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Marxology - At The Circus

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At the Circus was released on 20 October 1939. The working title was A Day at the Circus and the earliest outline was written by Ben Hecht. In this version, the rich showman Joe Marlowe has died and left his circus to his son, the circus Strong Man, and to "his associates as clowns and ringmasters" - the Three Marx Brothers. However, the Strong Man and his sweetie Pauline plot to take it all. There are also eels in the bathtub, elephants in the living room, an escaped gorilla and society dame Mrs Chippendale who gets the circus show against her will for assembled upper-crust guests.

Arthur Sheekman and Irving Breecher wrote a similar script, but the fact that this script wasn't taken on a pre-filming stage tour like most other MGM films makes a difference as the jokes are of a much less consistent quality. However, a film which has Groucho Marx singing Lydia the Tattooed Lady just can't be bad. The scene described below is a sequence that was cut from the film before release. It was intended to introduce Groucho as lawyer J. Cheever Loophole and appears as presented in "The Freedonia Gazette" no 13, 1984.

Lawyer J. Cheever Loophole Groucho
Judge Granville Bates
Detective Nicholas Bludge Herbert Ashley
Valerie Irene Colman
The Defendant Byron Foulger
Defendant's attorney
Court Clerk

A close shot of the judge on his bench. He is rapping with his gavel.

Judge We have had too much delay in this trial! Now then, where is the plaintiff's attorney?
A wider angle takes in the judge, the court clerk and the plaintiff. The plaintiff is a very statuesque blond wearing a veil, and revealing an attractive pair of legs. She is seated in the witness chair. The court clerk is rising.

Court clerk Is the attorney for the plaintiff in the court? (louder) Attorney J.Cheever Loophole! Attorney Loophole! Mr. Loophole!
Pan to jury box. Chin in hands sits lawyer Groucho. He is cat-napping. The noise awakens him. He leaps to his feet and whirls on the jury with a dramatic plea.

Groucho Gentleman of the jury. I implore you to face the facts. This is a simple case of...
Over scene we hear judge rapping with gavel. Groucho stops, looks toward judge. Angle on front of courtroom. Defendant's attorney jumps up.

Defendant's attorney This is highly irregular! Why is the attorney for the plaintiff sitting with the jury?

Groucho I'd rather have the state owe me three bucks a day than the plaintiff.
Groucho steps out of jury box and stalks over to a frightened little man who sits at defendant's table. Groucho points an accusing forefinger at him.
I intend to prove that this monster...with his silken words and cotton suit, did, wilfully and with malice aforethought, promise that he would marry...
His voice breaks.
...this little child.
He points to the plaintiff
This delicate flower! Gentlemen, this girl believed that man...she trusted him.
To camera
Ain't that a woman for you!
He runs to attack the jury once more.
Gentlemen, to me a woman has always been something to mother was a woman...grand-daughter to Paul Revere. But that's a horse of another story!
Suddenly the defendant's attorney leaps to his feet, waiving a few shabby pieces of paper and shouting.

Defendant's attorney Your Honor, the plaintiff's counsel has introduced no evidence other than this affidavit with half the pages missing!

Groucho Well, affa-davit is better than none.

Defendant's attorney He has not succedeed in proving even one of his allegations. And I move that you dismiss the case.

Groucho (confidentially to jury) How do you like that guy? The first case I've had in nine years, and he wants to dismiss it.

Judge (pounding gavel) Silence!

Groucho (to other attorney) Yeah, pipe down!

Defendant's attorney There is not one scrap of evidence to show that my client here was ever even seen with this woman...and yet she sues him for breach of promise!

Judge (to Groucho) Has the plaintiff any further evidence?

Groucho (sardonically) Any further evidence? Only my trump card, that's all. If it please the court, I should like to call Detective Nicholas Bludge to the stand.
Shot toward court audience. In the second or third row rises a burly man, while off screen we hear the clerk's voice.

Court clerk Detective Nicholas Bludge!
Bludge is walking toward stand.

Bludge Here.
Angle on front of courtroom. Groucho struts around triumphantly, then turns to opposing counsel.

Groucho You want evidence, eh?
He glares at worried defendant.
The Detective takes the stand, and Groucho goes into action.
Mr. Bludge...on the night of November 27th, did you - or did you not - see this little lady...with a certain despicable playboy?
He glowers at the little defendant.

Bludge Well...

Groucho No evasions, please. Remember, the future happiness of several human lives depends on your testimony tell the court...tell the jury...tell the whole world...WHO is that man?

Bludge (indicating Groucho) You.
Close shot on Groucho, taking this big.

Groucho (incredulous) Me?
Medium shot on principals. Over scene comes the hubbub of the courtroom. Groucho scurries over to the woman in the case, quickly lifts her veil. He's amazed to recognize her.
The judge raps his gavel for silence.
Your honor, I move for an adjournment!
Reaching the aisle, he walks rapidly toward the door, the camera trucking with him.
And I'm gonna keep moving!

Corridor outside courtroom. As Groucho darts out, slamming the door behind him, he is confronted by a quartette of Postal Telegraph boys. Groucho is terrified, as he mistakes them.

Groucho The National Guard!

The boys Mr. Loophole?

Groucho Yes, but I've got an alibi. I didn't do it.

The boys Postal Telegraph Message No. eleven-thirty six.
They sing
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Come quickly to Luxton
Or the circus is through.
They bow
They hand him a wire. As the truth dawns on Groucho, he brightens.

Groucho Don't wait for an answer. I'll sing it to him myself!
The scene fades out as Groucho heads for the door