Philip Roth, one of my ten favorite Jewish humorists, died yesterday. Since none of Roth’s books translated particularly well to the screen there isn’t much point in posting a clip of one the movies based on his work. And his interviews were few and far between (and I imagine the blogosphere is filled with them anyway). I’ve been posting Jack Benny material for the past couple of weeks (see below), so that takes care of one of my other favorite JH’s. Three of my favorite JH’s are still alive but I won’t name them so as not to put a ‘Kinehora’ (Yiddish for ‘a curse in reverse’) on any of them. (Hint: one has the initials MB and is currently about 2,053 years old). Still another is a man who will never likely never make another movie since he married his step-daughter (who he’s still happily married to) twenty-five years ago. Another makes 500 million dollars a year on Sirius XM and another has his own eponymous TV show on HBO and is much funnier than the comedian whose sitcom he created back in the fast-fading 1990s. Which leaves the Four Marx Brothers as my final four dead JH’s. So somehow, posting the Marx Brothers is my way of paying homage to Philip Roth.
But what to post? Every Marx routine is routinely revisited by the fans, the super-fans and even the newly initiated. We’ve all seen ‘Tutti-Frutti Ice-Cream’ and ‘Why A Duck?’ and ‘Party of The First Part’ plenty of times. And then I remembered stumbling upon the above eighteen second clip.
You won’t believe what you’re about to see. It’s a candid view of a rehearsal on the set of the Marx Brothers 1930 film ‘Animal Crackers’ and it’s shot in color. In it, Groucho stares at the camera then paces away, clearly bored. Harpo comes out, sans costume, wearing a bathrobe–no wig, no hat, nothin’. Only his singular grin and mad eyes identify him as Harpo. Margaret Dumont crosses camera right and she and Harpo rehearse their introduction, where she reaches for his hand and gets his horn instead.
And that’s it. No information on why this exists, why it’s in color, why they shot this rehearsal or what else they may have shot. Possibly it was a test of a color system and they rolled on whatever was happening at that moment (which was this rehearsal)? One of the sparse user comments says this scrap was found in an attic. If anyone has any other clues about this, please leave it in the comments section. This is truly one of the most astounding snippets of film I’ve ever seen. For eighteen seconds, you’re on the set of ‘Animal Crackers’, seeing the real brothers and the whole sh-bang in the non art-deco black and white that we’re used to. Lurid thought the colors are, they bring the whole thing to life in a shocking and delightful way.