I loved the Marx Bros as a kid. I had a Duck Soup t-shirt (creamsicle orange, sporting the movie poster) and a Horse Feathers t-shirt (bright yellow, also sporting the movie poster). They were my favorite shirts. I wore them ragged. I religiously watched You Bet Your Life in syndication. I dragged my parents to whatever theaters would play their movies, and I believe I once made my dad drive me and friend through a snowstorm to a community center playing Animal Crackers. We were the only people in the audience and they played the film for us anyway. The show must go on, don’t you know. I even read a Groucho bio when I was in middle school. In all likelihood, it was the first celebrity bio I ever read.
Like many things from my childhood, it’s been ages since I’ve seen a Marx Bros. film. I showed my son Horse Feathers several years back, but he wasn’t biting. Too much language play for even a really verbal 5 year old. Several weeks back, Animal Crackers played at the Clay Theater as part of Sketchfest. The film was followed by a round table featuring Dick Cavett and Harpo’s son, Bill Marx. Cavett and Marx were fantastic, sharing 45 minutes of raunchy stories about the Marx Brothers, as well as providing some great insights into their careers. What a fun night. This time, my son, now 8, dug the proceedings. I think he really liked the absurd, strange interludes that fill the film. Harpo was his favorite--not surprising for a kid weaned on Buster Keaton. And I was laughing throughout. All the reasons why I loved these guys came flowing back. Sitting in the theater, I could see how much their brand of comedy has influenced me. And if that wasn’t enough, the soothing sound of Dick Cavett’s voice was a pleasant trip down memory lane as well.