Pardon me while i have a strange interlude……
That line,spoken by Groucho Marx to Margret Dumont comes at one of the many points in this movie where Groucho as Cpt Jeffery T Spaulding breaks the forth wall,though while other comics use this tactic to address us as the audience,Groucho here is just letting us know that this is his show,his party,his finest hour and we shouldnt be any more at ease than anyone else in the cast.
Animal Crackers was the 3rd broadway smash to feature the Marx Brothers,written by George S Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind with songs by Harry Ruby and Bert Kalmar,it was the perfect follow up to”The Cocoanuts”which despite being every bit as manic,hadnt made the transition to film quite so smoothly.
Though written during the pre-depression Golden era,Animal Crackers was filmed during the darkest days following the stock market crash.Everyone involved in the production had lost something,anger,mistrust and bitterness were rife at Paramount Studios and with the sharpest wittiest playwright in history providing the gags for the finest delieverer on earth,this was never going to be just another comedy.
I wont waste words on the plot(there isnt one)or quoting gags(there is barely a word wasted)or on the filmaking(budget cuts stripped the cast down to the bare ensemble and the impression is of a filmed stage play,though credit to director Victor Herrmann who at least manages to keep the action in frame)
As a movie it bears no comparisson to any other comedy,Charlie Chaplin would be lost in the stream -of-conciuosness script,Laurel and Hardy would have had medics on alert trying to deal with the slapstick and not even rubber faced goon Jim Carrey could emulate Harpo’s wonderful array of grotesque grimaces.For me this fims true peer is The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.Both feature a small group in a large house with some unwelcome visitors and an unstoppable force that creates chaos and destruction for no other reason than it wants too,both are true assualts on the senses,Leatherfaces rampage mirrors Grouchos insane spiralling destruction of logic and reason in his housemates,but it is the surreal,twisted relentlessness of the viewing experience that marries these two together.
In short,Animal Crackers has to be seen to be believed,apperently Winston Churchill ignored a bomb raid to watch it,in the 1960’s a young Woody Allen,on seeing Groucho on the big screen ,gave up bodybuilding and went into comedy and in hospitals all over the world the old and the the young are sitting in corners hugging there knees,rocking back and forward whispering”a flits,a flits,atsa fish wassa matter for you”.
A wonderful movie,but a much better experience.