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The Marx Brothers


Takes place on the balcony of the lobby in a fashionable hotel.

[Sources Library of Congress, Washington
via Simon Louvish' book Monkey Business.
Additional descriptions from Glenn Mitchell's The Marx Brothers Encyclopedia,
Harpo Marx & Rowland Barber's Harpo Speaks! and
Groucho Marx & Richard Anobile's The Marx Brothers Scrapbook

The second half of the show consists of the play that Zeppo had tried to sell to the theatrical agent in Scene One, enacted by the aspiring theatricals.
The setting is the lobby of a hotel, with a balcony built overhead within the set, hence the act's various titles. The hotel-owner is young Dorothy Gould, who has inherited the hotel from her father. The late Mr Gould made an agreement with Groucho fifteen years earlier that Dorothy would marry Groucho's son when they both will come of age. But Mrs Gould and the House Detective, who is Dorothy's guardian, will only consider marrying Dorothy off to a good musician, since Mr Gould adored music, and Groucho's only son (played by Zeppo) is a musical dunce.

The curtain goes up on the Mezzanine Floor, and the girls come out to sing What would become of the musical show if it weren't for the girls? This segues into a step-dance including Zeppo and Groucho. The House Detective enters and Groucho throws his coat over his head. After that a long argy-bargy ensues over the legal documents.

Detective Well you know Mr Gould was sick two years before he died.

Groucho I guess that's vot killed him.

Detective He left this hotel to his daughter. She is his sole possessor and beneficiary.

Groucho calls the Musicians' Union to engage two unemployed candidates for the marriage.

Groucho Business of telephone. Hello, Gumchewer, give me two wrong numbers, then give me the Musicians' Union. "Union", u-n-u-n. Hello Une. Say, have you got a couple of men who are out of work? Oh, they're all out of work? Oh, it's a union. Well, send me a couple of men that look like me. What do I look like? Did you ever see Lincoln without a beard? Well, I look like Washington with a moustache.

The two engaged musicians happen to be Chico and Harpo.

Groucho Mrs Gould, I want you to meet my son Geshveer 1.

Chico My name is Chico.

Mrs Gould I thought his name was Geshveer 1.

Groucho That's what I always call him, but his mother calls him Chico. Put them together they spell Zweibach 2...

Harpo is introduced.

Mrs Gould What a queer looking object - who brought it here?

Groucho Quinine, go ahead and give your future wife a kiss.

Mrs Gould What?

Groucho She's got to be his wife. Shows her the agreement.

Mrs Gould Don't you think I ought to be consulted in this matter?

Groucho I'll insult you later.
Groucho and Mrs Gould are seated on a sofa. You won't believe it, but from the first time that I set eyes on you there is something I'm ashamed of and I think it's you. Oh, dear, when I'm with you I'm so lonesome - won't you please let me alone?

Harpo has said that the business of giving someone his leg instead of a handshake was developed in On The Balcony (probably in Scene One) and he has also provided the context of his knive-dropping routine within this show in Harpo Speaks!:

"The scene was a hotel suite. A good-looking girl is on the phone. "But how will I know you?" she asks, then says, "Oh - you'll be wearing a brown suit with a white carnation." Enter Groucho, Chico and me, all in brown suits with white carnations. We have overheard the conversation at the other end of the phone. On our heels the hotel dick comes in. The hotel's silver has been stolen, he says, and a witness reported that a guy in a brown suit with white carnation pulled the job. He grills Groucho and Chico, gets nothing but gags. He turns to me and says, "You've got an honest face. You don't want to be a crook, do you?" I nod my head yes. "You just stay away from these other two guys," he says. "They'll only get you into trouble." I make a contrite face, stick out my lower lip, and shake my head. Impressed by sparing me from a life of crime, the detective shakes my hand. A knife falls out of my sleeve and bounces to the floor. Intrigued, he shakes my other hand. Half a dozen knives clatter to the stage. He shakes both hands, and still more silver comes spilling out. When I first did the bit, I had twenty pieces up my sleeves. I eventually worked up to dropping three hundred knives, with a silver coffeepot tumbling out of my coat for a finish."

