04 June 2006

Marx (1939)

1939 - At the Circus - Considering this and A Day at the Races, I think I can safely ignore the "common knowledge" that the post-Paramount Marx films weren't any good. This film is pure fun. I loved the setting, the songs, the gags and the wild ending.

A circus troop is a great place for the Bros. to play around in. You can have giraffes licking Margaret Dumont (and Groucho taking credit). You can watch Peerless Pauline and Groucho having an upside-down tête-à-tête. You can laugh at a hysterical investigation by Chico and Harpo in the tiny room of a little person. At the circus, the Bros. can terrorize a poor, sleeping strongman. And, Groucho can croon about a tattooed lady named Lydia. It's a great setting and the Bros. take advantage of it.

I noticed that Groucho appears to have donned a wig for this film. It struck me as odd at first, as it isn't particularly real-looking. Then I remembered that Harpo has always worn one, and the hair styles are a part of the Bros.' characters costumes.

I think Harpo's harp song in this film was my favorite thus far. There's a shot in the middle of it that I found fascinating. It showed Harpo's face from a low angle, through the strings. His eyes were closed and his face was fixed in an expression of pure intensity. It's clear that Harpo the Id and Harpo the serious musician were two different characters. (8/10)

d. Edward Buzzell