With Groucho Marx, Harpo Marx, Chico Marx, Walter Woolf King, Robert H. Barrat, Diana Lewis, John Carroll, June MacCloy
Directed by Edward Buzzell
Black and White
Reviewed by JL and JB

Say bon giorno to my littl-a paisan    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 agree 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 scene, a 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 scene, makes me smile every time I see it.  But it never makes me laugh.  Unlike any other classic Marx Brothers scene, it doesn't 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 WEST).  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.  My own favorite scene in the film is the safecracking/"Lulubelle!" business.  To have Groucho and Chico get sloshed on mint juleps is 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 all involved 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 any more. 2½ - JL

     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. 2 - JB

The Marx Brothers     The Age of Comedy


"Lulubelle, it's you!  I didn't recognize you standing up!"

Notes by John V. "Jay" Brennan


Groucho participates in the song "You Can't Argue With Love" sung by June MacCloy.  Music by Bronislau Kaper, lyrics by Gus Kahn.  Groucho (with guitar), Harpo and Chico participate in the song "Ridin' the Range", sung by John Carroll.  Music by Roger Eden, lyrics by Gus Kahn.  One of the best songs in any Marx Brothers movie, and an especially welcome one respite from some pretty lousy attempts at comedy in this particular film.  And you can quote me on that.


Harpo's Solo: "From the Land of the Sky-Blue Water" (Nelle Richman Eberhart, words; Charles Wakefield Cadman, music).  A popular tune from your hit parade of 1909!

Chico's Solo: "The Woodpecker Song" (Eldo Di Lazzaro, music; English lyrics by Harold Adamson) with a bit of "Listen to the Mockingbird" (Septimus Winner, aka "Alice Hawthorne", words; Richard Milburn, music). 

Yet another hot off the presses contemporary hit for Chico to play, the happy little tune "The Woodpecker Song" was recorded by all the usual suspects (Andrews Sisters, Glenn Miller, Kate Smith, etc).  MGM's policy seemed to be "Give Chico a contemporary hit song to please the audience with", while Paramount's policy seemed to be "I wonder what Chico's going to play today - assuming he shows 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.