We’ll bet most of our readers are over 14, but they may have children, or grandchildren that they may want to mentor in the art of choosing classic films.
The British Film Institute’s list of films which are must see before the age of 14 include these classics from the 1930s — King Kong, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, The Adventures of Robin Hood and The Wizard of Oz.
But here’s a surprise — The Marx Brothers in A Day at the Races.
Not usually considered one of the boys’ classics.
The 1937 comedy via MGM is the seventh Marx Brothers bigscreen outing, and although it received mixed reviews when it opened, the picture was a big box office hit. Groucho Marx plays veterinarian ‘Hugo Z. Hockenbush’, who, for complicated reasons, is called upon to medically administer to the formidable dowager Margaret Dumont.
The cast includes Maureen O’Sullivan (the mother of Mia Farrow), and the always reliable Sig Ruman. Also on hand, besides, Groucho, are brothers Chico and Harpo. (Trivia item: A Day At The Races is the lone Marx Brothers film to receive an Oscar nomination.)
In all, it’s pretty much Groucho’s show. Herewith some Marx Brothers factoids:
The grounding centerpiece of a chaotic comedy band of five vaudevillians — all brothers of which three formed the performing core — Groucho’s talents spanned the stage, movies, radio, tv and tv syndication. By the time he died in 1977 at age 86, he was a revered show business figure cherished by generations of fans.
— Milton (Gummo) was really not part of the Marx Brothers act, at least not a core member. For example, he does not appear in any of the Brothers’ movies. Adolph (Harpo), Leonard (Chico) and Herbert (Zeppo) were core members as was, of course, Julius (Groucho).
— The fabulous Margaret Dumont was considered by Groucho to be “the fifth Marx Brother.” She, of course, played the formidable society doyenne in so many Marx Brothers pictures, the butt of Groucho’s innuendos and insults. Her imperturbability is based on the placid knowledge that she is stronger than Groucho, that all his insult is childish prattle, wrote critic David Thomson.
— The final Marx Brothers Hollywood movie is 1949’s Love Happy, a musical comedy featuring Ilona Massey, Vera-Ellen, a young Raymond Burr and an even younger Marilyn Monroe.
— The tune was Hooray For Captain Spaulding from the 1930 Marx Brothers comedy, Animal Crackers. “Captain Spaulding” was played by Groucho opposite a surprisingly sexy Margaret Dumont.
— MGM boss Louis B. Mayer detested the Marx Brothers, particularly Groucho, and almost sabotaged what may be the boys’ best movie, 1935’s A Night At The Opera. When the movie was disastrously received at a mid-afternoon test screening in a Long Beach theater, Mayer gloated. MGM’s production chief Irving Thalberg stepped in, made some changes and saved the day.