This past week I’ve discovered a terrific podcast about the Marx Brothers called ‘The Marx Brothers Council Podcast’. Each episode is a witty, deep dive into one of their movies as well as other topics covered (such as the infamous ‘Marx Brothers Scrapbook’ as conceived and edited by the late Richard J. Anobile). One of the best episodes I’ve listened to has to do with the Marx’s first feature ‘The Cocoanuts’ and one of the reasons I liked it is because they express great affection for the film, which mostly has been dismissed over the years as their clumsy maiden voyage. I’ve always loved ‘The Cocoanuts’, not only for its routines but for its antiquity–the film was a Broadway hit from 1926 and was shot in 1929 in the very earliest stages of sound film production. My love for early ‘talkies’ is such that in some ways the clumsier the movie, the more it fascinates me. Camera’s were enclosed in suffocatingly airless soundproof booths which limited their mobility to none whatsoever. For soundtrack reasons (don’t ask) scenes were shot with multiple cameras much like a sit-com. Oddly this gives many of the scenes an odd kinetic liveliness, somewhat like live TV shows of the 50s–you watch as much for the content as for the experience they’re having actually making the scene, which is an awkward and nerve-wracking one. One of the things I learned from this particular episode is that a Victor Salon Orchestra recording of music from the original Broadway production of ‘The Cocoanuts’ exists on good old YouTube. Much of the material was cut from the show so this is the first time I’ve heard it. For Marx completists (of which I thought I was one but it appears I’m only an amateur at these things) it’s a must listen. Above I’ve posted the record. Enjoy visiting the sounds of a very different world, one that is close to a century old and feels even more removed than that from our current one.


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