August 22, 2023
Animal Crackers (1930)
Grade: 66/100

Director: Victor Heerman
Stars: Groucho Marx, Chico Marx, Harpo Marx

What it's about. The second Marx Brothers movie is much like the others, in terms of characters, story, humor, and quality. Margaret Dumont is once again a wealthy unmarried middle-aged socialite, pursued to some degree by mad wit Groucho Marx and the film's foil, in this case pompous Louis Sorin.

Groucho is joined by his three brothers: thick-accented Chico, zany wide-eyed mute Harpo, and bland nice guy Zeppo. As usual, there are two talented young lovers with money trouble, in this case brunette cutie Lillian Roth and her painter beau John Parker. Inevitably, Chico plays the piano, Harpo plays the harp, and a happy ending ensues that paves the way for the young lovers to presumably marry.

How others will see it. Animal Crackers is considered above-average Marx Brothers, better than a majority of their films but below the level of A Night at the Opera or Duck Soup. As with The Cocoanuts, the source material was a recent Broadway play starring the Marx Brothers, which allowed them to hone the script long prior to filming.

The Academy Awards ignored the movie, and it was not a huge box office success, but Marx Brothers films continued into the 1940s. Zeppo left the troupe to become a successful businessman. Dumont is the only non-Marx regular, and shows up in a majority of the films. She is the closest thing to a girlfriend for Groucho, though he is chiefly interested in her money.

Today at, the user rating is a respectable 7.4 out of 10. The user vote total is 15K, high for a film from 1930. The user reviews focus on favorite skits, such as Groucho's "Hooray for Captain Spaulding" introduction, and the never-completed bridge game between Chico, Harpo, and two socialites.

How I felt about it. Although the Marx Brothers movies are said to vary in quality, my observations is that they are all good. I haven't seen Go West or Room Service yet, but it seems likely that they are only marginally weaker than Animal Crackers, partly because the brothers were such pros, but mostly because Groucho's talent and charisma conquer all.

Although Groucho is the most famous brother, Chico seems to be onscreen the most here, and has to carry the movie from scene to scene. The skits vary in quality, and Harpo's harp solo is so somnolent that even he falls asleep. The plot is a mere contrivance: a famous painting and two amateur copies are interchanged, leading to a police investigation and "proof" that Lillian Roth's boyfriend is a great painter, after all. Nobody seems to care that a painting worth millions (in 2023 dollars) is subjected to various indignities such as rolling and folds. All that matters is that it isn't stolen.

One also wonders how Dumont is housing all of her guests. Her mansion must have dozens of rooms, or perhaps all of the well-dressed extras only show up for evening entertainment.

A skit featuring Groucho parodies Eugene O'Neill's then-topical Pulitzer Prize-winning play "Strange Interlude." In his interlude, Groucho examines his pseudo-romance with two socialites he actually cares nothing about. The humor of the scene is presumably lost on most modern viewers.