Film written by Bert Kalmar, Harry Ruby and others; directed by Leo McCarey; starring Groucho, Chico, Harpo and Zeppo
If you want to be known as the greatest actor of your generation, then you tackle Shakespeare. But, it can’t be just any Shakespeare- it has to be one of the big three roles: Hamlet, Othello or Lear. No matter how great you might be in As You Like It or Two Gentleman of Verona, that’s not the way to the peak. (I was about to point out that no one seems to do Verona anymore, but look at this.)
Despite a reputation that suggests otherwise, comedies do win Oscars for best picture of the year, although Annie Hall was the last one that made me laugh out loud, but I wasn’t the one who threw Terms of Endearment in with the funny ones (or classified West Side Story as a “crime, drama, musical,” which I guess it is if you want to force the issue).
The importance of seriousness has to taught. From our first breaths, we seek our first laughs. To be a grown up is to know when to set aside the giggles and get down to business. All appearances to the contrary, I’m not decrying this state of affairs. You don’t build anything or find a vaccine for something if you spend your day telling fart jokes. On the other hand, a well-timed belch can bring the laughs that make a little more overtime bearable. I have never heard anyone say that all they need is ten minutes for a good cry and then they’re set to start the double shift.
Ifthe Marx Brothers are unfamiliar to you, then consider this as an introduction, though it is one small sample. This is my favorite scene in all their films, but then it would be. Bonus points to the choreographer for the legs in the air move. Yes, over the years, I have seen as many as I could locate.
I discovered the Marx Brothers when I was young. They have proved a useful bellwether ever since. If you get them, then you probably get me, at least a little bit. Realistically, I can think of no other artist that has had as great an influence on me. That might seem a little pathetic, but I am not saying that they had a great influence, just a notable one.
Which is a stumbling way to point out that they did present a world view. Plenty of stand-up comedians come across as edgy with their thinly-veiled (or blatant) statements, but little of that comes across once they reach the rarefied air of television and movies. Be that as it may, the Marx Brothers taught a straightforward cynicism about everything from words to appearances. They embodied not judging a book by its cover or a liar by their words.
One more, just because, well, it is a philosophy. Also, once again, bonus points to the choreographer.
Oh, and I’m serious about the choreographer. Now, that’s an art form where it’s hard to be funny intentionally.
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You’ve Got to Check This Out is a blog series about music, words, and all sorts of artistic matters. It started with an explanation. 81 more to go.
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