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The Favorite Marx Bros. in "Animal Crackers," a Rough, Handsome and Irresponsible Clown-Opera

By Percy Hammond

N.Y. Herald Tribune, Oct. 24, 1928

"Animal Crackers," a musical comedy. Book by George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind, lyrics and music by Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby. Presented by Sam H. Harris at the Forty-fourth Street Theater with the following cast:

Hives -- Robert Grieg
Mrs. Rittenhouse -- Margaret Dumont
M. Doucet -- Arthur Lipson
Arabella Rittenhouse -- Alice Wood
Mrs. Whitehead -- Margaret Irving
Grace Carpenter -- Bobby Perkins
Wally Winston -- Bert Mathews
John Parker -- Milton Watson
Roscoe W. Chandler -- Louis Sorin
Mary Stewart -- Bernice Ackerman
Jamison -- Zeppo Marx
Captain Spalding -- Groucho Marx
Emanuel Ravelli -- Chico Marx
The Professor -- Harpo Marx

The Scenes

Act I -- Scene 1: The Long Island home of Mrs. Rittenhouse, afternoon. Scene 2: On the grounds. Scene 3: The drawing room, same evening.

Act II -- Scene 1: The breakfast room, the next morning. Scene 2: On the grounds. Scene 3: In the garden, that night.

In this erratic extravaganza the Marx boys commit their usual amount of mischief without much help from the authors. The "book" is rather a lame goose, and the tunes are spiritless, but Zeppo, Chico, Harpo and Groucho manage to disguise the failings of the show and cause them to be forgiven. Particularly, of course, is Mr. Groucho Marx successful in overcoming the disadvantages of his surroundings. That unruly clown jumps blandly through the paper hoops of the libretto, and as he does so he adds substantially to our sum of nonsense. Mr. Harpo Marx's pantomimic idiot is also a large item in the entertainment's assets, going even further than is his custom to amuse us with his silence and fun. The velvet Italian accents and the humorous piano-playing of Mr. Chico Marx are humorously utilized; and the handsome Mr. Zeppo Marx assists considerably in the decorations. It may be said with practically no peril that the Marx family justifies itself as a Broadway institute by its skillful interpretation of the principal characters in "Animal Crackers."

In his role as Captain Spalding, an explorer, Groucho is as funny as he has been in his other creations. Conversing about the wilds of South America with another adventurer, he says, "You go Uruguay and I'll go mine," and he gets away with it. He burlesques the copious "asides" in "Strange Interlude" and ridicules the mystery plays delightfully. Expert at puns, he tells two lady suitors for his hand that it is "big of me to commit bigamy." It is Chico Marx, however, who perpetrates the winning joke of "Animal Crackers." "Have you ever seen a habeas corpus?" he is asked. "No," he replies, "but I have seen 'Habeas Irish Rose.'" Meantime Harpo is not indolent. When another member of the cast calls for three cheers and a tiger in honor of Captain Spalding, Harpo enters carrying three chairs and a Teddy bear. To give you a more complete idea of the carefree mood of "Animal Crackers" I may be permitted to quote another speech. "Society," some one states, "is merely Texas Guinan without the cover charge."

The first N.Y. performance of "Animal Crackers" was patronized by a brilliant audience which applauded frequently, though it neglected to laugh at several of its most prominent gags. Seldom have I heard so many sure-fire musical comedy wise-cracks fall as silently as they did last evening at the Forty-fourth Street Theater. Perhaps too much was expected of the Author, Mr. Kaufman, who is the greatest kidder of his day; and of the composers, Messrs. Kalmar and Ruby, who are usually to be depended upon for memorable tunes.

(This page was originally created by Frank Bland's for his 'Why A Duck?' website)

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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