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Harpo Marx and Some Brothers

Hilarious Antics Spread Good Cheer at the Casino


New York World -- 1925

"I'll Say She Is"
Musical comedy, by Will B. and Tom Johnstone. Produced by James P. Beury at the Casino Theater.

Theatrical Agent -- Edward Metcalfe
Office Girl -- Crissie Melvin
Doctor -- Herbert Marx
Poorman -- Leonard Marx
Lawyer -- Julius H. Marx
Beggerman -- Arthur Marx
Chief -- Frank J. Corbett
Merchant -- Phillip Darby
Thief -- Edgar Gardiner
Chorus Girl -- Hazel Gaudreau
Nanette -- Alice Webb
Social Secretary -- Florence Hedges
Beauty -- Lotta Miles
Pages -- Melvin Sisters
White Girl and Hop Merchant -- Cecile D'Andrea and Harry Waters
Street Gamins -- Bower Sisters
Chinese Boy -- Florence Hedges
Bull and Bear -- Hazel Gaudreau and Edgar Gardiner
Gold Man -- Ledru Stiffler
Pierrots -- Jane Hurd and Alice Webb
Hazel -- Hazel Gaudreau
Marcella -- Marcella Hardie
Martha -- Martha Pryor

As one of the many who laughed immodestly throughout the greater part of the first performance given by a new musical show, entitled, if memory serves, "I'll Say She Is," it behooves your correspondent to report the most comical moments vouchsafed to the first nighters in a month of Mondays. It is a bright colored and vehement setting for the goings on of those talented cutups, the Four Marx Brothers. In particular, it is a splendacious and reasonably tuneful excuse for going to see that silent brother, that shy, unexpected, magnificent comic among the Marxes, who is recorded somewhere on a birth certificate as Arthur, but who is known to the adoring two-a-day as Harpo Marx.

Surely there should be dancing in the streets when a great clown comic comes to town, and this man is a great clown. He is officially billed as a member of the Marx family, but truly he belongs to that greater family which includes Joe Jackson and Bert Melrose and the Fratlilni brothers, who fall over one another in so obliging a fashion at the Cirque Medrano in Paris. Harpo Marx, so styled, oddly enough, because he plays the harp, says never a word from first to last, but when by merely leaning against one's brother one can seem richly and irresistibly amusing why should one speak?

The speaking is mostly attended to by Julius H. Marx. Julius H., who seems to be the oldest of this household, is a crafty comedian with a rather fresher and more whimsical assortment of quips than is the lot of most refugees from vaudeville. To be sure, he is not above having Napoleon request the band to strike up "The Mayonnaise." But then, it was in a music hall in Omaha in 1904 that a French scene was last played without some one referring to that inspiring anthem "The Mayonnaise." And, after all, the oldest Marx's vein is more fairly typified by faithless Josephine that she was as true as a $3 cornet.

Then Leonard Marx is more or less suppressed until the property man remembers to leave a piano on the stage. As for Herbert Marx, he is probably the property man. Strange to relate, the real names of these four are not Thompson, Oppheimer, Tinkins, and Goldberg. Nor are they, respectively, Lemuel Beam, Roscoe Mortimer, Daniel Smith and Lionel Schwartz. They are, as it happens, brothers. And their real name, as opposed to the one they employ for stage purposes, is Marx.

It is a favorite custom on the occasion of such an advent for the old timers to remember graciously when they had first been discovered in vaudeville. "Ho, ho." they say, "so they seem pretty funny to you, do they? Why, I seen them fellers ten years ago at the Lumberg in Utica." For once in a way we enjoyed this luxury last evening. We recalled suddenly and pleasurably a pre-war vaudeville skit at the Palace in which the scene was a restaurant and the waiters were instructed to tip the orchestra off to appropriate music for each dish ordered. Thus, when some one wanted a Hungarian goulash a little thing of Lizst's came in handy. And when the next customer called for a baked apple the orchestra burst into "William Tell." It was pleasant, we thought, last evening thus unexpectedly to renew an old acquaintance -- from which reflections in time that after all that restaurant scene was given by the Avon Comedy Four.

The rest of the present extravaganza is much as usual, with the regular allotment of statues coming to life, lithe young gentlemen covered with gold or bluing, and a touching number called "Wall Street Blues," which is sung, for some reason, by a small, shrill young woman wearing blue sateen overalls. It is not known why. Nor greatly cared.

I'll Say She Is

Philadelphia, June 6


Variety -- 1923

"I'll Say She Is"

Assistant Theatrical Agent "Richman" Jack Sheehan
First Office Girl "Florence -- Florence Hedges
Zeppo - "Merchant" -- Edward Marx [sic]
Theatrical Agent -- Frank Gardiner
Chico - "Poorman" -- Leonard Marx
Groucho - "Lawyer" -- Julius Marx
Harpo - "Beggerman" -- Arthur Marx
Before - ("Thief") -- William Baggott
And After - ("Doctor") -- Bigson Herbert
"Chief" -- Arnold Gluck
Second Office Girl -- Marjorie Laurene
Poorman -- John Nallac
Ruby, Social Secy. -- Gertrude O'Connor
"Beauty" -- Muriel Hudson
Pages -- Melvin Sisters
Chinaman -- Roger Dodge
White Girl and Hop Merchant -- Cecile D'Andrea and Harry Walters
Street Gamins -- Bower Sisters
Chinese Boy -- Katherine Geurra
Bull and Bear -- Robert Hart and Margaret Fielding
Gold Man -- Ledru Stiffler
Pierrots -- Jane Hurd, Joey Benton
Dancing Girl -- Beulah Baker
Caroline -- Caroline Day
Yerkes' "Happy Six" (Augmented) -- The Jazz Band

The opening of the new revue, "I'll Say She Is," produced by Joseph M. Gaites and James P. Beury the latter owner of the Walnut street theatre, took place Monday night at that house, and was generally voted a very promising entertainment. It is planned as the first of a series of annual reviews to run through the summer months at the Walnut and give Philadelphians something they have recently lacked -- hot-weather theatrical entertainment.

