It started off as one of those nights when the inflammation in my joints felt as though Thor had used my knee caps for a set of bongos ( I had been trying to reduce the effects of the swelling using a bag of frozen peas and Maxidrol) and instead of navel gazing I stuck on The Marx Brothers movie Animal Crackers and boy did it take me out of myself. Groucho plays Captain Spaulding an explorer returning from deepest darkest Africa( the Africa of Betty Boop cartoons I suspect) and attends a party thrown in his honor by wealthy socialite Mrs Rittenhouse( played in stately fashion by the equally stately Margaret Dumont). Enter Harpo as a character called The Professor, Chico as Signor Ravelli and Zeppo as Horatio Jameson. Yes, all four of the brothers in this a film they shot in New York way back in 1929. All round chaos and mayhem ensues on this millionaires estate with the hunt for a forged masterpiece while no one at the party is quite what they seem. All the brothers get a chance to shine, showcasing their various talents. Groucho is on tremendous form. His word play is just dazzling and his surreal asides to the audience in a Beckett like drone break the forth wall in style. In a scene involving a rambling and bizarre letter to his lawyers which he dictates to Zeppo we see the skill involved in playing the straight man so ably displayed by the very handsome Zeppo. Their brothers finger's dance across harp strings and piano keys lending the whole affair a soundtrack that could only have been provided by themselves. Chico plays a spellbinding composition on piano that actually gave me goosebumps as I watched him perform it. The DVD allowed me to pause, zoom in and watch in awe as his long delicate fingers danced across the black and white ivory keys rattling out a version of Sugar In The Morning which goes on and on and round and round because he cannot remember how to finish it. Amazing. And off course every scene with the mesmerising Harpo had me entranced. When he is in a scene I find it difficult to take in what others are doing.
Animal Crackers was released in 1930.
Eighty three years later I am still laughing.
I think the world needs the Marx Brothers now more than ever.
( Harpo from my sketchbook/Animal Crackers movie poster property of Paramount Pictures )