The generally accepted word on the Marx Brothers films is that they constitute a clear case of downhillism, with the first five Paramount films being their supreme achievements, the first MGM (‘A Night At The Opera’) being the most successful yet also signifying the beginning of the end, and a gradual–and then steep–dropoff over the remaining six films. The only thing I ever disagreed with in this assessment is citing ‘A Night At The Opera’ as the film containing the cancer cell that would spread. I’d always loved the film. Or at least I thought I did. A recent re-watching–coming after re-watching the Paramounts–was a distinct disappointment, with both the famous stateroom scene and the equally revered Groucho-Chico contract scene playing as much flatter than I remembered. Throwing Groucho down the stairs and whipping Harpo are simply sending the wrong message. The anarchy most always be theirs to own–victimhood has no place in their world. The highlight–and for me the strongest scene in the movie–was the opening scene between Groucho and Margaret Dumont in the restaurant. And so, with great Marxian logic, that’s not the one I’m posting today. Instead, I’ve posted another Groucho/Dumont scene, this one from ‘The Big Store’, a 1941 film that’s generally considered their nadir at MGM. It features Douglas Dumbrille as the aggrieved third party, a tradition in many of the Dumont/Groucho opening scenes. Because ‘The Big Store’ was one of my first Marx films I continue to rate a little bit higher than others do and this scene is, I think, pretty damn sharp, with Groucho hitting all the right notes and staying on top of things despite uttering some clinkers. I’ve been digging ‘The Marx Brothers Council Podcast’ and highly recommend it to die-hard Marx fans as well as those new to the club. They rate ‘The Big Store’ pretty low on their list. I haven’t watched the whole thing in years but having stumbled upon this clip while searching for the opening scene of ANATO I offer it as proof that second-rate Groucho is still first-rate anybody else.


Sign up for news & updates so you don't miss a thing!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *