Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Episode 25: Send Out the Clowns



About every fourth episode, we devote an entire conversation to a deep-dive exploration of a specific Marx Brothers movie. That being the case, it was inevitable that at some point we would focus on At the Circus, no matter how many people begged us not to. We hope you find this episode enjoyable anyway, but if you don't, remember that it could be worse -- and will be, when we devote an episode to Go West.

Official description: "Our contractually obligated deep dive into At The Circus, where your hosts are as enthused watching the film as the Marxes were in making it. We try our best to make sense out of this jumble of wonderful and embarrassing moments.

"You'll scream as you experience the lost courtroom scene that MGM cut instead of 'Two Blind Loves'...you'll thrill as we struggle to remember plot points no one cares about anyhow…you'll jump for joy as we play no clips of Groucho yelling 'Help, Pauline!'

"NOTE: This ep does contain moments of explicit language, which should be a hint to those still wondering what we thought of the film.

"Name-checked in this episode: Marilyn Monroe, Eddie Deezen, Adolf Hitler."

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Footnotes:

  • The At the Circus page on Mikael Uhlin's website Marxology includes the text of the deleted courtroom scene (as it appeared in The Freedonia Gazette, issue 13), with stills.
  • For Kenny Baker fans, here he is singing "Alone" from A Night at the Opera.
  • Here is the video section of Frank Ferrante's Groucho site.

17 comments:

  1. Hey guys. I'm about halfway through and enjoying this quite a bit. I do hate to burst your bubble, but the guys at Sneaky Dragon Full Marx podcast also performed that courtroom scene when they featured AT THE CIRCUS. Sorry to say you are not the first. Nice job though.

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    1. P.S. Yours was a lot better, too. Noah you captured the Groucho of CIRCUS.

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  2. RE: Groucho getting on the train. Have you guys not heard the story of the supposedly cut sequence where the train is pulling away, Groucho is standing in a puddle watching it go, then Harpo throws a fishing line off the back of the train and hooks Groucho on board?

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    1. Of course -- now that you mention it! Serves me right for not brushing up on my Adamson before the session. (I should have gotten an Adamson, and brushed up on him!)

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    2. And that makes it even stranger that MGM would let it slide with no explanation.

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  3. Gentleman ("Who came in?"), I must apologize for missing many past podcasts. But I did get to this most recent one, all about At The Circus, one of my least favorite Marx Brothers movie. There is very little I like about it. Yes, the Chico and Harpo scene in Goliath's room is probably the funniest scene in the movie, and I think Groucho is a little better once Maggie shows up. But it is telling that my two favorite lines in the film are "He's going to get himself a new shirt" and "Elephants - at your age!". I do like it more than I like Go West, but then again, I like jabbing pins into my bald head more than I like Go West. Overall, as several of you have said in the podcast, The Big Store seems like the most pleasant. Not terribly funny, but pleasant. Anyway, my older brother put it best and I paraphrase - if you've never seen the Marx Brothers, you will probably enjoy At The Circus or Go West a good deal. But once you've seen Animal Crackers or Horse Feathers, etc., that's when you realize some of those later films are amusing, but they are NOT good Marx Brothers movies. Again, sorry for not chiming in as often as I used to when you fellas started this podcast - life just gets in the way a lot.

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    1. It certainly does. Always nice to hear from you, Jay! As usual, your points are spot-on and well-put.

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    2. Oh, I wanted to share this but couldn't remember where I had it. It is from a review I did of At The Circus. Anyway - "To wit, one of the funniest lines in the picture is a casually tossed aside 'He's going to get himself a clean shirt', said about Margaret Dumont's butler, which, even in context, is not actually a joke but is funny simply because Groucho proudly says it to Dumont as if it solves all her problems, even though it doesn't, she doesn't have any problems and it is Groucho who came to her to solve his problems in the first place!". I think that is a fine sentence.

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  4. The strongman throwing the mattress on top of Harpo and Chico without knowing they're there seemed like a Keaton gag, but I dunno!

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  5. I saw Groucho at Northwestern University in 1970, I think. (I did find a photo in NU archives—not a very good one—but it was undated!). Anyway, the event was held in a gym, lots of people sitting on the floor. Groucho was well received, and if I remember correctly (again, the memory), he did "Lydia" to a fine reception. But then, most of us were probably chemically altered. Keep up the podcast. Under its influence I bought the Paramount films and read "Harpo Speaks" and the Bader book. Matthew's book is on order.A pandemic will do that!

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    1. Photos from that event can be found here... https://digitalcollections.library.northwestern.edu/search?q=%22groucho%22

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    2. I am reading Matthew's tome now and it is unfailingly superb!

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  6. Thanks, Bob. I'll check it out...

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  7. Circus was the last Marx movie I "discovered". I started watching the Marxes in 1974 but didn't see Circus until 1987 when I found a Betamax copy on a closeout table. I was totally disgusted in what I saw. Circus remains my least favorite film (yes, much worse than Love Happy). Your group hit most of the weak areas in this film.

    It's difficult to pinpoint one scene that is heads and above the worst but if I had to choose I would choose the cigar scene. Chico has always been portrayed as slow and dim but a good manipulator. However in this scene he is just plain stupid. From announcing why he's there to the constant presenting of cigars, we are seeing a totally non-Chico character. And it goes on far too long. Far too long.

    The finale has to be the most embarrassing one of the entire Marx tome. Not only is it barren of any laughs it does something that no other film does -- takes away Margaret Dumont's dignity.

    I've only watched Circus twice. Once was when I bought the Beta tape. Within the week I had donated the tape to a thrift store. I wanted it out of the house. The second time was when I bought the green box set of the non Paramount films. I thought I would give it another try. That ninety minutes was the longest month of my life.

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  8. One of the few highlights of my high school days was singing "Lydia" in full Groucho make-up for the class talent show at the end of my senior year. My first and last standing ovation.

    To me, "Lydia" is a better showcase for Groucho than "Captain Spaulding", which gives him only two or three lines.

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    1. Point taken, but really, "Hello, I Must Be Going" -- perhaps the purest musical expression of Groucho's character -- is part of "Hooray for Captain Spalding."

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Episode 25: Send Out the Clowns

About every fourth episode, we devote an entire conversation to a deep-dive exploration of a specific Marx Brothers movie. That being...