The Marx Brothers
The Cocoanuts (1929)

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The Cocoanuts

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This was the Marx Brothers' first movie (if you don't count "Humor Risk") and was one of the earliest sound films ever made. Groucho plays Mr. Hammer, a Florida hotel owner during the Florida land boom in the 1920's, desperately trying to unload real estate on unsuspecting buyers. Zeppo is the desk clerk (Jamison), Chico is an "idle roomer" and Harpo is his "silent partner." Hammer takes on Chico as his shill to try to up the price of his questionable real estate (prompting the famous Why A Duck? scene), and various guests try to swindle one another for various reasons.

This film also features music written by Irving Berlin, though not his best material by a long shot. The insipid love song, "When My Dream Comes True," drones on relentlessly through the entire film, and how many of you remember "The Monkey Doodle Doo?" An interesting side note regarding the forgettable music in The Cocoanuts: For years, Groucho teased Irving Berlin about not having been able to give them even one hit song for the show. In his defense, Irving Berlin replied that he had taken a song to Sam Harris and played it for him. Harris listened carefully and said the song would never be a hit. That song was "Always," one of Berlin's biggest hit songs.

HAMMER: You - you know what an auction is, eh?
CHICO: I come from Italy on the Atlantic-Auction.

The Cocoanuts was one of the early sound movies and they were struggling with some problems of this new technology.
Sound could only be recorded live, which means that whenever you hear music a full orchestra will have been nearby.
To avoid the sound of paper being shuffled it was soaked in water. You can clearly see that in the Viaduct scene, when Groucho shows Chico the plans.

This movie was made when the Brothers where performing Animal Crackers on stage.

This is the only movie were Harpo wears a red wig, like he would have done on stage. The wig appeared too dark on film and in the other movies he is using a blond wig.

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Groucho Marx   Mr. Hammer
Harpo Marx   Harpo
Chico Marx   Chico
Zeppo Marx   Jamison
Margaret Dumont   Mrs. Potter
Mary Eaton   Polly Potter
Oscar Shaw   Bob Adams
Cyril Ring   Harvey Yates
Kay Francis   Penelope Martin
Sylvan Lee   Bell captain
Gamby-Hall Ballett Girls   Dancing bellhops
Allan K. Foster Girls   Dancing bellhops
Barton MacLane   Lifeguard / Party Guest
Basil Ruysdael   Hennessey

Director  Joseph Santley
  Robert Florey
Written by  George S. Kaufman (also play)
  Morrie Ryskind (also play, uncredited)
Music  Irving Berlin
Cinematography  George J. Folsey
Art director  Ernst Fetgé
Editor  Barney Rogan
Music director  Frank Tours
Choreographers  Chester Hale
  Maria Gambarelli
Assistant directors  Ray Cozine
  Bert Granet
Producer  Monta Bell
Associate Producer  James R. Cown
In Charge of Production  Walter Wang
Presented by  Adolph Zukor
  Jesse L. Lansky
Production company / Distributor  Paramount Famous Lasky (A Paramount Picture)
Runtime  96 min.
New York Premiere  23 May 1929
Release date  03 Aug 1929
Spanish title  Los Cuatro Cocos
French title  Noix de coco
Italian title  Noci di cocco
Finnish title  Kookospähkinöitä

Posters and Lobby Cards for this movie. Click to enlarge.
Poster Poster

Musical numbers

Performed byComments
 Main Title 
Music and lyrics by: Irving Berlin
 Flo-Florida By The Sea 
Music and lyrics by: Irving Berlin
When My Dreams Come True
When My Dreams Come True 
Music and lyrics by: Irving Berlin
Mary Eaton and Oscar Shaw note the extra verse in the Australian sheet music 
 When My Dreams Come True 
Music and lyrics by: Irving Berlin
 Monkey Doodle Doo 
Music and lyrics by: Irving Berlin
Mary Eaton  
 Dance of the Cocoanuts and reprise of When my dreams... 
Music and lyrics by: Irving Berlin
Mary Eaton  
 I want my shirt 
Music and lyrics by: Bizet
 sung to the music of the Toreador Song from Carmen 
 Gypsy Love Song or A cup of coffee, a sandwich and You 
Music and lyrics by: Verdi
 from Aida 
 I-Eat-A (Piano solo) 
Music and lyrics by: Irving Berlin

This site uses material originally created by Frank Bland for his website Why A Duck?. Frank did kindly give me permission to use this material.

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