There had been a great deal of mystery surrounding "I'll Say She Is," and an unusual amount of interest and curiosity had been worked up in this way for the opening. It turned out that the new revue is an expanded and very much elaborated version of the unit show, "Gimme a Thrill," played over the Shubert circuit. It was at times difficult to recognize the resemblance, but at others the "Gimme a Thrill" unit was followed very closely indeed. The thread of plot concerns the efforts of eight men to give to a young and beautiful heiress a thrill in return for which she will bestow her hand and fortune on the lucky man. Among the thrills are those of gambling, of underworld crime, or riches, of poverty and of love. Quite naturally, these give opportunities for varied and attractive settings.

"I'll Say She Is," on its opening night, was remarkable for a number of things, its speed and smoothness first. The curtain rose about 8:30 and fell 11:10, a great deal better than most musical comedy try-outs have succeeded in doing here this year. It is divided into two acts, with a remarkably short intermission, and very few hitches and little fumbling between scenes.

The second unusual feature was the perfect ensemble work. One would have thought to see the chorus that it had been working together for an entire season. In fact, one of the faults of "I'll Say She Is" is that its lively and capable chorus is not given enough to do.

The show opens with a humdinger of a chorus number, entitled "Do It," in which Jack Sheehan works with the girls. The stepping in this number is really top-notch and gets the show under way with a bang. The scene is an unpretentious one in a theatrical agent's office, it seeming to be the fashion lately to do away with the usual colorful and elaborate opening number.

The Four Marx Brothers enter singly as actors looking for jobs, and all of them, when asked to demonstrate, give Gallagher-and-Shean imitations. Some of this business, clever for those on the know, fell a bit flat here on opening night. Willie Baggott and Bigson Herbert, the only comedy team in the show outside of the Marx Boys, together with the juvenile, Arnold Gluck, are also in on this scene. These seven, together with Sheehan, now assume the roles of the rhyme, "richman, poorman, beggerman, thief, doctor, lawyer, merchant, chief," and conspire together to give the heiress her desired thrill. They have a rather neat song along this line, "Give Me a Thrill," in which Gertrude O'Connor, with some eccentric comedy and dancing, takes a helping hand.

The heiress, in the person of Muriel Hudson, makes her appearance, in a scene in one, and opens with a well-delivered song, "The Thrill of Love." After that the plot runs riot, and the dancing teams proceed to rule the show.

A Chinatown "bit," with D'Andrea and Walters doing a whirlwind (and rather daring) dance of the apache order, a neat little number by the Melvin Sisters, and a beautifully staged specialty, entitled "The Dream Ship," with Florence Hedges singing a song, entitled "San Toy," followed.

The first extended comedy skit of the revue was a courtroom scene with Arthur Marx as the judge, and Julius as the prosecuting attorney. A card game stunt would have been funnier if trimmed, and the finale of the scene with the beautiful defendant going free can also be sharpened.

The following number, "The Tragedy of Gambling," was the first to use full stage. It was futuristic in design with a giant ticker in the background, and figures representing a bull and a bear in opposite corners. The coloring was in black and white. Florence Hedges appeared as a fairy, and members of the chorus represented "The Gambler," "Cards," "Penny," "Dice," "Dime," "Racing," "Dollar," "Roulette," "Gold Coin," etc.

The second act was opened by an attractive little song number by the Melvin Sisters in "one," and this was followed by an elaborate, but rather out-dated number called "Beauty's Dress," in which various members of the ensemble brought silk, and lace, and feathers and jewels, and perfume to deck Miss Hudson, who at one time was clad in rather diaphanous garments.

By far, the longest skit in the second act was the "Napoleon and Josephine" number, with Julius Marx as Napoleon, Muriel Hudson as Josephine, and Arthur Marx especially amusing as one of her admirers. This is much too long, but is very funny in spots. It is also relieved by some remarkable playing on the harp by Arthur Marx, and some clever piano playing by Leonard Marx. The former "ad-libbed" a great deal, even to the extent of getting the other performers laughing. A rather silly comedy number, "In the Sheik's Tent," with Baggott and Herbert, ended on a high note when the rotund Baggott turned some remarkable somersaults.

A fine finishing touch was put on the show by the appearance of the Yerkes Happy Six (augmented to nine) orchestra, which rendered both jazz and semi-classical numbers to the tune of wild applause.

In fact, the one fault of the show is too many dancing teams, which gets tiresome. Arthur and Julius Marks [sic] are funny, but should have some new comedy stuff; the same goes for Baggott and Herbert. The only dancing feature which should be played up bigger is that of the chorus, which is one of real beauty and much cleverness. More specialties for Edward [sic] and Leonard Marx would also not be amiss.

The staging is simple, and apparently not expensive. A great many of the scenes are laid in "one," before "Art Curtains," which are attractive. The lighting is generally good, but will undoubtedly show much improvement at ensuing performances. The voices are adequate for the music of Tom Johnstone, though Miss Hudson's personality and pep were superior to the quality of her contralto voice. The book and lyrics by Will B. Johnstone were adequate. Eugene Sanger directed the book, Vaughn Godfrey staged the numbers, Ted Coleman directed the orchestra, and Gaites himself personally directed the production.

It looks very promising, and may fulfill its producers' expectations of doing for Philadelphia in summer time what Cohan has done in Boston.

(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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