Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Walking on the Ceiling

I queued up Room Service/At the Circus for one reason and one reason alone: To see Groucho walking on the ceiling with Eve Arden.

I skipped Room Service (we own it), and went straight to At the Circus. Rich boy Kenny Baker (a tenor from Jack Benny's old radio show) runs a circus that needs money. Chico and Harpo work for the circus, so they call shyster Groucho. The bad guys include a midget (Jerry Maren), a strong man (Nat Pendleton, the dopey cop in the Thin Man movies) and aerialist Eve Arden.

In the end, the guys put on a circus for Margaret Dumont, Baker's rich aunt, and everything is settled happily.

  • The songs are worse than usual (with exceptions)
  • Even Chico and Harpo's numbers were weak. Harpo's "Swingali", with a crowd of colored folk may be worse than "Who Dat Man?"
  • The movie forgets about the bad guys in the fourth act - I wanted more Eve Arden!
On the other hand:
  • Groucho sings "Lydia the Tattooed Lady", one of his best songs.
  • Harpo plays "Blue Moon" on the harp and really swings it
  • Eve Arden and Groucho really do walk on the ceiling, using suction cup boots, not trick photography. They even do a little rhumba
In the end, it's a Marx Bros. movie and that's enough.

In conclusion, the leader of the colored crowd gathered around Harpo was Dudley Dickerson. I'm sure you know him from the Three Stooges' A Plumbing We Will Go. He's the cook whose kitchen goes crazy when Curly starts working on the plumbing. He was in more than 100 movies, mostly as a bootblack, porter or cook. His role in At the Circus might have been weak, but at least he got to do more than bug his eyes and go "Yassa!"

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