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Marxology - Animal Crackers


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Animal Crackers, the Marxes' third Broadway musical and second movie, has music and lyrics by Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby and a book by George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind. Alexander Woollcott mentioned the stage follow-up to The Cocoanuts in his column in December 1927 and described it as "a farce dealing with Long Island life and called While London Sleeps." It opened on Broadway on 23 October 1928 at the 44th Street Theatre, and ran for 191 performances and then toured. The film premiered on 23 August 1930.

The Court of Louis the 57th


A revamp of Napoleon's First Waterloo from I'll Say She Is! occupied the third scene of act two in the play but was almost entirely removed from the film save for the wrap-up of the plot. It was probably director Victor Heerman who suggested this for the sake of brevity. This also removed what was originally Harpo's musical spot which - as in the film version of The Cocoanuts - was inserted elsewhere. At the time of the filming of Animal Crackers it was said that the scene would be filmed on another occasion but it never was.

Often referred to as "The Du Barry-scene", The Court of Louis the 57th has been described as a "play in the play", where the guests of Mrs Rittenhouse portrayed figures from the court of Louis 57th in a costume party. Introduced by The Royal Filipino Band, the guest of honour, Captain Spaulding, was the King while Mrs Rittenhouse was his Queen. This didn't prevent him from arranging a liasion with Du Barry, alias Mrs Whitehead. Like Napoleon's Josephine, Du Barry had to wrestle on a sofa, being upended and thrown by all four Marx Brothers, fully dressed in French court regalia. The scene ended with Kalmar-Ruby's song Musketeers, which featured all the Four Marx Brothers.

Groucho (wants to make certain that Monsieur Du Barry is out of town)
You're sure this time? You know it doesn't look right for a king to keep jumping out of the window at three o'clock in the morning. The last window I jumped out of, I forgot to open. I'd show you the scars but I know you don't smoke!

Du Barry Sire, I fear for me to come here is indiscreet.

Groucho Nonsense, you'll be in the street sooner or later. You come from good stock, you'll probably be on the curb. Ah, Du Barry, you look wonderful in that French dressing...May I call you Du, Du?

Du Barry As you will, milord.

Groucho (calls for champagne) What do you think, do you think we'll ever get the saloon back?...And if we do, what's going to become of the bellboys in the Hotel Astor?

Hives, the butler Doucet, the French Premier.

Doucet Compliments, Your Majesty. Herzegovina has declared war upon us.

Groucho If you think I'm going to let my army fight with a Pullman car, you're crazy.

Musketeers


Although this song was omitted from the Animal Crackers-film, the "three cheers/chairs"-joke was used in the dialogue. It has also been speculated that the "one for all, two for five"-bit inspired a remark by Groucho in the film The Cocoanuts: "One for all and all for me, me for you and three for five and six for a quarter". The Cocoanuts was filmed while the Marxes performed Animal Crackers on stage and singing The Musketeers may have initiated a change of this passage, which in the script was: "Now and forever, one and indivisible, one for all and all for me and me for you, and tea for two." An instrumental midi-version of The Musketeers can be found at Frank M. Bland's site Why A Duck, in the Midi Files-section. Additionally, a version of the song with re-written lyrics was featured in Paramount's 1938-movie Cocoanut Grove. That movie is about swing band leader Fred MacMurray (as Johnny Prentice) trying to get his Chicago-based band across the US to make the legendary Cocoanut Grove in LA. The Musketeers is performed by the Yacht Club Boys, a "nut" singing group consisting of Charles Adler, George Kelly, James Kern and Billy Mann. This quartet hailed from the Catskills circuit and has been described as "the WASP" or "the Gentile" Ritz Brothers.

