(director: David Miller; screenwriters: Harpo Marx/Frank Tashlin/Mac Benoff cinematographer: William C. Mellor; editors: Al Joseph/Basil Wrangell; music: Ann Ronell; cast: Groucho Marx (Detective Sam Grunion), Harpo Marx (Harpo), Chico Marx (Faustino the Great), Ilona Massey (Madame Egelichi), Vera-Ellen (Maggie Phillips), Paul Valentine (Mike Johnson), Raymond Burr (Alphonse Zoto), Melville Cooper (Lefty Throckmorton), Eric Blore (Mackinaw), Marilyn Monroe (Grunion’s client), Leon Belasco (Mr. Lyons); Runtime: 84; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Lester Cowan/Mary Pickford; Paramount Home Video; 1949)
“Tortures the viewer with a long Harpo solo instrumental on the harp.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The Marx Brothers swan song is not that good.Groucho Marx as the narrator Detective Sam Grunion, tells about his search for the valuable Royal Romanoff diamond necklace for eleven years and how it ends up at the NYC theater of a struggling acting troupe courtesy of klepto maniac stage errand boy Harpo (Harpo Marx) shoplifting it from a gourmet grocery store where it was packed into a sardine can marked with the maltese cross. The humorless David Miller (“Lonely Are The Brave”/”Flying Tigers”/”Sudden Fear”), the wrong director for the comedy, keeps it vanilla Marx Brothers and tortures the viewer with a long Harpo solo instrumental on the harp. It was based on a screenplay by Harpo that was rejected by the United Artists studio because they wanted his brothers also to appear in the film. Thereby it was rewritten by Frank Tashlin, Mac Benoff and Ben Hecht to include parts for Groucho and Chico, but Hecht fought to get his name removed from the writing credits. Marilyn Monroe has a brief cameo at the start of her career, playing Groucho’s sexy client.
The sinisterMadame Egilichi (Ilona Massey) and her henchmen (Melville Cooper, Raymond Burr, Bruce Gordon) are upset that a bum stole their valuable diamond shipped to the grocery store in a sardine can, and have the police locate the culprit for them. But Harpo unloaded the sardine can to Maggie (Vera-Ellen), the musical revue show’s perky star dancer, so the torture of the mute gets nowhere except the baddies learn the stolen diamonds are somewhere on the set of the “Love Happy” revue. To get her hands on the necklace, Madame Egilichi meets the show’s star (Paul Valentine) and backs the show so it doesn’t close, which gives her an excuse to be around the set. Chico plays Faustino the Great,a mind reader itinerant musician, who is hired to play the piano.
The centerpiece scene takes place on the roof-top of the theater, that has product placements for Baby Ruth candy, Fisk tires. Mobilgas, Bulova watches, Kool cigarettes and Wheaties, as Harpo and Chico are chased by Egilichi’s thugs trying to figure out who has the real diamonds and who the fake. Groucho makes a roof stop to see if he can straighten the mess out.
Harpo is good as a character actor, but as this film only proves he can’t carry a film as the star and in this film he’s the star. His comedy act tends to become tired, contrived and filled with too much sentimentality. The film gets by with a few funny bits, still funnier than most physical comedies of the era, but the Brothers have lost their edge.
REVIEWED ON 8/13/2012 GRADE: B-