Happy 105th Birthday, Lillian Roth!

Lillian RothIn 1974, big news was made when prolonged legal wrangling over the rights to the Marx Brothers‘ second movie, Animal Crackers (1930), was finally resolved and the movie was released for public screenings for the first time for the first time in many years.

Imagine that: A “new” Marx Brothers movie (new in the fact that no one had been able to view it, in a theatre or on television, for so long—and of course, there were no VHS tapes yet, much less DVDs or Blu-Rays).

It was our junior year in high school, and we were working part-time evenings and weekends at the Northpark Cinema 4 in Oklahoma City. Already very devoted to all things Marx Brothers, we were thrilled when Animal Crackers was booked there. The movie settled in for an inexplicably long run (our memory might be playing tricks on us, but we recall it being there for a month or more), and we spent many an hour on those slow weekend afternoons soaking up the Marxian magic when we should have been out front taking tickets and sweeping up spilled popcorn. (To this day, we have the dialogue from that picture all but memorized.)

But it wasn’t just Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Zeppo who held our attention. The winsome Ms. Lillian Roth, who played the ingénue in Animal Crackers and whose 105th birthday it is today, hooked us but good with her flirtatious ways and deep-dish dimples.

We’ve had a crush on her ever since, and we trust that, after watching the following clips, you will, too. Happy birthday, lovely Lillian Roth, wherever you may be.

This post first saw the light of day on 12/13/2012.

Marx Brothers Madness in the Merry Month of May

Hey friends — we’re on the planning committee for a very exciting series of events coming up in May of this year: Marxfest, a month-long celebration of all things Marx Brothers in the brothers’ hometown, NYC.

You can check out the calendar of events (more are to be added very shortly) at marxfest.com.

We’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign to help cover expenses (this is not a for-profit endeavor), so please, view the video below and chip in if you can. Any amount is appreciated, but there are some very cool premiums available at various levels of support.

And by all means, please share this with every Marx Brothers fan (in other words, every right-thinking citizen of the world) you know!

Whatever it is, I'm against it

Turner Classic Movies is offering 9.5 hours of merry Marx madness with a Marx Brothers marathon tonight.

It’s a six-pack of pictures featuring Groucho, Harpo, Chico and sometimes Zeppo.

Here’s the line-up (all times eastern):

8:00pm — Monkey Business (1931)
Four stowaways get mixed up with gangsters while running riot on an ocean liner.
Cast: Groucho Marx, Harpo Marx, Chico Marx, Zeppo Marx Dir: Norman McLeod

9:30pm — Horse Feathers (1932)
In an effort to beef up his school’s football team, a college president mistakenly recruits two loonies.
Cast: Groucho Marx, Harpo Marx, Chico Marx, Zeppo Marx Dir: Norman McLeod

10:45pm — Duck Soup (1933)
When he’s named dictator of Freedonia, a con artist declares war on the neighboring kingdom.
Cast: Groucho Marx, Harpo Marx, Chico Marx, Zeppo Marx Dir: Leo McCarey

12:00am — A Night at the Opera (1935)
Three zanies turn an operatic performance into chaos in their efforts to promote their protege’s romance with the leading lady.
Cast: Groucho Marx, Chico Marx, Harpo Marx, Kitty Carlisle Dir: Sam Wood

2:00am — A Day at the Races (1937)
A group of zanies tries to save a pretty girl’s sanitarium.
Cast: Groucho [Marx], Chico [Marx], Harpo [Marx], Allan Jones Dir: Sam Wood

4:00am — At the Circus (1939)
The Marx Bros. team up to keep a circus from going bankrupt.
Cast: Groucho Marx, Chico Marx, Harpo Marx, Kenny Baker Dir: Edward Buzzell

We can still vividly remember our first Marx Brothers movie. It was 1974 and, having just turned sixteen, we were given permission to borrow the family Volvo to drive across town to catch a double feature of Horse Feathers and Monkey Business. Horse Feathers opens with Groucho’s Prof. Quincy Adams Wagstaff being installed as the president of Huxley College. Following a longwinded introduction by a stuffy faculty member, Groucho steps to the podium and addresses the assembled students:

Members of the faculty and faculty members, students of Huxley and Huxley students — well, I guess that covers everyone.

I thought my razor was dull until I heard his speech. And that reminds me of a story that’s so dirty I’m ashamed to think of it myself.

As I look over your eager faces, I can readily understand why this college is flat on its back. The last college I presided over, things were slightly different — I was flat on my back. Things kept going from bad to worse, but we all put our shoulders to the wheel and it wasn’t long before I was flat on my back again.

Any questions? Any answers?? [breaks into song] Any rags, any bones, any bottles today …

[bangs a gavel on podium] Who’ll say 76? Who’ll say 1776? That’s the spirit — 1776!

The real reason I came to this college was to get my son out of it. Ah, I remember well the day he left — a mere boy and a beardless youth. I kissed them both goodbye….

And so it went. We were thoroughly and completely hooked — on the entire Marx clan, of course, but especially Groucho. Our prized possession to this day remains the autographed photo we received from him after sending him a birthday card on what proved to be his last birthday.

And we remain as devoted to the boys as ever. If you’re a fan, you know what delights tonight’s marathon holds in store. If you’ve not yet been initiated to the bizarre world of the Marxes, here’s your chance.