Animal Crackers

Animal Crackers

Comedy, Musical | 97 mins | Released: 1930
Director: Victor Heerman
Starring: Groucho Marx, Harpo Marx, Chico Marx, Zeppo Marx, Lillian Roth, Margaret Dumont, Louis Sorin
Our Rating: 8
Black & White

The basic plot concerns Groucho, as explorer Captain Geoffrey (or Jeffrey) T. Spaulding, attending a party in his honor at the estate of society matron Mrs. Rittenhouse, and investigating the theft of a valuable painting during the party. The bulk of the movie consists of a succession of comedy sketches, one liner jokes and visual gags.

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Monkey Business: The Lives and Legends of The Marx Brothers
by Simon Louvish
American Legends: The Marx Brothers
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The Marx Brothers Encyclopedia
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The Annotated Marx Brothers: A Filmgoer’s Guide to In Jokes, Obscure
References and Sly Details
by Matthew Coaian

Movie Notes:

Animal Crackers is a 1930 Marx Brothers comedy film, in which mayhem and zaniness ensue when a valuable painting goes missing during a party in honor of famed African explorer Captain Spaulding.

A critical and commercial success on its initial release, filming took place at Astoria Studios in Astoria, Queens; it was the second of two films the Brothers would make in New York.

The film stars the four brothers, Groucho Marx, Chico Marx, Harpo Marx, and Zeppo Marx, with Lillian Roth and Margaret Dumont. It was directed by Victor Heerman and adapted from a successful 1928 Broadway musical of the same title by George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind, also starring the Marx Brothers and Margaret Dumont. The part of Hives the butler was played by Robert Greig who also appeared with the Marx Brothers in Horse Feathers (1932).

Groucho’s songs, “Hello, I Must Be Going” and “Hooray for Captain Spaulding”, both written by Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby, became recurring themes for Groucho through the years. The latter song became the theme of Groucho’s radio and TV game show You Bet Your Life. It referred to a real Captain Spaulding, an army officer arrested a few years earlier for selling cocaine to Hollywood residents. The original full version of “Hooray for Captain Spaulding” was edited in compliance to the Hays Code when it was re-released in 1936: the sexually suggestive line “I think I’ll try to make her” was removed – it came after Mrs. Rittenhouse’s line: “He was the only white man to cover every acre.” There is no known print or audio of those few seconds that were trimmed from the film. Prints of the film reveal an obvious edit when they reach that point in the song.

Ironically, Groucho used an even more risqué line in introducing Chico’s piano sequence: “Signor Ravelli’s first selection will be, ‘Somewhere My Love Lies Sleeping’, with a male chorus.”

Chico’s own piano composition “I’m Daffy over You” would be played again in their next feature film, Monkey Business, by Harpo on the harp.
He’s One Of Those Men (Hives and Footmen)
I Represent (Zeppo)
Hooray for Captain Spaulding Part I (The Cast)
Hello, I Must Be Going (Groucho)
Hooray for Captain Spaulding Part II (Cast)
Why Am I So Romantic? (Arabella and John, and as a harp interlude with Harpo)
I’m Daffy Over You (Chico; the refrain is sometimes confused with the 1950s song “Sugar in the Morning”)
Silver Threads Among the Gold (Chico)
Brief piano interlude (Harpo)
Gypsy-chorus (a.k.a. Anvil Chorus) (Chico)
My Old Kentucky Home (Marx Brothers)

Notable Quotes:

Four of Groucho’s best known quips:
“One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas, I don’t know.”
[The American Film Institute listed this at number 53 in the 100 Greatest Movie Quotes of All Time.]

“Then, we tried to remove the tusks, … but they were embedded in so firmly, we couldn’t budge them. Of course, in Alabama the Tusk-a-loosa. But that’s entirely ir-elephant to what I was talking about.” [Similar to a joke Chico would later tell in Duck Soup]

“Africa is God’s country – and He can have it.”

“We took some pictures of the native girls, but they weren’t developed. But we’re going back again in a couple of weeks!”

Watch the Marx Brothers in A Night in Casablanca

Watch the Marx Brothers in Horse Feathers

Watch the Marx Brothers in Room Service