Tony Martin plays a singer who wants to sell his half of a department store inheritance to pursue his musical dream and marry store employee Virginia Grey. His rich aunt, played by Margaret Dumont has the other half of the inheritance, and figures into the scheme of store manager Douglass Dumbrille. When thugs attack Martin, Dumont hires a private detective, played by Groucho Marx. Chico plays Martin’s good buddy, with Harpo playing Chico’s brother (how imaginative!), but more importantly, Groucho’s assistant.
Directed by Charles Reisner (Buster Keaton’s “Steamboat Bill, Jr.”), this 1941 Marx Brothers flick is truly the pits. Even fans surely can’t defend this complete waste of time. As per their other films, Chico talks-a with-a the funny accent-a, Margaret Dumont plays Margaret Dumont, Harpo plays the harp (twice!), and Groucho refuses to act like he’s genuinely part of the film’s plot. In fact, sometimes Groucho is so defiantly smart-arsey here that he doesn’t even bother to make sense. When his fur coat starts to shed some fur, an unaware Groucho looks at the hair on the floor and remarks ‘I could’ve sworn I shaved this morning!’- What? The fur has clearly been shed, so how the hell does that even make sense? Groucho doesn’t care, so long as he looks like the hippest cat in the room. Well fuck Groucho Marx, I say.
I place character and story above all else in a film, so that’s probably why The Marx Brothers and musicals don’t tend to work for me. Even though the songs are better than the humour, if you removed the songs and The Marx Brothers from their films, they’d be significantly improved. And about five minutes long. This is by far their worst film by focussing entirely on the two things I like least, ignoring storytelling and characters almost completely. The suited villains in this one are especially tedious. One joke sums this whole boring affair up perfectly: A bed emerges out of a wall that makes it look like a bank safe. Chico says ‘That’s a safe-a place to keepa the kids!’, as a bunch of kids are on the bed, and thus vanish when the bed folds back up again. It’s a terrible joke because there has been no effort made to make the bed look remotely plausible and only serves to point out that the gag is all that matters…even though that’s what botches it. Also, how is the scene of Harpo and Chico playing the piano any different to the scene of them doing so in previous films? It’s not, outside of the audience they play for being women instead of the usual children.
There’s nothing of worth in this film, unless seeing Aunti Em from “The Wizard of Oz” in a cameo as a department store customer is enough to get you interested. It’s not even close to enough for me. This sucks, I don’t want to talk about it anymore. The screenplay is by Sid Kuller, Ray Golden (both of whom worked on the Don Ameche version of “The Three Musketeers”), and Hal Fimberg (“Our Man Flint”, “In Like Flint”).