Gangway for Frenchy! (1931)
With Groucho Marx, Harpo Marx, Chico Marx, Zeppo Marx, Thelma Todd, Rockliffe Fellows, Harry Woods, Ruth Hall, Tom Kennedy
Directed by Norman McLeod
Black and White
Reviewed by JL AND JB

    After two films based on their Broadway successes, the Marx Brothers proved in MONKEY BUSINESS that they could wreak havoc even more effectively with material written directly for the screen. The film's lame excuse for a plot has the brothers as ocean-liner stowaways who become henchmen for some of the most unthreatening gangsters you've ever seen.  But if you don't notice any plot amidst the Punch and Judy and Gookie shows, the one-a-snoops too much, and the Maurice Chevalier impressions, it doesn't matter much.  Not structurally perfect, and the film sputters a bit once the setting shifts to dry land, but MONKEY BUSINESS is nevertheless as funny a film as the Marxes ever made.  The sight gags are impossibly outrageous, and even throwaway lines like "Don't forget the butter" seem as quotable as "Are these your gloves?  I found them in your room." 5 - JL

     MONKEY BUSINESS is the purest of all Marx Brothers films.  There is no plot, just incident, and a wisp of a love story between Zeppo and the lovely Ruth Hall.  The boys don't even have funny fictional made-up names, but rather are listed in the credits by their funny real-life made-up names of Groucho, Harpo, Chico and Zeppo.  The four are given a handful of sets to work on and scores of gags, jokes, puns and one-liners to unleash on whomever they happen to meet.  It is a movie so filled to the rafters with comedy, even Zeppo gets two cute gags of his own.

     Director Norman Z. McLeod and the writers, which included noted humorist S. J. Perelman, never let up;  as soon as one comedy routine ends, another one begins, sometimes separated by an isolated sight gag by Harpo or a one-liner from Groucho or Chico.  Even a scene featuring the two rival gangsters of the story doesn't slow things down, because in their effort to be absolutely serious, they are almost as funny as the Marx Brothers. 4 ½ - JB  

The Marx Brothers     The Age of Comedy


"And I?  I'm the fellow that talks so much.  Fancy meeting you here after all these drinks."

Notes by John V. "Jay" Brennan


Harpo's Solo: "I'm Daffy Over You" (Chico Marx, Sol Violinksi).  Before this, he plays harp accompaniment (with gags) for a soprano's rendition of "O Solo Mio" (Eduardo di Capua, music; Giovanni Capurro, lyrics) at the swanky gangster party.  A funny and not-often talked about classic Harpo bit, if you ask me, one I could picture him doing on stage or television appearances.

Chico's Solo: Medley: "Pizzicato" (Leo Delibes) / "When I Take My Sugar to Tea" (Pierre Norman, music; Irving Kahal, lyrics).

Leo Delibes was a composer of the late 19th century.  "Pizzicato" is from his 1876 opera Sylvia.

"When I Take My Sugar to Tea" was a contemporary hit in 1931, recorded by such artists as The Boswell Sisters and Glen Gray's Casa Loma Orchestra.  It was the first contemporary song Chico played in a Marx Brothers movie.  This trend would continue through the MGM films.

A previous hit written by the team of Pierre Norman and Irving Kahal is also heard in the film: "You've Brought A New Kind of Love to Me", which was a hit for Maurice Chevalier ("Chevalier, eh???") in 1930 and is partially sung in the film by Zeppo, Chico and Groucho and mimed to Chevalier's recording by Harpo.


The man pictured above behind the top-hatted Harpo is Sam "Frenchie" Marx, proud father of the Marx Brothers.