manor. Mrs. Potter wants her daughter to marry Harvey Yates, whom she believes to be of higher social standing than Adams. Yates is actually a confidence man out to steal the dowager's expensive diamond necklace with the help of his partner in crime, Penelope.
The somewhat thin plot primarily provides a framework for the running gags of the Marx Brothers to take prominence. The film is, however, notable for its musical production numbers, including cinematic techniques which were soon to become standard, such as overhead shots of dancing girls imitating the patterns of a kaleidoscope. The musical numbers were not pre-recorded, but were shot live on the soundstage with an off-camera orchestra. The main titles are superimposed over a negative image of the "Monkey-Doodle-Do" number photographed from an angle that does not appear in the body of the film.
One of the more famous gag routines in the film involves Chico not knowing what a "viaduct" is, which Groucho keeps mentioning, prompting Chico to ask, "why-a-duck".
In another sequence, while he is acting as auctioneer for some land of possibly questionable value ("You can have any kind of a home you want to; you can even get stucco! Oh, how you can get stuck-oh!"), Groucho has hired Chico to act as a shill to inflate the sale prices by making bogus bids. To Groucho's frustration, Chico keeps outbidding everyone, even himself. During the auction, Mrs. Potter announces that her necklace has been stolen and offers a reward of one thousand dollars, whereupon Chico offers two thousand. Unbeknownst to anyone except the thieves and to Harpo (who intercepted the map drawn by the villains while hiding under their hotel room bed) the jewellery's hiding place is a hollow tree stump adjacent to where the land auction takes place.
Thereupon, Detective Hennessy who entered the plot earlier, decides that the guilty party is Polly's suitor. He is aided by the real villains, who attempt to frame Bob Adams for the crime. However, Harpo, by producing the necklace, and later the note, is able to prove that Bob Adams is innocent of the charges laid against him.
At various points, Harpo and Chico both provide musical solos – Harpo on the harp, and Chico at the piano.
Still another sequence has Groucho, Mrs. Potter and Harvey Yates (the necklace thief) make formal speeches. Harpo repeatedly walks off, with a grimace on his face, to the punch bowl. (His staggering implies that the punch has been spiked with alcohol.) Another highlight is when the cast, already dressed in traditional Spanish garb for a theme party, erupts into an operatic treatment about Hennessy's lost shirt to music from Bizet's Carmen (specifically, Habanera and the Toreador Song). An earlier scene shows Harpo and Chico abusing a cash register while whistling the Anvil Chorus from Il trovatore , a piece also referenced in several other Marx Brothers films.
Immediately following the revelation that an injustice has been done to Polly's original suitor, Bob Adams, Mr. Adams himself comes in saying there's a man outside asking for Mr. Hammer: it's tycoon John W. Berryman, who's about to buy Bob's architectural designs for Cocoanut Manor, and asking if the hotel can accommodate 400 guests for the weekend. The Marxes immediately beat a hasty retreat, and Mrs Potter declares the wedding will take place "exactly as planned, with the exception of a slight change," announcing that Mr. Robert Adams will be the bridegroom.
On Monday, 4 February 1929, at Paramount’s Astoria studio, daytime production started, while still performing, at night, Animal Crackers, the 1928 Broadway musical, and continued, excepting the days when they had matinee performances.
Referring to directors Robert Florey and Joseph Santley, Groucho Marx remarked, "One of them didn't understand English and the other didn't understand Harpo."
As was common in the early days of sound film, to eliminate the sound of the camera motors the cameras and the cameramen were enclosed in large soundproof booths with glass fronts to allow filming, hence the largely static camera work. For many years, Marxian legend had it that Florey, who had never seen the Marxes' work before, was put in the soundproof booth because he could not contain his laughter at the brothers' spontaneous antics.
Every piece of paper in the movie is soaking wet, in order to keep crackling paper sounds from overloading the primitive recording equipment of the time. In fact, this did not occur to director Florey until 27 takes had been made (of the "Viaduct" scene) and disposed of because of the noise made by the paper. Florey finally got the idea to soak the paper in water; the 28th take of the "Viaduct" scene used soaked paper, and this take was quiet and used in the film.
The "ink" that Harpo drank from the hotel lobby inkwell was actually Coca-Cola, and the "telephone mouthpiece" that he nibbled was made of chocolate, both inventions of Robert Florey.
Paramount brought conductor Frank Tours (1877–1963) over from London, where he was then conducting at the Plaza Theatre in Piccadilly Circus (Paramount's premier exhibition venue in the UK), to be the film's musical director as he had also been the conductor for the show's original Broadway production in 1925. Filming took place at the Paramount studios in Astoria, Queens; their second film, Animal Crackers , was also shot there. After that, production of all Marx films moved to Hollywood.
Several songs from the stage play were omitted from the film: "Lucky Boy", sung by the chorus to congratulate Bob on his engagement to Polly and "A Little Bungalow", a love duet sung by Bob and Polly that was replaced with "When My Dreams Come True" in the film.