Hooray for Captain Spaulding

Most prints of Animal Crackers has some very noticeable edits in some scenes and the last scene of the play is almost entirely removed save for the wrap-up of the plot. Captain Spaulding, the African Explorer, was the most inspired of Grouchoesque creations. There had been a real Captain Spaulding, a vaudeville fire-eater ("The Man Who Was Hotter Than Vesuvius"), so the actual name might have come from Groucho. The song, written by Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby, is edited in most versions of Animal Crackers. The line "I think I'll try and make her" was cut from this song and the resulting edit causes Groucho to jump halfway across the screen. Exactly when this cut was made is uncertain. It may have been for the 1936 reissue, even if lots of people remember seeing an uncut copy as late as in the 1970s.

The Power Cut

In the scene where Groucho and Margaret Dumont are left in the dark when the storms knocks out the power, all that can be made out are two silhouettes. The silhouette that is supposed to be Groucho is obviously a stand-in which many people think is Zeppo. This is an oft-mentioned mystery among Marxians, and most of them have come to the conclusion that the scene must have been shot silently with a stand-in while the dialogue was recorded some other time. But why? Was it a last minute re-shooting? Was it the best way to get the correct lighting? Did they even have the technique by then to add the dialogue afterwards? A year earlier when they were shooting The Cocoanuts, they certainly had to do everything (picture, sound, orchestra etc) at the same time. A possibility is that the black-out scene was filmed with stand-ins while the head actors were standing behind the camera, simultanously doing the dialogue and that all this was to get the best possible sound and pictures.

Hungerdunger, Hungerdunger, Hungerdunger, and McCormick

In this scene Zeppo had some lines about "scratching Elsie" (which was even used in some ads for the film), but they were cut nevertheless at some later stage. The first edit comes right after Zeppo asks how to spell semi-colon and Groucho replies "Make it a comma":

Groucho Dear Elsie, no never mind Elsie.

Zeppo Do you want me to scratch Elsie?

Groucho Well, if you enjoy that sort of thing, it's quite alright with me. However, I'm not interested in your private affairs, Jamison. Begin this way... let's start all over again...

It's easy to tell this has been cut since Groucho does a screen jump similar to the one in the Hooray for Captain Spaulding-number. The second edit is after the following dialogue;

Groucho I tell you what you do, Jamison, I tell you what, make it three windshield wipers and one Hungerdunger. They won't all be there when the letter arrives anyhow.

Zeppo Hungerdunger, Hungerdunger, Hungerdunger, and McCormick.

Groucho And McCormick.

Then the following is cut. The edit is harder to see since there is a change in camera shot.

Zeppo Dear Elsie, scratch.

Groucho That won't do, Jamison. That won't go thru the mail the way you've got the letter. The way you've got it, McCormick is scratching Elsie. You had better turn that around and have Elsie scratch McCormick. You'd better turn McCormick around too, Jamison and see what you can do for me.

Revivals


The Marxes revived the "The Du Barry-scene" for personal stage appearances in New York in August 1931, and in 1956 Chico talked about the possibility for the Marxes to produce a colour re-make for TV (which they never did, of course).

Animal Crackers have been revived on stage by others on several occasions over the years. In August 2002, the Oxford University Dramatic Society performed the play in Edinburgh, Scotland under the direction of Sam Leifer. At 60 minutes, the show was described as a great reconstruction of the madness of the Marxes. Leifer's production was totally in black & white with a vaudevillian touch. Hooray for Captain Spaulding announced the classic entrance on Sudan chair by Captain Spaulding, played by James Wilton. He got well into his stride with "Hello I must be going" before going into the opening dialogue with Mrs Rittenhouse (played by Jessie Burton). The original dialogue mixed pieces of the opening of Duck Soup (like the business with the vaccination with the phonograph needle). Ravelli (played by rock band drummer Johnny Lewsley) and The Professor (played by Andy King) joined in the nonsense and basically followed the plot through to the sleepy conclusion. There were some greatest hits thrown in, like the exchange of contracts between Groucho and Chico and Everyone says I love you. Also, the famous painting (the "Pictch") on exhibition in Mrs Rittenhouse villa was substituted for a statue (or "Statch").

