Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Big Store

Year 8, Day 195 - 7/13/16 - Movie #2,395

BEFORE: I took yesterday off - really, I took Monday night off, but late Monday night is when I watch my Tuesday films, because late Monday is really Tuesday morning, if you think about it.  We drove back on Monday morning from Massachusetts, I popped in to the office around 4 pm, just to check in on e-mails and such, then I went with my other boss to an Academy screening of the new "Ghostbusters".  But I'm not posting that review yet - which is crazy, right?  Who goes to see a free preview and then doesn't talk about it?  But I'll explain all this when I post the review in the fall.  

Short answer, I've got to link to it, and watching Abbott and Costello in "Hold That Ghost" would link thematically, but to me that's a cop-out.  Anyway, I'm treating "Ghostbusters" as a Halloween movie, I don't know why they felt the need to release it during the summer.  Maybe their plan is to re-release it in October if it's really popular?  I don't get it.

Anyway, I took Tuesday off, and I'm back on track, even though I may not get as far as I thought before my Comic-Con break now, at least I'll get to Movie #2400, and a little bit beyond that.  Douglass Dumbrille carries over from "Lost in a Harem".   

THE PLOT:  A detective is hired to protect the life of a singer, who has recently inherited a department store, from the store's crooked manager.

AFTER: On Monday I forgot to mention that the Abbott & Costello film "Lost in a Harem" ripped off a comedy bit from "Duck Soup", namely the famous mirror routine where Harpo dresses up in a nightcap and sleeping robe like Groucho and mimics all of his actions in reverse.  Bud did the same for the Sultan in "Harem", who knew that Arab palaces even had mirrors?  But that sort of justifies me switching gears back to the Marx Brothers, to pick up on two films that I didn't have when I watched nine of their films last year.  

They do another sort of mirror routine in "The Big Store", where Harpo imagines himself playing the harp, while dressed as a European nobleman.  There are two mirrors, one on each side, and while they start out reflecting his actions, before long the mirror images are replaced by him (or a look-alike) playing the cello on one side, and the violin on the other.  We also see four kids who can play the piano Chico-style, but that's another story.  

Chico plays Ravelli, presumably a piano teacher at the Gotham school of music, and his academy is funded by the great crooner, Tommy Rogers, who also stands to inherit a piece of a major department store.  Groucho plays Wolf J. Flywheel, a detective hired to keep Tommy safe, and Harpo plays Wacky, who works for Wolf, but who is also Ravelli's brother - so the Marx Brothers are all connected, and the circle is complete.  

Seems like there's always a famous crooner character somewhere these days - there was one in "In the Navy" who decided to change his name and enlist, then there was one in "Rio Rita" who went to visit his hometown in Mexico.  I'm starting to think it's just a storytelling shortcut to justify getting some musical numbers into the picture.   And of course in "Abbott & Costello in Hollywood", you would expect to see some crooners in a movie about making movies...

But I think I'm finally starting to warm up to the Marx Brothers.  Or perhaps it means that since this is one of their later pictures, by this time they really knew what they were doing, and they had the gag-work down to a science.  There's plenty of humor to be had in a madcap chase around a department store, involving a couple of hired killers, some cops and the Marx Brothers trying to keep track of a photograph while riding around on roller skates and a bicycle, and running on top of store shelves, swinging from lamps and sliding down various delivery chutes.

But I didn't quite get the "Rock-a-Bye Baby" number, with the really deadpan salesclerk who sang in a weird syncopated rhythm, but had no expression on her face at all.  What was that all about, was it a reference to something from the 1940's that I didn't understand?  (I just checked the web - apparently this was Virginia O'Brien's "trademark", her gimmick, but that doesn't really explain it, it's still quite weird. People in the 1940's found this hilarious, for some reason.)

Also, I guess back in the 1940's it was a lot easier to inherit things, just by killing off the other members of your family.  Clearly at some point somebody started adding clauses to wills to prevent this, but before that, wow, it must have been a dangerous time to be a rich person.  It seems a lot like that mirror universe in "Star Trek", where people get promoted through assassinating their superiors.

Also starring Groucho Marx, Chico Marx, Harpo Marx, Margaret Dumont (all last seen in "Duck Soup"), Tony Martin, Virginia Grey (last seen in "Another Thin Man"), William Tannen (ditto), Marion Martin (last seen in "Bud Abbott and Lou Costello in Hollywood"), Virginia O'Brien, Paul Stanton, Russell Hicks (last seen in "You Can't Take it With You"), with a cameo from Charles Lane (also last seen in "You Can't Take it With You").

RATING: 6 out of 10 Murphy beds 

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