Classic of the Week: Animal Crackers (1930)

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Animal Crackers is a 1930 American pre-code comedy and musical film directed by Victor Heerman and stars the Marx Brothers, Groucho, Chico, Harpo and Zeppo with Lillian Roth and Margaret DuPont. It was based on their Broadway musical of the same name. The film follows the story of how a valuable painting goes missing during a party in honor of famous African explorer Captain Jeffrey T. Spaulding.

This is not only a Marx Brothers and comedy classic, but it is truly one of the funniest films of all time. It is clever and funny. There musical numbers and Groucho and Zeppo sing as well and Harpo and Chico both play the piano, Harpo also plays the harp. Like most of the Marx Brothers’ films, Groucho is the ringleader. There is lots of cheesy, yet fun songs (except for one love song), slapstick fighting, clever humor, tricks and flirting.

Groucho is fantastic as Captain Jeffrey T. Spaulding, Harpo is great as the professor, Chico is also great as Signor Emanuel Ravelli and Zeppo does a fine job as Horacio Jamison. Margaret Dumont does a fine job in her role as Mrs. Rittenhouse, owner of the house (on Long Island) and Lillian Roth does equally god as her daughter Arabella.

There are many fun musical numbers in this film such as, “Hello, I Must Be Going,” “Hooray For Captain Spaulding” and “He’s One of Those Men.” There’s also the love song, “Why. Am I So Romantic?” The songs give this film the right amount cheese and excitement.

There is also a lot of jokes, some that have become famous with the brothers like Groucho saying, “One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas, I don’t know” and when the party guests are giving three cheers to Captain Spaulding, Harpo brings in three chairs. Harpo is the only Marx brother that doesn’t speak in their films, although he occasionally laughs and whistles, he is also very gullible and naive.

This movie will have you laughing, cheering and dancing. There is mild sexual innuendo and flirting and slapstick violence, but no one is seriously injured. There is drinking and smoking throughout, Groucho is seen with his trademark cigar. But other than that, it is very mild and okay for older children, as younger ones won’t understand the jokes.

Never once is this film boring. It is truly hilarious and entertaining and gets that way more and more after viewing. The Marx Brothers were and still are some of not just the funniest, but greatest actors and movie makers of all time. They, to this day, can put a smile on a person’s face and brighten a day with laughter. This is a wonderful movie that is just as quick-witted as it an enjoyment. With music, dancing, humor, peril and romance, this one will never disappoint. 8 & up 5/5