Best Movies by Farr: Marx x 5

April 12, 2010 | John Farr

Revisit five of the Marx Brothers’ Depression-era Paramount masterpieces.

The Marx Brothers Silver Screen Edition (1930-1933)


The best way to enjoy the nutty antics of Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Zeppo is to indulge yourself in this boxed set of five early Paramount classics. A struggling Miami hotel is the scene of The Coconuts, based on the hit Broadway play and starring Groucho as a penurious manager. Animal Crackers tracks the efforts of a certain Captain Spaulding to crack an art-theft case, while the wacky Monkey Business finds the Marx Brothers stowing away on a luxury ship. Horse Feathers follows the demented siblings’ efforts to engineer a comeback for a college-football team, and in Duck Soup they try to govern the unruly nation of Freedonia.


Still one of the funniest vaudeville acts ever to grace stage, television, or silver screen, The Marx Brothers pioneered an antic, anarchic style of gut-busting entertainment that left audiences of the 1930s howling with delight. Even today, the hilarious mix of song-and-dance routines like “The Monkey Doodle-Do” and “Shirt Song”-accompanied, of course, by Harpo’s harp, Groucho’s guitar, and Chico’s expert ivory-tinkling-combined with the sheer nuthouse fervor of their adventures simply dazzle. In fact, “Duck Soup” was a political farce so extreme that Mussolini banned it . This “Silver Screen” set collects the Brothers’ early, outrĂ© Paramount outings, the only films where all four funnymen appeared together. Will social satire ever be this goofy again?

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