Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Lost Marx Brothers Script?

While trolling the internet for Marx Brothers information, I happened across several references to a play which just completed its premiere run at the 2009 Fringe Festival in Kansas City. The play, "Money Buckets" allegedly is based on a script written for the Marx Brothers while they were at MGM. The web site of the Buran Theater Company, which staged the play, states the following:
The actual source text, "Money Buckets", is the long lost Marx Bros. script. It was written while the brothers were with MGM between 1937 and 1941- but was never produced due to its controversial political overtures (sic). In 2003 artistic director Adam R. Burnett acquired the text from Marx Brothers historian Frederick Allison. In 2005 Burnett co-founded Buran Theatre Company with Alicia Gian and in 2007, after a brief and ultimately painless legal battle, they acquired the rights to perform the script as long as it was not performed in whole....

In an economy turned upside down FDR (Groucho Marx) asserts himself by hiring two new men, outsiders to the Washington System, to take over the cabinets of Finance, Minister Fellini (Chico Marx), and Agriculture (a beard for the War cabinet), Minister Bergman (Harpo Marx). But a villainous pair of Eastern European Socialists have plans to dupe the president and his boisterous wife, Eleanor (Margaret Dumont), and steal all of the money from the U.S. Government - buckets of money.
So far, my usual exhaustive research method (typing words into the Google search box) has not turned up any evidence corroborating the existence of the said long lost script, or the existence of a Marx historian named Frederick Allison. If any readers of this blog have more information or have the gumption to try to track down the facts, let me know.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Four of a Kind

Fellow blogger #167 Dad has tagged me with a task to come up with sets of four things that have something in common. This is one of those chain-letter type things that happen on the internet, I think. Normally, I abhor such activities, but since #167 invited me politely and didn't threaten death and destruction on me and my family if I don't participate, I'm doing it. As I understand it, there is no restriction on the number of sets. The only requirements are to come up with original topics and not copy those of the tagger, and to then to tag someone else.

So, below are the lists I came up with, all having to do with the Marx Brothers. I am tagging the following blogs:

Urban Sludgewater
Lolita's Classics

4 Women Who Appeared in Marx Brothers Movies and Later Had Regular Roles in TV Series

Kitty Carlisle - Female romantic lead in "A Night At The Opera." Was a regular panelist on the game show "What's My Line?"

Maureen O'Sullivan - Female romantic lead in "A Day At The Races." Hosted a syndicated TV show, "The Children's Hour," and was a cast member of the soap opera, "All My Children" for a season.

Eve Arden - Played acrobat Peerless Pauline in "At The Circus." Starred in the 50s sitcom, "Our Miss Brooks."

Lucille Ball - Appeared in "Room Service." Starred in the sitcom "I Love Lucy" and later "The Lucy Show."

4 Movies In Which Groucho's Character Proposed to Margaret Dumont's Character

Animal Crackers - Groucho proposes simultaneously to Margaret Dumont as Mrs. Rittenhouse and Margaret Irving as Mrs. Whitehead: Yes, I don't think I've ever seen four more beautiful eyes in my life. Well, three anyway. You know, you two girls have everything. You're tall and short and slim and stout and blonde and brunette, and that's just the kind of a girl I crave. We three would make an ideal couple. Why, you've got beauty, charm, money. You have got money, haven't you? 'Cause if you haven't, we can quit right now.

Duck Soup - Groucho: Why don't we get married, and take a vacation? I'll need a vacation if we're going to get married. Married! I can see you now, in the kitchen, bending over a hot stove. But I can't see the stove!

A Day At the Races - Groucho: Emily, I have a little confession to make. I really am a horse doctor, but marry me and I'll never look at any other horse.

The Big Store - Dumont: Oh, I'm afraid after we're married a while a beautiful young girl will come along and you'll forget all about me.
Groucho: Don't be silly. I'll write you twice a week.

