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The Marx Brothers

Too Many Kisses

After the Broadway success I'll Say She Is, the possibilities grew for the Marxes to appear in pictures and in 1925 Harpo ended up in the romantic comedy Too Many Kisses. Based on the short story A Maker of Gestures by John Monk Saunders and filmed in January 1925 at Paramount Astoria Studios in Long Island, Too Many Kisses was directed by Paul Sloane and produced by Jesse L. Lasky and Adolph Zukor.

With a running time of 60 minutes, this six-reeler (5,759 feet) had its New York opening on 1 March 1925. The official release date was 21 March 1925, and the film also found its way to Europe. Some offered straightforward translations of the title, like the Italian Troppi baci and the Swedish För många kyssar, while other foreign titles were the Austrian Er kam, sah und siegte (He came, saw and conquered), the Danish Forlovet for sidste gang (Engaged for the last time) and the French Le Diable au corps (Devil in the flesh).

The film stars Richard Dix as Richard Gaylord, Jr., who is sent by his father (played by Frank Currier) to a remote Basque village in the Pyrenees to keep him away from his numerous feminine admirers, believing that the women there will only accept attentions from their own people. Harpo plays the village Peter Pan. Almost immediately, a local girl, Yvonne Hurja (Frances Howard) becomes infatuated with Richard, who she sees as being able to help her break free from the unwanted attention of Julio (William Powell), a captain in the Civil Guard. A rivalry grows between Richard and Julio.

For a long time the film was believed to be lost, but a copy was found and a few clips have been added to documentaries about the Marx Brothers. These clips include a scene where Harpo is drinking from a wine skein and another where Harpo wanders in and finds a tied Julio. Julio orders Harpo to untie him but after establishing Julio as safely tied - including Harpo's ONLY line in any film, the intertitled "You sure you can't move?" - Harpo knocks him cold with a single punch.

When Harpo returned to Astoria to film The Cocoanuts in 1929, he talked about Too Many Kisses with a journalist (quoted by Leonard Maltin in Movie Comedy Teams) and how he had taken all his friends to see the film only to wait in vain; "It seems the cutters had been at work on the film and they hadn't figured my acting amounted to much" Harpo said, adding that just as he bent down to pick up his hat his mother Minnie said: "There he - goes". "I never did see myself", Harpo claimed.

According to Glenn Mitchell's Marx Brothers Encyclopedia, Harpo's contributions weren't that brief. In addition to the scenes mentioned above, Mitchell says that Harpo may be seen throughout the second half of the film, often as a crowd extra. In one scene he stands centre frame between two quarrelling men, alternately mimicking their expressions as he looks to and fro. There's no harp playing in the film but when Julio wants a ladder to sneak up to Yvonne's balcony, Harpo is seen strumming the ladder like a guitar.

Swedish movie poster