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The Marx Brothers
Marxology - A Day At The United Nations


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UNITED NATIONS

While making 1960's The Apartment in New York City, Director Billy Wilder was staying near the United Nations. He witnessed the cold war hubbub surrounding the place and one day asked his collaborator I. A. L. Diamond, "Do you think it would be funny to do a picture with the Marx Brothers at the United Nations?"

Diamond took to the idea and off they were. Groucho also liked the idea and told Wilder to make a deal with the group's agent, their brother Gummo. Gummo felt the deal was doable, so Wilder and Diamond developed the idea into a 40-page treatment. Wilder's never-made movie with the Marx Brothers, A Day At The United Nations, was announced in November 1960;

"We want to make a satire on the conditions of the world today, a satire on the deterioration of diplomatic behavior, on brinksmanship, wild jokes about the H-bomb, that type of stuff. It's all so dramatic that a few jokes put over by the Marx Bros. should alleviate the tension. We might have the Marx Bros. mixing up all the flags with, say, Nasser coming in under the Star of David. Mad fun like that. We will keep the same Marx Bros. technique of playing against a very serious background. We'll try to keep it all - the dignity of the locale, the procedure, the enormity of the problem - with Groucho, Harpo, and Chico in the middle of it. It's fun and it involves the world as a whole. It will be understood universally, therefore it's worth a film. Making a film is like gambling with the chips getting more expensive every day. That way you can't afford too big a gamble. So we've got the UN and we've got the Marx Bros. Put them together, and - boom!".

Groucho was to be the leader of a mob that decides New York's police department is so tied up with UN delegate protection that it would be possible to rob Tiffany's unnoticed by the distracted officers. Chico was to be the "muscle" of the organization, Harpo its safecracker, shown in one scene to be unable to open even a can of sardines. Navigating the New York sewer system, they would steal four suitcases of diamonds from Tiffany's before attempting to escape on a tramp steamer bound for Brazil. There would, however, be an anti-Communist demonstration when they got to the pier, and somehow the police were to mistake them for the UN's Latvian delegation. They would be given a police escort to the Latvian embassy, just when they would otherwise have been able to escape. The comic climax was to have been a scene wherein Harpo addressed the entire General Assembly without uttering a sound, utilizing his classic bag of tricks including horn honking and girl lunging while multiple foreign interpreters tried to translate...

But age and infirmity crept in. Harpo had a heart attack while rehearsing for a TV special and though his health improved they were unable to get insurance for the project. Shortly thereafter Chico died, so neither Wilder nor the moviegoing audience got to enjoy the Marx Brothers spending a day at the UN.