4 Abandoned Marx Brothers Projects

Humor Risk - a 1921 silent film featured the Marx Brothers. The film was completed, but never released, and was either lost or destroyed.

Giraffes on Horseback Salads - Salvador Dali wrote the script for this surrealistic film, which was never produced. See earlier post about Dali and the Marx Brothers.

Deputy Seraph - a proposed TV Series featuring Harpo and Chico as angels who periodically came to to earth and occupied the bodies of living humans to help them out. Groucho was to appear intermittently as their supervisor, The Deputy Seraph. A few director's rushes remain from the pilot, but the project never got off the ground.

The New Marx Brothers Show - a cartoon series featuring Harpo, Chico, and Groucho, proposed in the mid60s, but never produced. Not strictly a Marx Brothers project, as Harpo and Chico had died in the early 60s, and it's doubtful Groucho would have participated.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Three-Headed Marx

My eccentric obsessions are not limited to the Marx Brothers. I also have an interest in the 1939 New York World's Fair, among other things. In a previous post, I managed to work in a reference to one of the more bizarre attractions at the 1939 Fair--Morris Gest's Little Miracle Town. This exhibit consisted of a village of scaled-down buildings where a troupe of little people were on display and where they performed onstage.

There is a connection, however oblique, between the Marx Brothers and Little Miracle Town. I first noticed this in the picture below, which shows Morris Gest (left) and some of the performers from Little Miracle Town posing with the Westinghouse robot Elektro the Moto Man (another of my obsessions). Elektro is seated on a motorized cart driven by Frank Buck (in the pith helmet), proprieter of the Jungleland attraction at the fair.

Note in the background in the upper right corner of the picture the heads of Chico, Groucho, and Harpo on a single winged, tuxedo-wearing body.

The puzzling nature of this picture remained unsolved until I saw the picture below in the online archives of Life Magazine.

The facade of Little Miracle Town was covered with this odd mural of flying celebrities holding hands. If you click to enlarge the photo, you'll probably recognize a few of the them, like Laurel and Hardy, Charlie Chaplin, George Bernard Shaw, Clark Gable, and many more.

If you look closely, you can see a portion of Harpo's hair (arrow) to the right of the barker in the detail below.


Further evidence can be seen in the film clip from the Prelinger Archives below. Between 10 and 18 seconds, you can see the three-headed Marx just above the heads of the crowd to the far right.

video

By the way, any resemblance between the depiction of the Marxes on this mural and the mythical multi-headed hellhound Cerebrus is purely coincidental, though those who had to work with the Marx Brothers might have thought otherwise.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Wouldn't It Be Loverly?


As I pointed out in the previous post, Matthew Coniam of The Marx Brothers Council of Britain bestowed the "One Lovely Blog" award on this blog. One of the conditions of the award is that it be passed on to other blogs. This presents me with a bit of a dilemma. Am I secure enough in my gender identity to bestow upon another blogger an award with a badge composed of a teacup full of pink roses, wrapped with a matching ribbon? Matthew can be forgiven because he received the award, and its requirement to pass it on, from a female blogger. At least he incorporated the masculine touch of riding a tractor into the conditions of the award.

Then there's the title. "Lovely" isn't a word often heard in male conversation in the U.S. I think the word is less gender specific in the U.K., where Matthew lives. Just this morning, I heard a commentator at the British Open refer to a hole on the course at Turnbury as "lovely." Other examples that come to mind are the British songs "I've Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts" and "Lovely Rita Meter Maid." Well, there is that line in "Lovely Rita":
And the bag across her shoulder
Made her look a little like a military man
But this is later negated by:
Took her home and nearly made it
Sitting on a sofa with a sister or two
I think I would be more comfortable if I could modify the title and badge of the award. I would be happy to give an award with a badge consisting of a foaming stein of beer and a title like "Blog and Suds." How about a "Silent But Deadly" award with an atomic mushroom cloud as a graphic? This would probably be best given as a followup to the "Blog and Suds" award. Perhaps my fellow male bloggers would be more accepting of a "Blog of the Month Foldout Award." I will leave the graphic to the reader's imagination.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

I'd Like to Thank All the Little People...

