Sunday, August 19, 2012

Harpo the nurse

Not content with successfully tracking down The Faces doing their rendition of 'One Last Sweet Cheerio' (I'm trying to get it uploaded to here but technology tends to regard me in the way a cat regards a three-legged mouse) Marjie has forwarded these odd shots from Monkey Business, showing Harpo as a demented nurse in front of an odd abstract painting.

I don't think I've seen them before. Presumably a scene that was scripted and shot, but deleted before release (like the immortal 'Groucho ironing Zeppo' scene from Horse Feathers).
As to what's actually going on in them, that I couldn't even guess.

Can anybody fill in the blanks a little?


Marjorie said...

Thanks to Ed for reminding me that there's also a long shot of the scene in Harpo Speaks - third page in the second set of photos! (Please allow me to say 'nice legs'). I think Joe Adamson might be the man to ask about this, Matthew. I'm going to hunt through his book to see if there's something about it, but I can't remember anything off hand. I also can't believe there isn't something written about it somewhere...

Matthew Coniam said...

I've given him a toot.

Marjorie said...

Mikael Uhlin's Marxology's Monkey Business page has this link to the final script with a whole scene in a nursery right after the Punch and Judy scene (among other things). That must be it. I wonder was it just cut because of time constraints or because the world wasn't ready for Harpo in drag?!

Odd that they would put out publicity shots with a deleted scene in it and such an obvious one at that. Harpo *is* cute in a dress, though :)

Matthew Coniam said...

JA tooted back:

MC & Co. --

Scenes were shot, then cut from films all the time -- This one is no great mystery -- Obviously it was cut because it was felt that the film would be better w/o it -- If anybody had a problem w/Harpo in drag, the scene wouldn't have been shot! I've seen stills from other unused scenes in this same film --

You do know that's Arthur Marx in that top shot, right? Billy Barty in the lobby card -- There's a shot that includes Miriam also --

I doubt any of these stills were among the 8 standard stills that were released in connection w/the film -- There are many stills from unused scenes from DAY AT THE RACES extant, and I've seen them for other films (HARD DAY'S NIGHT is one example -- )

Are you going to do that ROOM SERVICE post you talked about??

-- Joe

Lolita of the Classics said...

Darling, I hereby punish you with an award! 7 x 7 Award

LAGuy said...

Note: I'm splitting this message in two since your blog is telling me it can only accept so many characters.

Anyway, I'm not entirely sure where to put this comment, but not much is happening on this blog, so I guess I'll put it here up top. Anyway, it relates to Monkey Business.

It also relates to a comment I left a couple weeks ago at your Duck Soup entry. I noted that DS doesn't seem to play so well to small crowds on home video. But I'm glad to say it still goes great with big crowds.

I just got back from the annual New Year's Day Marx Brothers double feature at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica. This year they showed Duck Soup followed by Monkey Business. The place seats around 400 or so and I'd estimate it was 80% filled. Not bad for two old films readily available elsewhere.

Groucho's grandson Andy Marx was there to introduce the showing. He talked about going to his grandpa's place in the mid-60s. He pulled out an old 16 mm print of Duck Soup and watched it for the first time. He thought it was hilarious, but Groucho came in and asked why would anyone care about those film he made so long ago.

Andy also talked about meeting Woody Allen, and how he was as big a fan of Woody as Woody was of Groucho.

He also mentioned Monkey Business was a big enough hit that Paramount was planning a sequel until Hollywood decided to stop making gangster films after the Linbergh baby case.

Anyway, as noted, Duck Soup was met with uproarious laughter. It was all ages, too. You could hear plenty of kids laughing, and they weren't just doing it to please their parents.

I won't bore you with all my observations on the film, but let me note a few things.

First, there are a bunch of famous lines and routines, but there are all sorts of less celebrated moments that always get solid laughs: "Here's another one I picked up in a dance hall," "He gets mad because he can't read," "I give up, how about your glass of water," "Run out and get that like a good girl." For that matter, one of the most reliable laughs is when Harpo draws the Groucho face on the pitcher.

