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The Marx Brothers

Love Happy

This picture began as an attempt to create a solo vehicle for Harpo. The original story, The Sidewalk (which later became Sidewalks of New York, Diamonds in the Sidewalk or Diamonds in the Pavement) was suggested by Harpo himself and written for him by Ben Hecht, assisted by gag writer Frank Tashlin. The movie, basically a study in pantomime, recalled the freewheeling pre-talkie days, and the word-of-mouth was so good that the project had attracted Leo McCarey as a potential director. But before any of these events could come to fruition, the bottom dropped out. Tashlin, Hecht and Harpo all blamed producer Lester Cowan, who had lied about the film's value to the studio. With the original script literally dashed to bits, Hecht removed his name from the picture which went under a series of working titles like Blondes Up, Blonde Heaven and Hearts and Diamonds - diamonds being so central to the plot - until it finally became Love Happy. Tashlin was paired with Mac Benoff to write a framing story and narration for Groucho who - along with Chico - agreed to appear with their brother who at this point desperate to salvage his dream project.

However, the order of events isn't as clear as has been suggested. As early as 20 June 1947 (filming commenced more than a year later), Groucho wrote to his daughter Miriam and mentioned a film Ben Hecht was writing for Harpo and Chico. A subsequent letter (of 25 September) already mentions Groucho's guest role as a narrator. His letter of 18 October 1947 speaks once more of the film, describing it as the story Hecht "wrote for Harpo, and finally Chico got in it, and then I suddenly found myself in it for a brief bit."

Additionally, with money running low and to raise funds to complete the movie, the producers came up with the idea of selling advertising space on the neon signs on the roof that was the setting for the ending of the film. Nowadays, product placement like this is very common but back then it wasn't. The overall end result, despite a positive review from The New York Times and other major critics, remained a disappointment to Harpo until his dying day. In what was at one time to be an experiment in pantomime, it is wise-cracking Groucho as low rent private eye Sam Grunion who fares best, particularly in a brief opening scene with Marilyn Monroe, whose appearance in the picture upgraded her to co-star billing during re-releases, some of them under the name Kleptomaniacs.

An interesting thing about this film is how it deals with female cleavages. Groucho claimed that the dress of Marilyn Monroe was so low-cut that he forgot the dialogue, which makes it hard to understand why the cleavage of Ilona Massey (Madame Egilichi) very obviously have been blacked out from extant prints of Love Happy. Steven R. Wright has written to me about this and it happens in the scene where Madame Egilichi is giving Harpo the "whammy" to get him to talk and tell her where the sardine can with the Romanov diamonds is. Close-ups of Ilona shows a big black dot on her chest, probably added already during production.

There obviously were a lot of editing and changes before Love Happy premiered on 12 October 1949. Some stills reveal these changes, like Harpo being present when Chico plays card with a dog, and Marilyn Monroe appearing on the rooftop set. Additionally, in the Italian trailer of Love Happy (or Una notte sui tetti, roughly A Night on the Roof), the scene where Groucho attempts to frisk Harpo and Ilona Massey takes place in Grouchos' office instead of on the roof as in the finished film. Maybe this is an indication that all of Grouchos scenes originally were to take place in his office and that some of them were re-shot when the product placement made the rooftop sequence important.

Additionally, the DVD-reissue of the film includes six minutes not found in previous versions. These include Groucho describing how he has tracked Madame Egilichi all over the world (showing a series of photos depicting him holding her in various sexy poses, concluding with a photo of her in a 1950's style bathing suit), an additional encounter between Chico and a drooling Leon Belasco who is offered a parade of beauties, as well as different music scoring for some scenes.

Steven R. Wright has studied the DVD in detail and here's his report on the differences. He admits that he has "always been kind of soft-headed, uh, -hearted towards this film and I may be the only one out there who enjoys it to the extent of becoming familiar enough with it to notice all these differences".

