GO WEST, the second film in the Marx Brothers'
grand decline, is salvaged somewhat by the film's memorable opening and
closing scenes -- or so common wisdom would have it. I'll
that they're the best scenes in GO WEST, but they're still a far cry
from the days of college widows and spy stuff. The first
variation on the "tutsi-frutsi" routine from A DAY AT THE RACES, has
Groucho attempting to swindle some cash from Chico and Harpo, who in
turn swindle even more money out of Groucho. It is a nice
makes me smile every time I see it. But it never makes me
laugh. Unlike any other classic Marx Brothers scene, it
have a single quotable line (unless you count the "beaver"
double-entendres exchanged between Groucho and Chico, which would
indicate that jokes have to be dirty to get noticed in GO
The film's final scene is a slapstick train chase, and a wonderfully
executed slapstick train chase it is. But it could be Bud and
Lou, Dean and Jerry, or the entire Eisenhower cabinet on the train; the
scene is not dependent on the presence of the Marx Brothers.
own favorite scene in the film is the safecracking/"Lulubelle!"
business. To have Groucho and Chico get sloshed on mint
out of character, but at least they're given funny material to perform
and they do it well. To me, AT THE CIRCUS looks like
were at least trying to make a film as good as the Thalberg
films. With GO WEST, it doesn't even look like they're trying
Symptomatic of the real lack
of good comedy in
this film: the fairly straight production number "Ridin' the
Range", featuring John Carroll and the brothers, is my favorite scene.
Late in GO WEST, with grave disappointment weighing heavy on his warm and good heart, Chico says to his brothers "There goes our last chance to help-a those kids." It marks the moment when the Marx Brothers, those madcap anarchists of the 1930s, officially went the way of the dodo bird and the mighty diplodocus. The three men cavorting around on a runaway train in GO WEST were no longer the Marx Brothers, they were just three amusing fellows in wacky makeup performing substandard comedy material in a bad movie. But, to their credit, at least they did wind up help-a-ing those kids.
If you are wondering why Marx Brothers movies went sour so quickly, consider that during the making of GO WEST, Groucho was peppering his letters to friends and relatives with stuff like "I guess it's just as well to get it over with" and "my attitude is, take the money and to hell with it." When one of the greatest comedians evolution has ever produced goes to work with that attitude, films like GO WEST are almost inevitable. - JB
QUOTE AND MAKE IT A
"Lulubelle, it's you! I didn't recognize you standing up!"
What Might Have Been: Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby, who were writers on the classic Marx films HORSE FEATHERS and DUCK SOUP, wrote a script for GO WEST that went unused. They also wrote a song, "Go West, Young Man", presumably for this film. It also went unused, though Groucho recorded it commercially later in life and featured it in his solo vehicle COPACABANA. Several people I am extremely jealous of have read the script and found it to be extremely funny.
On a personal note, GO WEST was the first Marx Brothers film I ever
saw. Thank God for some solid gags in the speeding train
sequence, or I might have never become a Marx Brothers fan at all.