Inside The Marx Brothers  [DVD]
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An in-depth look at the lives and careers of the talented comedy brothers from the era of silent film: Groucho, Harpo, Chico, Zeppo, and Gummo. The film uses clips from favourite films such as 'Animal Crackers', 'Monkey Business', 'Duck Soup', 'A Night at the Opera' and 'A Day at the Races', as well as home movies, interviews with friends and surviving family members, and newsreels. It also includes a rare clip from Harpo's 1925 silent film, 'Too Many Kisses' and a recording of Harpo's voice.
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What makes this worth having for the true Marxist is the full, uncut Monkey Biz trailer featuring the scene from I'll Say She Is! (it's in poor condition but gives a vivid insight into what a Marx Bros stage show might have been like - Groucho is even doing his 'dutch' accent left over from their vaudeville days), the Ed Murrow/Groucho interview (though daughter Melinda's inclusion is a bit painful!) and for the first time ever, a brief snippet of Harpo's voice. This is taken from recordings made during work on his autobiography. It is tantalising not because there is anything particularly remarkable about his voice but because he comes over as a good raconteur with a hell of a story to tell. I'd kill to hear more!
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The documentary goes roughly in chronological order; we see the Marx Brothers and their parents through the early years in still photos with some rare footage of Harpo in a 1925 silent film entitled Too Many Kisses; and we also get footage of an early vaudeville comedy routine the four brothers replicated for a 1931 Paramount promotional film, The House That Shadows Built. The quality of the older footage is not good, unfortunately; and this is particularly frustrating in the twenty minute extra when Groucho is interviewed in 1954 by Edward R. Murrow.
On the other hand, we get good insights about the four brothers and their personal married lives with the children they raised; and we see them survive the move from Paramount Studios to MGM Studios. The group did well at MGM until Irving Thalberg died suddenly; after that things slowly but surely went downhill for The Marx Brothers essentially because Louis B. Mayer, head of MGM Studios, just didn't personally like their act.
Look also for rare footage from an ill fated 1959 comedy sitcom pilot that was scrapped very early on because it was poorly conceived; and Ann Miller gives a good interview about the Marx Brothers as well.
Overall, this documentary isn't completely thorough but it does offer interview and rare footage that we don't get in the other documentary entitled The Marx Brothers In A Nutshell. I am beginning to think that to truly cover all the ground a Marx Brothers fan will simply have to pick out more than one documentary to get the fullest understanding of this great comedy team.