And this is what he noticed:

  • Strange, morse-code dihs and dahs around Groucho's opening narration
  • A freeze-frame of Mike Johnson's dance, followed by Groucho saying "is there a band-aid in the house?"
  • Groucho's introduction of Chico as a former organ grinder for 20 years whose monkey "one day went on strike...he wanted shorter hours and longer bananas".
  • Harpo giving the man wearing the head of the bull costume a string of frankfurters who snorts them in thru a nostril, and then offering the loaded sardine can to the man in the rear of the bull and when the actor haughtily refuses it, Harpo gives him a ham and pointedly indicates you are what you eat. The thespian who later suggests they open "without scenery, costumes or salary" was the same guy who was the back-end of the bull.
  • An added sentence to the Bunny Dolan introduction
  • As for Steven's "contribution to the World of Marxology" (see above), the cleavage shadow is still there, but noticeably lighter
  • Groucho is narrating the scene with Chico and the parading beauties "keeping Lyons happy" (above), concluding that "Lyons was no dope...he selected the blonde on the end."
  • Before the Sadie Thompson scene, Mike Johnson telling the marines to "look hungry."
  • Additional lines concerning Harpo's torture; "give him everything!" Groucho: "And when she says everything, she means everything!". There's a few extra seconds of Harpo smoking rope while Raymond Burr hardly can keep a straight face. Also an added scene with Burr torturing Harpo in a washing machine ("with this machine you can wash your underwear without taking it off").
  • A couple of extra lines when Harpo shoots the gun pointed at his own head ("He hasn't the nerve; he won't shoot").
  • Extra lines by Mike Johnson claiming that Mr. Yorkman has chosen to remain "invisible" along with his "bank roll."
  • Illona Massey has few extra lines concerning her desire to back the show.
  • When going to Maggie's dressing room, Harpo brushes his hair, and turns his mirror around twice to look at the back of his head. In the earlier print this was just once.
  • Additional dialogue between Groucho and Ivan concerning the razor
  • Scene in which Throckmorton shows Illona Massey the x-rays of the cat he thought swallowed the diamonds.
  • When Harpo gets to the rooftop, a "GE Lamps" sign is prominent in the DVD. In the earlier prints this is superimposed by a "Curtiss/Baby Ruth" sign.
  • Looks like a few additional motions on the Mobil Pegasus on the roof
  • On the DVD, Illona Massey's dress is seen thru in front of the GE Lamps sign; on the tape and TV prints it is the Curtiss/Baby Ruth sign. Steven R. Wright: "No idea why the change there, but the GE sign has prominent spikes, which can still be seen when the lights are off. So, it looks to me the Curtiss sign was placed there after the film was shot. The GE sign can be seen in the TV print; but in the DVD there is no evidence of the Curtiss sign at all."
  • Harpo staggering away in a ball of smoke and then getting sucked into a vent.
  • Harpo plays some steam pipes like a calliope "(tho' they sound more like bells)".
  • Groucho's additional "I hope they are not playing for money" when Chico loses his coat to the dog playing gin.
  • The closing credits have a blank background on DVD print, and are shot over the rehearsal on the TV print.
  • A couple of other notes from Steven; in the scene where they are shooting the apple off of Harpo's head, the additional dialogue and two shots increased the total to *seven* bullets in the gun. In Harpos cave in the park, they use highly speeded up dialogue for the bird's voice. Several attempts at slowing it down to see what it was using sound tools were fruitless; "It is too murky to make out any real words; pity, as sometimes what is underneath this kind of stuff can be fairly humourous and at times, obscene!"

  • Steven R. Wright has noticed the poster in the background
    with the original title Hearts and Diamonds

    You are what you eat

    Two versions of Groucho attempting to frisk Harpo and Ilona Massey: Italian trailer (left) and film (right)
    "Search him!"

    "Oh, no, I'm not getting into that!"

    - - -

    "If this were a French picture I could do it"

    A late change of advertising with the original GE Lamps sign (DVD version, left) replaced by the Curtiss/Baby Ruth sign (most common version, right).