The Marx Brothers
Animal Crackers (1930)

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Animal Crackers

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In their second movie for Paramount, the Marx Brothers once again took a successful Broadway play to the silver screen. In this outing, Groucho plays the infamous Captain Jeffrey Spaulding, African explorer, the guest of honour at a Long Island party (accompanied by Zeppo as his field secretary, Horatio Jamison) being given by Mrs. Rittenhouse (Margaret Dumont). Roscoe W. Chandler (Louis Sorin) is displaying a painting, Beaugard's "After the Hunt," in honor of Captain Spaulding's visit. Of course, two of the guests at the party have made copies of this painting and, for their own reasons, want their copies displayed in place of the original. Harpo, as The Professor (of what nobody knows), and Chico, as Signor Emanuel Ravelli, roll in to add a little music and larceny, and then the fun begins.

This film features one of Groucho's most memorable tunes, "Hooray for Captain Spalding." An interesting factoid about song is that lines of Groucho's lyrics were removed from later versions. Originally, Groucho answered Mrs. Rittenhouse's line, "He's the only white man who covered every acre," with "I think I'll try to make her." The lines that were cut (there are several) were done not in 1930, when the Hays Office was pretty liberal, but after 1934, when Joe Breen started to crack down, and apparently occurred in reissue prints (or on the release negative), and these seem to be the only versions available today. (If you're interested, you can view all the lyrics to this song at Hooray for Captain Spalding.) This film also contains one of the few scenes in which Zeppo was actually allowed to be funny, as he takes the liberty of interpreting Groucho's letter to his lawyer, Hon. Charles H. Hungadunga.

SPAULDING: As I say, we tried to remove the tusks. But they were embedded so firmly we couldn't budge them. Of course, in Alabama, the Tuscaloosa but that is entirely ir-elephant to what I was talking about.

This was the last film the Marxes would shoot at Paramount's Astoria Studios in Queens, New York. Part of this complex is now the home of The American Museum of the Moving Image, which has a wonderful permanent display of equipment and paraphernalia from movies and television, as well as various temporary exhibits and films.

In 1998 Turner Classic Movies has broadcast an original documentary entitled, "Glorious Technicolor," about the development and use of Technicolor. It included a 13-second sequence from a rehearsal of Animal Crackers which was in vibrant color. It was, apparently, the scene in which Harpo arrives as "The Professor" and hands Margaret Dumont his stick horn. One of the most interesting aspects of the footage is that Harpo is wearing a bathrobe and no wig (he has brown-reddish hair). (Everyone else is in full costume.) Sabucat Productions obtained it from somebody who had found it in a barn many years ago, as part of a series of color film clips that were pieced together. This is the ONLY Marx footage in this reel of film.

The scene in the clip below happens just after the scene introducing Signor Emanuel Ravelli.

Color footage of "Animal Crackers"

This footage was shot in 1930 at Astoria Studios in (probably) 2-color Multicolor, a precursor to Cinecolor. This clip is all of the footage that Sabucat have. It is obviously some sort of rehearsal. There is no sound. Sabucat didn't know any details as to why and how this footage was shot.

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Groucho Marx   Captain Jeffrey T. Spaulding
Harpo Marx   The Professor
Chico Marx   Signor Emanuel Ravelli
Zeppo Marx   Horatio Jamison
Margaret Dumont   Mrs. Rittenhouse
Lillian Roth   Arabella Rittenhouse
Louis Sorin   Roscoe W. Chandler
Hal Thompson   John Parker
Margaret Irving   Mrs. Whitehead
Kathryn Reece   Grace Carpenter
Robert Greig   Hives, the Butler
Edward Metcalfe   Inspector Hennessy
The Music Masters   Six footman
Anna Roth   Girl
Donald MacBride   Bit Part

Director  Victor Heerman
Written by  Morrie Ryskind (also play)
  George S. Kaufman (also play)
Music & Lyrics  Bert Kalmar
  Harry Ruby
Music Arranger  John W. Green
Cinematography  George J. Folsey
Recording engineer  Ernest F. Zatorsky
Continuity  Pierre Collings
Art director  Ernst Fegté
Production company / Distributor  Paramount Publix (A Paramount Picture)
Runtime  98 min.
New York Premiere  29 Aug 1930
Release date  06 Sep 1930
Spanish title  El conflicto de los Marx
French title  L'explorateur en folie
Danish title  Det tossede hus
Italian title  Matti da legare!
Finnish title  Koirankeksit

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

Musical numbers

Performed byComments
 Main Title 
Music and lyrics by: Bert Kalmar, Harry Ruby
 Butler's song 
Music and lyrics by: Bert Kalmar, Harry Ruby
Hooray For Captain Spaulding
Hooray For Captain Spaulding 
Music and lyrics by: Bert Kalmar, Harry Ruby
Groucho, Cast This became Groucho's signature tune and was, for example, used in "You Bet Your Life" 
 Somewhere My Love Live Sleepin' 
Music and lyrics by: Bert Kalmar, Harry Ruby
Why Am I So Romantic
Why Am I So Romantic  
Music by: Harry Ruby
Lyrics by: Bert Kalmar
 End Title 
Music and lyrics by: Bert Kalmar, Harry Ruby

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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