Room Service (1938)

February 7, 2007 § Leave a comment

Quite interesting to see that even with material not their own (Murray and Boretz’ play) the Marx brothers manage to hint at subversion. Not much zaniness maybe (if you discount flying turkeys and moose heads and fake suicides and staged suicides and etc.) but just imagine what a young Jimmy Steward would have done with this: something crazy, youthful in its tale of persistent hope against financial powers that be, full of hope-against-hope feelings, no doubt, but the Marx brothers bring that special awkwardness of theirs to the play. They always seem to be playing at playing. They act out because, they seem to imply, they have to but, oh well, it is just a farce after all. Groucho’s dancing, asides to the camera, rolling eyes and raised eyes-brows point to his understanding, to our understanding, that nothing is very serious. And though Groucho and Chico are older, this careless ironic distance brings a lot of youth back into the production. It is clowning not because one is young and full of idealistic hopes (à la Jimmy Stewart) but because nothing is worth a serious look. And definitely not death. See the fake burial scene at the end, the Marx rendition of it insists on the chore that it is: the singing (Swing Low, Swing Chariot)swing low
the cascade of clichés with rolling eyes and Harpo’s mining hat and light on (“too soon” and so on):too soon
the Marx brothers strip down all that is respectful and hallowed (money, politics, feelings, death) and get away with it, too. No small feat, that, and they do it again here.

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