COCOANUTS, THE (directors: Robert Florey/Joseph Santley; screenwriter: from the play The Cocoanuts by George S. Kaufman/Morrie Ryskind; cinematographer: George Folsey; editor: Barney Rogan; music: Irving Berlin; cast: Zeppo Marx (Jamison), Groucho Marx (Hammer), Harpo Marx (Harpo), Chico Marx (Chico), Oscar Shaw (Bob Adams), Mary Eaton (Polly Potter), Margaret Dumont (Mrs. Potter), Kay Francis (Penelope), Cyril Ring (Harvey Yates), Basil Ruysdael (Detective Hennessey); Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Walter Wanger/Monta Bell ; Paramount; 1929)
“Watchable for some hilarious routines, but valued now mostly as a relic.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The Brothers shoot their first film at Paramount’s Astoria Studios in Long Island while they were performing “Animal Crackers” on stage at night. It’s based on their 1925 stage hit by George S. Kaufman and scripted by Morrie Ryskind. It’s set in Miami, where conniving hotel manager Groucho Marx has his hands full trying to keep his rundown hotel from going bankrupt while at the same time trying to cash in on the real estate boom in Florida. This early talkie was weakly directed by Robert Florey and Joseph Santley, who get nothing out of the stiff supporting cast, dull choreography numbers, boring song interludes (even if the songs are by Irving Berlin), lame love subplot, flat camera movements and stagy setting. This film is all about the Brothers lively madcap performances that cause chaos, many insulting wisecracks and anarchy-like slapstick gags. Some of their funnier routines include a rigged auction turning sour for Groucho due to his silent partner Chico’s dumbness, an amusing conversation between Groucho and Chico over the misunderstanding of “viaduct,” the three Brothers (excluding Zeppo) running in and out of two connecting rooms while a jewel robbery is in progress.
The hotel’s only paying guest is society woman Margaret Dumont, whose lovely daughter (Mary Eaton) is in love with the hotel clerk who is an aspiring architect (Oscar Shaw). Dumont steers her daughter to the seemingly respectable Cyril Ring, not knowing he works in cahoots with partner Kay Francis to steal Dumont’s valuable necklace. The hotel’s other guests are riff-raff con men Harpo and Chico, who interefere with everyone in the hotel.
Though mild compared to some of the Brother’s latter films, it still took the filmgoer by storm on its release because it was so zany and different than previous films. Watchable for some hilarious routines, but valued now mostly as a relic. The only Berlin number of value was the theme song “When Our Dreams Come True.”
REVIEWED ON 10/13/2005 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