The show was recreated twice during the summer of 2003. First by the Actors Net of Bucks County in Morrisville, Pennsylvania, then by The Riverwalk Theater in Lansing, Michigan. Again, the famous painting was changed into a new sculpture but they re-introduced a character from the original show that was omitted in the Marxes' film version, i.e. the young gossip columnist who becomes the love interest of Arabella Rittenhouse. In this show, Spaulding was played by Curt Lippe, Ravelli by Susan Ferrara Barto, The Professor by Joe Doyle and Jamison by Chuck Donnelly. This version of the show included the DuBarry scene and The Musketeers. In an e-mail, Lippe wrote: "Something funny that happened on opening night in that scene. Spaulding keeps getting interrupted trying to make time with DuBarry on the couch. While I'm sitting on her lap, Harpo is supposed to come in chasing a girl and switch the empty wine bottle he stole earlier in the scene with a full one. As he leaves with the girl Spaulding says "Say, just a minute, you've got a nickel coming to you for the empty bottle". Well, the girl missed her cue and wasn't ready, and Harpo didn't make his entrance. So I was sitting on DuBarry's lap, looking over my shoulder, and no Harpo. Bewildered, I started saying things to her like "Do you think you could grow a little more lap" and "Hey, feel like singing one of those songs we sang earlier tonight?". The audience started picking up that it was a mess-up and started howling, and things just got crazier. Finally Harpo came on alone and we continued - but that might have been the closest real "Marx moment" we had - knowing what we do of their improvisational skills! "

"The captain has arrived" (stage version)

The Court of Louis the 57th

Four of the three musketeers (Marx Brothers)

Four of the three musketeers (Yacht Club Boys)

Musketeers


(Bert Kalmar - Harry Ruby)

Unless we tell you who we are, you'll never guess
We're not Napoleon or da Vinci
A lot of people think we are, but none the less
We're not Napoleon or da Vinci
We're not even Washington or Lincoln
Jefferson or Alexander Carr
You'd be wrong whoever you begin on
So we'll let you in on who we are
So stand by, unseen listeners (bugle call)

chorus
We're four of the three musketeers
We've been together for years
Eenie, meenie, minee (horn)
Four of the three musketeers
We live by the sword, by the sea, by the way
And we fight day and night
And we sleep night and day
My country 'tis of thee
Land of the light wines and beers
We're cheered from Cologne to Algiers
Each time our motto appears
It's one for all and two for five
We're four of the three musketeers

patter
When the Queen needs recreation and she strolls along the path
Where are we? Right by her side
When she's filled with jubilation or consumed with raging wrath
Where are we? Right by her side
We've sworn that we'd shield and protect her
We're her guardsmen, true and tried
When she gets up in the morning and she slips into her bath
Where are we? Far from the old folks at home

second chorus
We're four of the three musketeers
We've been together for years
Athos, Pathos, Mathos (horn)
Four of the three musketeers
We fight for the King, for the Queen, for the Jack
And we're first at the front
When the front's at the back
Three cheers for Richelieu
Here's how we give him the cheers (business)
The foe trembles each time it hears
This motto ring in its ears
It's one for all and two for five
We're four of the three musketeers

Musketeers (as performed by the Yacht Club Boys in the film Cocoanut Grove)

(Bert Kalmar - Harry Ruby - Charles Adler - George Kelly - James Kern - Billy Mann)

We're four of the three musketeers
We've been together for years
Eenie, meenie, minee, moe
Moe is the guy with the ears
If one Musketeer has a dame
then Four Musketeers has the same
aim
is
One for all and tea for two
We're four of three Musketeers

As we bring a local marching song the population cheer
you'll never get rich you son of a gun if you're one of the Musketeers
add the troops and here's the dope
we are never at a loss
'cause whatever you've done on an automobile
we've done on a horse

En garde! Á vous!
á vous-vous-vous-vous-vous-vous-vous!

So we like to win lots of goo
we can't 'cause we don't know the rules
a fool as which with what and to whom
We're four of the three musketeers
Four of the three musketeers