Tag Archives: Marx Bros.

Never Give A Sucker An Even Break

Directed by Edward F. Cline
Starring W.C. Fields
Gloria Jean
Margaret Dumont
Franklin Pangborn
Leon Errol
Music by Charles Previn & Frank Skinner
Cinematography Charles Van Enger
Editing by Arthur Hilton
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date 10 October 1941
Running time 71 min.
Country U.S.
Language English

Never Give A Sucker An Even Break is a quite surreal film in that W.C. Fields is playing himself trying to pitch a film. It has quite a few funny scenes but is a little uneven. The bits where he’s discussing his script with Franklin Pangborn are amusing but the movie that Fields had envision is quite weird (I guess that’s the point!).

I could compare this film to a Marx Bros. film as it mixes music with the comedy. In Never Give A Sucker An Even Break Fifteen year old Gloria Jean sings some light operatic songs, but unlike those types of songs in the Marx’s films, these musical interludes are not completely boring, which I guess is testament to the fact that Ms. Jean had some semblance of a personality, which can rarely be said for the singers in the Marx films. The songs here are just as mind-numblingly boring as those in Marx Bros. films, but in one scene in particular Ms. Jean actually pokes fun at this fact by showing how bored she is with the song. There is so much other funny stuff going on in the background that you don’t have to hit the fast forward button. Considering she was so young and seemed to be a talented actress and singer, I wonder why she did not appear in many more films.

Another comparison to the Marx Bros. is that Fields tries to woo Margaret Dumont in order to become wealthy. This is part of his script for his fictional film. Unlike Groucho though, Fields comes to his senses when he sees just what he’s gotten himself into. Another contrast here is that Ms. Dumont really isn’t playing the straight man to Fields here and that she is in on the joke. Perhaps Fields included this element to satirize the Marx Bros. films? He does mention Groucho by name in an early scene.

This is a funny yet weird film. The parts that are not Fields’ fantasy seem to work the best.
Never Give A Sucker An Even Break is a part of the W.C. Fields Comedy Collection Volume 2 with The Man On The Flying Trapeze, You’re Telling Me, The Old Fashioned Way and Poppy. This DVD box set is available from Amazon for $43.99. You can purchase it by clicking here…

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Monkey Business

Directed by Norman Z. McLeod
Produced by Herman J. Mankiewicz (uncredited)
Written by S. J. Perelman & Will B. Johnstone
Starring Groucho Marx
Harpo Marx
Chico Marx
Zeppo Marx
Thelma Todd
Music by John Leipold (uncredited)
Cinematography Arthur L. Todd
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date 19 September 1931
Running time 77 minutes
Country United States
Language English

This is the third film that the Marx Bros. made, the one that features them as stowaways on a ship. The film is perhaps a bit more chaotic that the later Marx films but it still has some funny moments. Perhaps the most well known scene in this film is this one…

The only real downer in the film comes in the last fifteen minutes when Chico has his obligatory piano recital and Harpo plucks the harp. Then again these things happen in all Marx Bros. films and one can always press the fast forward button. You can at least be thankful that there is no lame crooner taking up screen time from the Brothers’ antics, which would happen when they went to MGM.

It is a great film although not quite as funny as Duck Soup.

It’s currently available from Target for less than $10 and has just been re-released by Universal as part of their Studio Classics range.


A Night In Casablanca

Directed by Archie Mayo
Produced by David L. Loew
Starring Groucho Marx
Harpo Marx
Chico Marx
Charles Drake
Music by Bert Kalmar
Harry Ruby
Werner Janssen
Distributed by United Artists
Release date May 10, 1946 (U.S. release)
Running time 85 min
Language English

I finally watched this movie this morning. It was the last film that the Marx Bros. made together and it’s not their greatest of moments. The film does feature a fair bit of the Marx’s trademark humour but other than the hotel room scene, which drags on a little too long, there is nothing that they had not done in earlier films. There are no classic Marx Bros. moments here. The film is primarily about Nazis and stolen Jewish artworks that were hidden in the hotel Casablanca. The plot is a little disjointed and there seems to be a bit too much going on a lot of the time. The Brothers don’t really get too much time to do their gags justice, with the exception of the amusing hotel room scene that I previously mention. That’s not to say that it is a bad movie, it is still more entertaining than anything that Adam Sandler has made in the last decade or so. While it may not be as hilariously funny as Duck Soup or A Night At The Opera it is still very interesting and worth a look.