Thursday, November 28, 2013

Monkey Business (1931)

WHO: Groucho, Chico, Harpo and Zeppo Marx star in this.

WHAT: When people talk about the pre-code gangster films Hollywood brewed out of the early-1930s confluence of Prohibtion, the Depression, and the sudden celebrity status of the likes of Al Capone and John Dillinger, they always seem to leave out this film. The first Marx Brothers movie conceived of for the silver screen (as the prior The Cocoanuts and Animal Crackers has been based on stage shows) is perhaps more often thought of as "the one on a ship" than "the one with gangsters" but the latter form a key part of the film's completely unimportant plot. Just because it's an absurd comedy doesn't mean it shouldn't go down with other 1931 films like Little Caesar and The Public Enemy as important films made before the Lindbergh Baby kidnapping turned Hollywood away from  on-screen gangster depictions for a while. It' not for nothing that the illustrious Dave Kehr once decribed the comic aspects of Howard Hawks's Scarface by invoking the image of "Chico Marx let loose with a live machine gun."

WHERE/WHEN: Today through Sunday at the Stanford Theatre at 6:00 & 9:15.

WHY: Happy Thanksgiving and Hannukah. You've probably already heard about how an unusually late-in-month Thanksgiving and an unusually early-in-Gregorian-year Hannukah have converged today for the first time since the nineteenth century, making for a once-in-lifetime double holiday. Being a goy myself, I'm not one to proscribe holiday traditions, but if a rabbi says watching Marx Brothers movies is a good way to celebrate Hannukah, I'm happy to pass it along.

Thanksgiving being a big moviegoing day to begin with, there's few classic comedy masterpieces that seem as well-suited to the holiday as The Lady Eve, with its uproariously funny banquet set piece. The pairing of Monkey Business on a double-bill with an equally ship-board and crook-filled comedy  seems so perfect that I almost wonder if the Stanford noticed the Thanksgiving/Hannukah collision on the calendar and decided to build its current Preston Sturges/Marx Brothers series inspired by it.

HOW: 35mm as always at the Stanford.

1 comment:

  1. I missed out on (re)seeing The Lady Eve on the big screen, choosing instead to catch new films by Stephen Chow and Sion Sono. But the Alamo Drafthouse did include a clip with the holiday appropriate remark by Stanwyck that she needed Fonda, "like an ax needs the turkey". Happy holidays to you.