Animal Crackers: Marx Brothers Second Film

The Marx Brothers’ second film, “Animal Crackers,” just like “The Cocoanuts” before it, was a successful transfer to the big screen of George S. Kaufman’s smash-hit Broadway musical.

As directed by Victor Herman, “Animal Crackers” is creaky, stagy, episodic, and unpolished, but it is also very funny, offering a platform for the four siblings to display their zany humor.

Mrs. Rittenhouse (Margaret Dumont), a pretentious, aristocratic woman holds a weekend party at her Long Island Estate. Her guest of honor is a presumably famed African explorer Geoffrey T. Spaulding (Groucho Marx), but we know otherwise.

Among the guests are renegade musician Signor Emmanuel Ravelli (Chico Marx), the mute, girl-chasing “Professor” (Harpo Marx) and Spaulding’s faithful secretary Horatio Jamison (Zeppo Marx).

The film’s plot is flimsy, centering on a stolen painting, but there are some hilarious set pieces. In one, Groucho lectures on his safari: “One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas, I don’t know.”

Other funny moments depict Harpo and Chico unabashedly cheating at bridge, Groucho dictating a wild letter to the firm of Hungerdunger, Hungerdunger, Hungerdunger and McCormick, and Groucho and Chico drawing up plans to build a house.

Watch for the young Lillian Roth, who plays Arabella Rittenhouse.

Credits

Running time: 98 Minutes
Directed By: Victor Heerman.
Written By: George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind