Thursday, May 01, 2014

Animal Crackers (1930)

Of all the wonderful films the Marx Bros. gave us, this may be the one I enjoy the most on repeated screenings, because each viewing yields new surprises, little jokes or references that I missed before, and of course plenty of old favorites. Bursting with madcap energy and a brilliant script (by Bert Kalmar, Harry Ruby, Morrie Ryskind and George S. Kaufman) that easily overcome any of the limitations of the early sound film medium, it gives the team one of their finest showcases and is also of historical interest as a record of their hit 1928 Broadway show.

The Marx Bros. are turned loose during a soirée at the swanky Long Island home of socialite Mrs. Rittenhouse (Margaret Dumont), skewering high society types and pretentious art snobs amid a plot involving a stolen painting. They bring their own bizarre logic to such delightful bits of nonsense as Harpo and Chico stealing a man's birthmark, Harpo's endless supply of stolen silverware falling from his coat, and of course Groucho's stories about big game hunting in Africa.

In many ways their most genuinely surreal film, and so richly packed with references and jokes that it really deserves to be seen several times in order to catch them all.

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