Actually, the above picture has nothing to do with the current post. Morris Gest's Little Miracle Town was one of the more peculiar exhibits at the 1939 World's Fair--a town with buildings scaled down for little people, who carried on their daily activities while fairgoers walked around and gawked at them. I just thought I'd throw that in along with the hackneyed phrase that actors are supposed to use in acceptance speeches at award shows, although I'd be shocked if anyone actually did say, "I'd like to thank all the little people who made this possible" at the Oscar ceremony.

This blog has just received its first--and likely only--award, from fellow Marxist Matthew Coniam and his blog, The Marx Brothers Council of Britain, an amazing site with all kinds of arcana relating to the Marx Brothers and their movies.


With great honor comes great responsibility. Matthew gives the award with strings attached. The recipent must:

a) name the person that gave it to them, b) post a photograph of themselves driving a tractor in a pinstripe suit,and c) pass on the award to other deserving sites, letting their authors know that they have been chosen.

OK, I have already named my benefactor. As to the second requirement, all photos of me driving a tractor in a pinstripe suit are out to the cleaners at the moment. I hope that this picture of me as a tot in overalls, riding on a tractor with my father, will suffice.


As to the third condition, I'm thinking about other blogs I may bestow this award upon.

Thanks, Matthew!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Groucho's Customs Form

A story frequently cut and pasted around various websites appears to have some basis in fact. An eyewitness account exists in the book Arthur Marx's Groucho: A Photographic Journey, edited by Groucho impersonator Frank Ferrante, with comments and photography by Groucho's son Arthur, published in 2001. After the Marx Brothers had a run at the Palace Theater in London, they returned to the U.S. on the ship Paris in 1931. Arthur's comments on shipboard pictures from the trip include the following:
When the ship docked, all the passengers went straight through customs--including Harpo, Chico, and Zeppo. But my father, my mother, Ruth, my sister Miriam and I were held up for four hours. They went through all our luggage with a fine tooth comb and made go into separate rooms and take off all our clothes. I think it may have had something to do with the way my father filled out the customs form:

NAME: Julius H. Marx
ADDRESS: 21 Lincoln Road, Great Neck, Long Island
HAIR: Very little
OCCUPATION: Smuggler
PURCHASES: Wouldn't you like to know!
Some internet versions of the episode include the apocryphal detail that Groucho turned to Ruth and said, "What did you do with the opium? Do you still have it on you?" Arthur doesn't mention Groucho asking these questions, so I would take this part of the story with several grains of salt.

How Tall Were the Marx Brothers?

One of the interesting features of the Feedjit widget (see sidebar at right) is that it supplies information about the words people use when they land here via a search engine. One recent visitor searched on the phrase "how tall were the Marx Brothers." Unfortunately, Google led him to the posts for June 2009, one of which includes a reference to the brothers' Uncle Julius, who was "well over four feet." The information the cyber-seeker was after is actually contained in the post "Passports", dated May 5, 2009. Included there are images of the brothers' 1922 passport applications. The heights they gave on the forms were:

Chico: 5' 6"
Groucho: 5' 8"
Zeppo: 5' 9"
Harpo: 5' 6 1/2"

They seem relatively short by today's standards, but as far as I can tell, the average height of an American male in 1920 was around 5'7" or 5'8".

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Harpo's Horn

Fellow Marx enthusiast Matthew Coniam asked about the object in Harpo's hand in the preceding post. Here's a profile view to show the taxi horn. The astute observer might note that the horn is in Harpo's right hand in the previous post and in the left hand here. The previous picture was a TtV view, which results in reversal of left and right in the Kodak Duaflex viewfinder.