Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Cocoanuts (Robert Flory, Joseph Santley) ***1/2

Director: Robert Flory, Joseph Santley

Cast: Groucho Marx, Harpo Marx. Chico Marx, Oscar Shaw, Mary Eaton, Margaret Dumont

Background: The Marx Brothers were five brothers that got their start performing in vaudeville shows. Their act got very popular by the end of the 20s, and with the invention of talkies, they seemed a perfect match to take advantage of the new medium.

Story: Groucho owns a Florida hotel that is about to go belly up. He comes up with several ideas for making money, including a real estate auction, but is often thwarted by Chico and Harpo. They also get mixed up in a romance between

Thoughts: This was a great debut for the Marx Brothers. The thin plot was enough to provide them ample inspiration for great wordplay and hijinx. The most inspired moment comes during a scene where the camera cleverly shows us two rooms at once, and the Marx Brothers all rotate through the two rooms (and the unseen hallway) trying to find one another. This sequence features the brilliant comic timing that no doubt made their stage show a success. There's another great moment that recalls Abbott and Costello's "Who's on First?" routine where they get plenty of hilarious mileage out of Chico's pronunciation of "viaduct". What I could've done without were the musical interludes that did not involve the Marx Brothers. They bring the show to a screeching halt and sap some of the comic momentum.

Postscript: The Marx Brothers would continue to make a number of highly successful films, including two that appeared on the AFI Top 100 list (A Night at the Opera, Duck Soup). Their last feature length film would be The Story of Mankind in 1957.

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