It's just this little chromium switch, here... (derspatchel) wrote,
It's just this little chromium switch, here...

"I have to stay here, folks. There's no reason why you can't wait in the lobby..."

Last night I purchased The Marx Brothers Sing & Play, which is an absolutely wonderful collection of all the musical numbers in most every Marx Bros. film from Cocoanuts all the way up to The Big Store. (Missing are A Night In Casablanca and Room Service and Love Happy if you wish to count it.) This includes not only Groucho's songs, but also Chico's piano playing and Harpo's wonderful harp solos. The Maurice Chevalier routine from Monkey Business isn't featured, but their pickle barrel rendition of "Sweet Adeline" in four-part harmony is. Listen closely and you can hear Harpo singing.

The audio seems to have been taken directly from the film's sound track and not much was done to remaster 'em, but the idea here is that you have a musical collection that you didn't have to make yourself. (In my early years, I captured music from movies and shows by holding a tape recorder up to the TV speaker while the video played. This newer method is at least higher quality than that.)

The downside of this is, of course, that the Cocoanuts and Animal Crackers recordings sound just about as crummy as they do on any video or print you've ever seen. But then again, they were among the first crop of talkies (any paper used in a scene, for example, had to be wet so as to not rustle) so I will concede that it's a good thing we've got copies of them at all, much less in that condition. And I know that the audio was taken right from the films, as Groucho's line "I think I'll try and make her" in "Hurray For Captain Spaulding" is exised (it was fine for the stage, but deemed a bit slightly too risque for the film and was crudely cut out of the final print.)

However, the upside of this is that any and all dialogue during the musical numbers are captured as well, so we have the pleasure of listening to Groucho and Chico do their "Sugar In The Morning" routine in Animal Crackers, where Chico keeps repeatedly playing just the first few measures of the song:
CHICO: I can't think of the finish.
GROUCHO: That's strange; I can't think of anything else.
CHICO: Wait, wait, I think she's-a comin' around again.
GROUCHO: Well, when it comes round again, will you hop off?
While the routines are all verbal and musical, there still is a little bit lost without the visuals. Watching Harpo's face when he plays the harp is a very special joy; it's then when he turns from the chaotic imp to a musician in love with what he does. Even though he's still wearing his zany getup and has probably acquired the harp through nefarious means to play the song, his face shows it all. I love watching that.

Similarly, the Duck Soup numbers lose a bit from lack of visuals and you don't get to see Chico shoot the keys or do his little index finger wiggle but again, if you've ever wanted a clean copy of "Whatever It Is, I'm Against It" from Horsefeathers or Allan Jones' "Cosi Cosa" from A Night At The Opera, here you go and enjoy.

Right now my two favorite pieces are "Lydia the Tattooed Lady" as sung by Groucho in At The Circus (I never noticed the World's Fair refs: "Here is Grover Whalen unveilin' the Trylon / Over on the West Coast we have Treasure Islan`") and all four versions of "Everyone Says I Love You" from Horsefeathers: Zeppo's straightforward ballad; Chico's version featuring "the big fat mosquita", "Christopher Colombo" and "the rooster [who] sings cock-a-doodly-doo"; Harpo whistling the tune to his horse as well as playing it on the harp; and Groucho's hilariously sardonic lampoon:
Everyone says "I Love You"
But just what they say it for I never knew
It's just inviting trouble for the poor sucker who
Says "I Love You"
It's a French import (Je suis Marxiste, tendance Groucho) and frankly, it's worth whatever price you pay for it.

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