So, I went through and re-watched, mostly, and watched the Marx Brothers catalog in the last few weeks. I had read Raised Eyebrows: My Years Inside Groucho's House by Steve Stoliar, mostly on a whim. In doing so, I was reminded how long it had been since I'd watched any of them. It was, of course, a generally delightful experience.
The most delightful part was that Conan enjoyed them along with me. I'd originally put them on as something I could watch with him in the room without any concern, but not specifically to turn him on to the joys of classic comedy. A couple in, I paused the movie to pee and he yelled, "Turn it back on!" Last night, I put in the disc of A Night in Casablanca and dawdled before turning the movie on, which led to a directive to "Turn it on!" I might complain about his bossiness, if it wasn't such a joy to see him excited for these.
Now I'm trying to consider possibilities for a follow-up. He's in a sensitive phase right now, so I don't want to go with anyone who will increase the peril level. He already had a moment during the finale Go West that was a bit much for him, so I'm thinking over who might have the right balance. I think a lot of comedies of that time period have more obvious peril. We'll see.
Inside the Marx Brothers, which is a lazy documentary that it is mostly benefited by having a lot of good footage. Unfortunately, it begins with the question "Were they really brothers?" as if it weren't a stupid question that is reasonably answered by, say, actually looking at any picture of them, and definitively answered by any picture of them, such as the one at left, of them out of their costumes. It does not bother with this strategy for some reason.
I also read The Annotated Marx Brothers: A Filmgoer's Guide to In-Jokes, Obscure References and Sly Details by Matthew Coniam. It was solid, and I'm definitely philosophically on the same page as the author on what's best about the Marx Brothers and their movies. The book spends too much time reviewing the movies and not enough annotating the jokes and references.
I'm not sure, now that I'm done with the movies, I'll continue obsessing over the details around them for the time being. We'll see.
Duck Soup, despite its obvious greatness, is the most disappointing coming back now. It makes sense as the most popular in a way. It's the one from their peak period that's the least like The Marx Brothers. There's no Harpo and Chico musical bits. It's easy to lay your own values on. It makes sense as a starter movie on that level, so it does make sense that it's the most famous at this point.
The Big Store was the best surprise. It was one of the couple I hadn't seen before, and one with a low reputation. It's certainly not their best. The formula is well in place, but it's good fun.
For the record, at this point, Monkey Business is my favorite. I can concede that might change next time I go through them, but it's definitely where they figured out what a Marx Brothers movie is and really, really nailed it.
Going over things, I'm amused by the obsession over Harpo speaking.
Like that question of whether there are three voices in that scene in A Day at the Races. Well, yes, there definitely are three voices. Is one of them Harpo? I can't imagine why it wouldn't be, but what do I know.
I do listen to the recorded excerpt from Harpo's tape that Rowland Barber was given to write Harpo Speaks and wonder how much of that exists and how close is it to the final book. I mean, is there an incredibly awesome audiobook sitting somewhere waiting to edited by the right person?
The other weird obsession among Marx Brothers fans is concern over Chico's accent. The number of references to how bad Chico's accent is and the merit or lack of merit to his character based on the lousiness of his accent. Never does anyone seem to have any opinion that involves a better accent being funnier on any level, so I don't understand it at all. It's just something to debate, because you've run out of other things to debate.