Irving Berlin wrote two songs entitled "Monkey Doodle Doo". The first was published in 1913, the second introduced in the 1925 stage production and featured in the film. They are very different songs.
Although legend claims Berlin wrote the song "Always" for The Cocoanuts, he never meant for the song to be included, writing it, instead, as a gift for his fiancée.
When the Marx Brothers were shown the final cut of the film, they were so horrified they tried to buy the negative back and prevent its release.Paramount wisely resisted — the movie turned out to be a big box office hit, with a $1,800,000 gross making it one of the most successful early talking films.
It received mostly positive reviews from critics, with the Marx Brothers themselves earning most of the praise while other aspects of the film drew a more mixed reaction. Mordaunt Hall of The New York Times reported that the film "aroused considerable merriment" among the viewing audience, and that a sequence using an overhead shot was "so engaging that it elicited plaudits from many in the jammed theatre." However, he found the audio quality during some of the singing to be "none too good", adding, "a deep-voiced bass's tones almost fade into a whisper in a close-up. Mary Eaton is charming, but one obtains little impression of her real ability as a singer."
Variety called it "a comedy hit for the regular picture houses. That's all it has – comedy – but that's enough." It reported the sound had "a bit of muffling now and then" and that the dancers weren't always filmed well: "When the full 48 were at work only 40 could be seen and those behind the first line could be seen but dimly."
"It is as a funny picture and not as a musical comedy, not for its songs, pretty girls, or spectacular scenes, that The Cocoanuts succeeds", wrote John Mosher in The New Yorker . "Neither Mary Eaton, nor Oscar Shaw, who contribute the "love interest", is effective, nor are the chorus scenes in the least superior to others of the same sort in various musical-comedy-movies now running in town. To the Marxes belongs the success of the show, and their peculiar talents seem, surprisingly enough, even more manifest on the screen than on the stage."
Film Daily called it "a good amount of fun, although some of it proves tiresome. This is another case of a musical comedy transferred almost bodily to the screen and motion picture treatment forgotten. The result is a good many inconsistencies which perhaps may be overlooked provided the audience accepts the offering for what it is."
Julius Henry "Groucho" Marx was an American comedian, actor, writer, stage, film, radio, television star and vaudeville performer. He is generally considered to have been a master of quick wit and one of America's greatest comedians.
The Marx Brothers were an American family comedy act that was successful in vaudeville, on Broadway, and in motion pictures from 1905 to 1949. Five of the Marx Brothers' thirteen feature films were selected by the American Film Institute (AFI) as among the top 100 comedy films, with two of them, Duck Soup (1933) and A Night at the Opera (1935), in the top fifteen. They are widely considered by critics, scholars and fans to be among the greatest and most influential comedians of the 20th century. The brothers were included in AFI's 100 Years... 100 Stars list of the 25 greatest male stars of Classical Hollywood cinema, the only performers to be included collectively.
Animal Crackers is a 1930 American pre-Code Marx Brothers comedy film directed by Victor Heerman. The film stars the Marx Brothers,, with Lillian Roth and Margaret Dumont. It was based on their broadway musical of the same name, in which mayhem and zaniness ensue when a valuable painting goes missing during a party in honor of famed African explorer Captain Jeffrey T. Spaulding. A critical and commercial success upon its initial release, it was filmed at Paramount's Astoria Studios in Astoria, Queens; it was the second of two films the Brothers would make in New York City.
Duck Soup is a 1933 American pre-Code musical black comedy film written by Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby, with additional dialogue by Arthur Sheekman and Nat Perrin, directed by Leo McCarey. Released theatrically by Paramount Pictures on November 17, 1933, it starred the Marx Brothers and also featured Margaret Dumont, Louis Calhern, Raquel Torres and Edgar Kennedy. It was the last of five Marx Brothers movies released by Paramount Pictures. Groucho plays the newly installed president of the mythical country of Freedonia. Zeppo is his secretary, while Harpo and Chico are Sylvanian spies. Relations between Groucho and the Sylvanian ambassador deteriorate during the film, and they go to war at the conclusion.
A Night at the Opera is a 1935 American comedy film starring the Marx Brothers, and featuring Kitty Carlisle, Allan Jones, Margaret Dumont, Sig Ruman, and Walter Woolf King. It was the first of five films the Marx Brothers made under contract for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer after their departure from Paramount Pictures, and the first after Zeppo left the act. The film was written by George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind from a story by James Kevin McGuinness, with additional uncredited dialogue by Al Boasberg. The film was directed by Sam Wood.
Arthur "Harpo" Marx was an American comedian, actor, mime artist, and musician, and the second-oldest of the Marx Brothers. In contrast to the mainly verbal comedy of his brothers Groucho and Chico, Harpo's comic style was visual, being an example of both clown and pantomime traditions. He wore a curly reddish blond wig and was silent in all his movie appearances, instead blowing a horn or whistling to communicate. Marx frequently employed props such as a horn cane constructed from a lead pipe, tape, and a bulbhorn.