A few other things:

--Mrs. Teasdale calls Rufus T. Firefly "progressive."

--If you think Zeppo is treated poorly how about poor Leonid Kinskey, who's told by Trentino to wait outside when Chicolini and Pinky get there and is never heard from again. He could still be waiting.

--Mrs. Teasdale has at least two pianos at her place.

--Even if you can see the payoff to the sidecar gag, the shot from behind of Harpo driving away is still pretty funny (though not as good as him driving away from the Punch and Judy show in Monkey Business).

--we learn when you slam down a piano lid hard, all sounds in the room shut off.

--Groucho orders women for the troops not unlike how he order hard-boiled eggs in A Night At The Opera.

--I think Duck Soup probably has the best ending of any of their films.

LAGuy said...

Part 2 of the previous message:

In some ways I was more excited to see Monkey Business. I consider it the weakest of the Paramounts (mostly due to the impossibly high level of competition), but it's the only one of their first seven I've never seen in a theatre with an audience.

It got big laughs, of course, though I think Duck Soup got more (and is a tighter film in general). Of course, we should realize what a daunting task the original creation of MB was. This was the first film they made that was starting fresh, not based on a well-tested Broadway hit. Also, the script was done without their greatest writer, George S. Kaufman. There was no foregone conclusion it would be a classic, or even good. I think they figured out how to do it in MB, which allowed the next two to be even better.

The best addition to MB is, I guess, Thelma Todd, though she'd be even better in Horse Feathers. (In Groucho's first scene with here--where he says she'll have to stay in the garage all night--I think he's playing "Ain't She Sweet" on guitar.)

I don't have too much to add here, but let me note that Briggs and Helton sure brought a lot of gats aboard. They must have been expecting quite a bit of action. And I'm not surprised that Briggs thought Groucho and Zeppo were tough. When we finally meet his gang, it's during Prohibition and they're drinking milk.

I should also note I love the art deco lettering on the ship, with words like "women" and "vestibule" and "promenade."

Finally, the band at the big party seems truly amused by Harpo's harp playing. Did they even know they were in the shot?

WGaryW said...

interesting comments, LAGuy. . . i'm envious, as i've never had the opportunity to see a marx brothers film in a theater. much as i love them, i'd already seen their movies too many times by my early 20s to laugh out loud very often anymore when i rewatch their films (though i still, of course, enjoy them). i think being in an theater filled with the laughter of others would spur my own laughter again. at this point, when i do rewatch their films, i usually laugh only at harpo (even though groucho is my "favorite"), because knowing what the gags are beforehand doesn't seem to impact how viscerally funny harpo is as much, say, knowing all of groucho's best one liners by rote.

when are we going to get a new post, matthew?!? not that we have *any* right to expect anything of you, but it just kills me that your posts basically stopped not long after i discovered ytour wonderful writing here!

Matthew Coniam said...

Sorry Gary, and sincere thanks to everyone who has enquired as to the council's return.
My wife will be unleashing our very own Marx Brother any day now, and as soon as the dust settles I promise I'll be back!

WGaryW said...

a new baby??? well, that's all well and good, but it hardly seems a sufficient excuse for postponing updates to a blog about 80 year old films if you ask *me*. but then again, you wisely didn't.

no, in all seriousness, a hearty advance congrats. i'm glad to hear the reason for your scarcity is that something *good* is happening in your real life, rather than, say, your having been kidnapped, or worse, working really hard at your day job, or deciding to specifically punish me for ever commenting on your blog by never updating it again.

in any event, i'm sure that in your capable hands, this new kid will be suitably indoctrinated to become the first member of the newest generation of marx brothers fans yet. sorry it took me so long to reply, but i don't have any kind of notifications set up. i have no twitter account, no facebook profile, no rss feeds. . . i have very little idea how any of that stuff works, and don't really want to. so i just have to check back periodically based on--gasp-- old fashioned memory, a method which has its obvious drawbacks. but i'm a luddite wrt social media.