As long as Boxing Champion Benny Leonard was connected with the show, his appearance consisted of a discussion of the fight game with Groucho, demonstrating some shadow-boxing, and then taking on the Marxes in a mock bout. Though handicapped with oversized prop gloves, the Marxes put effort into the scene and Leonard is said to have retaliated by inflicting much damage, including a black eye for Groucho. The athletic Zeppo was reassigned to the role of referee after catching Leonard with a genuinely forceful punch!

Next followed various musical specialities, including Harpo's harp but also imitations and parodies. One routine was based on hypnotism; a girl (initially Hattie Darling) would play the violin after being hypnotized. Like the Theatrical Agency of Scene One, the idea of hypnotism was carried over to a routine in I'll Say She Is!
Groucho supplied more information on the parodies in The Marx Brothers Scrapbook:

"When Chico would play the piano he'd ask me what song I wanted to hear and I'd make up parodies of popular song titles of the day. I had all kinds, like I'd say, "Chico play Slipshod Through the Cowslips!" That was a parody on Tiptoe Through the Tulips. Or I'd say, "Chico play I'm a Dreamer Montreal, which would be a song titled I'm a Dreamer, Aren't We All. Another one I had was, I Didn't Raise My Boy, He Had the Joker. There used to be a song titled I Didn't Raise My Boy To Be a Soldier. I changed the title as if we were playing poker. That was pretty funny in those days."

Imitations were also made of famous stars like contemporary dancers Ann Pennington and Marilyn Miller. Both had once been with Florenz Ziegfeld's Follies and Miller was a tap dancer like Joe Frisco - she was even considered one of the best female tap dancers of her time. Groucho did blackface-vaudevillian Eddie Leonard, the person that discovered and encouraged Al Jolson.

Groucho These are the Four Horsemen of the Apoplexy. Now since they have all relations of their own, that makes me a nephew to George M. Cohan...

Mrs Gould decides to marry Dorothy off to Harpo, probably because of his musical abilities. This leads to a wedding ceremony with Harpo unable to say "I do" as he is busy eating a banana.

Groucho Now all is lost - now we ain't got a quarter of a million - no estate - no girl - all you got now is a banana. Harpo shows him a bottle of whisky.
Well, maybe it ain't so bad after all.

But all is well. Zeppo and Dorothy, now betrothed to each other, come out with the chorus girls to the strains of the wedding march for the finale.

Girls Mr Hammer, Mr Hammer, we have some news for you.
Mr Lee has packed his trunk and said he was through.
He leaves for home today.

Groucho Are you sure he went away?
Well, believe me when I say
he was the worst one in the play.

Girls Mr Hammer, Mr Hammer, he doesn't like the plot -

Groucho No one's going to worry about the little plot we got.
Detective enters. Goodbye, goodbye, I hate to see you go.

Detective Goodbye, goodbye, and what a terrible show.

Enter Zeppo and Dorothy.
Zeppo & Dorothy What's the matter? What's the matter?

Groucho He doesn't like our act.

Detective I like the patter.

Zeppo & Dorothy Well, what's the matter?

Detective I didn't like the way your story ended.

Zeppo & Dorothy What did he say?

Detective And I don't like your dialect.

Chico enters.
Chico For twenty a week, what do you expect?

Detective It sounded good when first you read it to me -
Now here's the only remedy that I can see -
You'll have to go into a great big dance
and they'll forget about the rest.

Company Give us a chance
and we'll do our best...
We thank you, Mr Lee.

Groucho What do you think of me?

Detective I don't use that kind of language.
Harpo enters. Who is this guy who plays the harp? He should have more to say.

Groucho Once we let him speak two words and they pinched us right away.

Detective You'll have to go into a great big dance and I'll come up and help you out.

Company Thank you, Mr Lee.
Play a dancing melody
and we'll go over with a shout.

Company do finale dance. Curtain.

On The Balcony
Scene 1 Scene 2

1. Geshveer, Yiddish for "ulcer", "abcess"
2. Zweibach, Yiddish for "toasted cracker" (literally "two bangs")