Leonard Joseph "Chico" Marx was an American comedian, actor and pianist. He was the oldest brother in the Marx Brothers comedy troupe, alongside his brothers Adolph ("Harpo"), Julius ("Groucho"), Milton ("Gummo") and Herbert ("Zeppo"). His persona in the act was that of a charming, uneducated but crafty con artist, seemingly of rural Italian origin, who wore shabby clothes and sported a curly-haired wig and Tyrolean hat. On screen, Chico is often in alliance with Harpo, usually as partners in crime, and is also frequently seen trying to con or outfox Groucho. Leonard was the oldest of the Marx Brothers to live past early childhood. In addition to his work as a performer, he played an important role in the management and development of the act in its early years.
Herbert Manfred "Zeppo" Marx was an American comedic actor, theatrical agent, and engineer. He was the youngest and last survivor of the five Marx Brothers. He appeared in the first five Marx Brothers feature films, from 1929 to 1933, but then left the act to start his second career as an engineer and theatrical agent.
Margaret Dumont was an American stage and film actress. She is best remembered as the comic foil to the Marx Brothers in seven of their films; Groucho Marx called her "practically the fifth Marx brother."
A Day at the Races is a 1937 American comedy film, and the seventh film starring the Marx Brothers, with Allan Jones, Maureen O'Sullivan and Margaret Dumont. Like their previous Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer feature A Night at the Opera, this film was a major hit.
At the Circus is a 1939 comedy film starring the Marx Brothers released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in which they help save a circus from bankruptcy. The film contains Groucho Marx's classic rendition of "Lydia the Tattooed Lady". The supporting cast includes Florence Rice, Kenny Baker, Margaret Dumont, and Eve Arden. The songs, including "Lydia the Tattooed Lady", "Two Blind Loves", and "Step Up and Take a Bow", were written by the team of Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg. The villain is portrayed by Nat Pendleton, who had played a similar role in Horse Feathers (1932), when The Marx Brothers were still under contract to Paramount.
Minnie Marx was the mother and manager of the Marx Brothers, a family of vaudevillains, Broadway and film actors and was also the sister of comedian and vaudeville star Al Shean.
Horse Feathers is a 1932 pre-Code comedy film starring the Marx Brothers. It stars the Four Marx Brothers, Thelma Todd and David Landau. It was written by Bert Kalmar, Harry Ruby, S. J. Perelman, and Will B. Johnstone. Kalmar and Ruby also wrote the original songs for the film. Several of the film's gags were taken from the Marx Brothers' stage comedy from the 1900s, Fun in Hi Skule. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term "horse feathers" is U.S. slang for "nonsense, rubbish, balderdash," attributed originally to Billy DeBeck.
Monkey Business is a 1931 American pre-Code comedy film. It is the third of the Marx Brothers' released movies, and the first with an original screenplay rather than an adaptation of one of their Broadway shows. The film also features Thelma Todd, Harry Woods and Ruth Hall. It is directed by Norman Z. McLeod with screenplay by S. J. Perelman and Will B. Johnstone. Much of the story takes place on an ocean liner crossing the Atlantic Ocean.
Love Happy is a 1949 American musical comedy film, released by United Artists, directed by David Miller and starring the Marx Brothers in their 13th and final feature film, as well as a memorable walk-on by a relatively unknown Marilyn Monroe.
The Big Store is a 1941 American comedy film starring the Marx Brothers that takes place in a large department store. Groucho appears as private detective Wolf J. Flywheel.
Go West is a 1940 American Western comedy film from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer starring the Marx Bros. In their tenth film, head to the American West and attempt to unite a couple by ensuring that a stolen property deed is retrieved. The film was directed by Edward Buzzell and written by Irving Brecher, who receives the original screenplay credit. To avoid confusion with the unconnected 1925 Buster Keaton's film of the same name,
I'll Say She Is (1924) is a musical comedy revue written by brothers Will B. Johnstone and Tom Johnstone (music). It was the Broadway debut of the Marx Brothers. A revival of I'll Say She Is, as "adapted and expanded" by the writer-performer Noah Diamond, was seen Off Broadway at the Connelly Theater in 2016.
"Why a Duck?" is a comedy routine featured in the Marx Brothers movie The Cocoanuts (1929). In a scene in which Groucho and Chico are discussing a map, Groucho mentions the presence of a viaduct between the mainland and a peninsula. Chico, who is playing the role of an immigrant with poor English skills, replies "Why a duck?" This leads into a long schtick with Chico responding "Why a no chicken?", "I catch ona why a horse", and so forth.
The Cocoanuts is a musical with music and lyrics by Irving Berlin and a book by George S. Kaufman, with additional text by Morrie Ryskind.