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  Love Happy Poor Marx
Year: 1949
Director: David Miller
Stars: Harpo Marx, Chico Marx, Groucho Marx, Ilona Massey, Vera-Ellen, Marion Hutton, Raymond Burr, Melville Cooper, Paul Valentine, Leon Belasco, Eric Blore, Bruce Gordon, Marilyn Monroe
Genre: Musical, ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 2 votes)
Review: Here is the detective Sam Grunion (Groucho Marx), and he will be our narrator of this tale of the stolen Romanov diamonds, a necklace of precious jewels which is being hunted down by the gang led by the unscrupulous Madame Egelichi (Ilona Massey). The stones had been hidden in a can of sardines which were delivered to a department store, but little did the manager know that his basement was being robbed by Harpo (Harpo Marx) who was gathering food for his hungry showbiz pals. Harpo lifted the can with the diamonds in it and unwittingly made off with it, which placed him and his friends in danger...

Unless you count The Story of Mankind, in which they didn't appear together, Love Happy was the final Marx Brothers film, although it was not intended to be. What this started out as was a pet project for Harpo, in which he would branch out without his brothers to back him up, but apparently nobody was interested in funding a solo vehicle for the comedian so Groucho and Chico Marx were hastily hired. This goes some way to explain why Groucho looks as if his scenes were shot in one day, Chico is very much a supporting player, and Harpo gets the lion's share of the material.

Alas, watching this is like seeing a Marx Brothers movie where all the correct elements are there, but the assembly is uneven, leaving Groucho looking as if he couldn't be bothered, which he probably couldn't, Chico looking as if he needed the money, which he did, and Harpo looking pretty desperate to be the star of the show - whether he was or not is a moot point. The end result was an effort which nobody involved recalled with much fondness, except for those fans looking for one last fix of their favourite comedy team, but they might as well have been acting in three separate movies, such is their isolation from each other in this.

But wait, this is not entirely a dead loss, because the credits bring up some interesting names. The most famous one being Marilyn Monroe, who was hired by Groucho for a bit of business lasting a mere minute of screen time, but which effectively launched her career; she barely gets one line, but she's instantly recognisable, so there's a small item of history making for you. It's not only Marilyn who you'll know, as Vera-Ellen appears as the love interest, on her way to hit musicals, and Raymond Burr shows up as one of the heavies, not saying very much but you'll know it's him immediately. Behind the scenes, animator Frank Tashlin had a hand in the script, himself on his way to directing his own live action works.

There are certainly a fair few cartoonish gags here - such as Harpo using a mirror to comb his hair, then turning it around to see the back of his head reflected in it - but it's not really the Marx Brothers humour as we know it. Probably the best scene is where Harpo succeeds in telling Chico that Vera-Ellen's character Maggie is in danger through mime, which does raise a few chuckles, and the final chase isn't too bad, but for some reason the silent one decided he could tackle pathos as well as Charlie Chaplin, so there's a way out of place scene where he tries to cheer up weeping dancer Maggie who is distraught that the show is falling apart and her boyfriend doesn't love her anymore - all on her birthday as well. Curiosity value is Love Happy's strongest suit, but other than that it looks cheap, and will be nobody's favourite Marx Brothers effort. Music by Ann Ronell.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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