The Cocoanuts

The CocoanutsBecause I have been on a Marx Brothers jag and I wanted to forget about the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, I watched The Cocoanuts. It is the first Marx Brothers film, and it is a bit weird. It has a few songs by Irving Berlin, remarkable dance numbers, and some of the funniest comedy bits I’ve ever seen. The story—I know this will shock you!—is about a rich girl who wants to marry a poor boy with big dreams. “Wait!” you say. “Isn’t that the plot of Animal Crackers?” Well… “And A Night at the Opera?” Well… “And…” Yes, yes, yes! But this time it takes place in Florida at Hotel de Cocoanut!

Groucho owns the hotel that is staffed almost exclusively by beautiful young women who break into dance at just about any opportunity, which turns out to be in between just about every comedy bit. In fact, even though The Cocoanuts was originally a Broadway play, it seems more like vaudeville: comedy, song, dance, comedy, song, dance. And it works very well as such. If you are looking for any kind of narrative (And why would you?!) it is disappointing. There is a whole (Sub?) plot about Groucho selling property, but it seems to be nothing more than an excuse for what is admittedly a hilarious scene where Groucho tries to game an auction with Chico, who does not exactly get the concept.

Here is a very funny scene leading up to it where Groucho coaches Chico. Later, Groucho says “viaduct” but Chico thinks it is, “Why a duck?” Which is a damned good question!

The bad news is that the DVD I have is a Universal release, but it is terrible. The print quality from cut to cut is enormous. It is never particularly good, usually bad (high contrast), and sometimes almost unwatchable. The clip above is about as good as the quality gets, although the sound is better on the DVD. And like all the Marx Brothers DVDs I’ve seen, it comes with no extras at all. Nonetheless, despite all the technical problems, how can you not love this film?

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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