Theatre / Animal Crackers

Animal Crackers is a musical comedy that originally starred the four Marx Brothers: Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Zeppo. Originally a 1928 Broadway show, written by George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind, with songs by Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby, the movie version, filmed in Astoria, Queens, New York, was released on August 23, 1930. The stage show has occasionally been revived by theatrical companies.

The basic plot concerns explorer Captain Jeffrey T. Spaulding (Groucho), attending a party in his honor at the estate of society matron Mrs. Rittenhouse, and investigating the theft of a valuable painting during the party. The bulk of the movie consists of a succession of comedy sketches, one liner jokes and visual gags.

In the 1990s, a 15-second clip filmed in Multicolor during the rehearsal of a scene in Animal Crackers was found and aired as a part of the AMC documentary Glorious Technicolor (1998). The clip is significant because it is the only known color footage of the Marx Brothers together.

Not to be confused with the ongoing children's comic strip with the same name, or the Animated Adaptation of said comic strip.

Provides examples of:

  • Ambiguous Syntax: Captain Spaulding's speech has two examples (see Double Entendre for one of them):
    "One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas I dunno."
  • Aside Comment: Eugene O'Neill style, parodied. "Pardon me while I have a Strange Interlude."
  • Bootstrapped Theme: Both "Hello I Must Be Going" and "Hooray For Captain Spaulding" became themes songs for other Groucho Marx projects, most notably the game show You Bet Your Life.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: "All the jokes can't be good! You've got to expect that once in a while!"
  • Breathless Non Sequitur: "Well, art is art, isn't it? Still, on the other hand, water is water. And east is east and west is west, and if you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce, they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does. Now, uh... Now you tell me what you know."
  • Cartoon Bug-Sprayer: Harpo wields one of these which is filled with ether. He uses it to knock out everyone at the mansion.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: For a change, Zeppo as Jamison, Groucho's secretary, in the scene where he takes dictation, incidentally evidence that Zeppo could do funny as well as any of the others. Spaulding dictates a long letter in partly-gibberish legalese, then asks Jamison (Zeppo) to read it back:
  • Double Entendre: Tons of them; for example, "We took some pictures of the native girls, but they weren't developed."
    • They're going back in a couple of months.
  • Fake Shemp: There's one scene where Captain Spaulding is apparently played by Zeppo.
  • Filth: This bit of dialogue, preceding Captain Spaulding's big speech, was probably removed from the movie even before it was edited after release to comply with the Production Code:
    (Spaulding and Mrs. Rittenhouse enter.)
    Spaulding: So there was only one bedroom in the farm house and the farmer had three daughters and only one traveling salesman...
    Mrs. Rittenhouse: Captain Spaulding, what kind of a story do you call that?
    • This line was used in the pre-code version and edited out: "I think I'll try and make her", during "Hooray for Captain Spaulding".
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: "We took some pictures of the native girls, but they weren't developed. But we're going back again in a couple of weeks!"
  • Great White Hunter: Captain Spaulding is a parody of this trope.
  • Hurricane of Puns: Captain Spaulding describes his African safari
  • "I Am" Song: "Hooray for Captain Spaulding!"
  • Incessant Chorus: The chorus of "Hooray for Captain Spaulding" repeatedly interrupts Groucho's attempts to speak. In the end he decides to interrupt himself before they get a chance.
  • Knockout Gas: It ends with Harpo spraying everyone with knockout gas, including himself.
  • Movie Bonus Song: Kalmar and Ruby wrote "Why Am I So Romantic" for the film.
  • Mysterious Middle Initial: Jeffrey T. Spaulding. Even more mysteriously, the T apparently stands for Edgar.
  • Overly Long Gag: Chico Marx's endless piano solo.
    Chico: I can't think of the finish.
    Groucho: That's strange, and I can't think of anything else.
    Chico: I think I went past it.
    Groucho: The next time you come around, jump off.
    • Harpo's harp solos in many of the Marx Brothers films. Though not meant as a joke, they seem funny just because you don't expect to see his utter Cloud Cuckoolander characters sitting down and playing an incredibly beautiful harp solo.
    • Also, near the beginning, when the crowd bursting into song whenever Groucho tries to make a speech. He eventually gets them to stop by interrupting himself with the song, remarking "Well, somebody's gotta do it."
  • The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: Harpo plays "The Professor," yet acts exactly like he always does, and we never even find out what he's a professor of.
  • Polyamory: Played for laughs when Captain Spaulding jokingly proposes to two women at once:
    Mrs. Rittenhouse: But that's bigamy.
    Spaulding: Yes and it's big of me too. It's big of all of us. Let's be big for a change!
  • Rage Quit: Margaret Dumont tires of Chico's bridge cheating.
  • Rapid-Fire Comedy: One of Groucho Marx's trademarks shines in this film.
  • Running Gag: Harpo literally chasing a sexy blonde around the mansion. At the end, after he's knocked her out along with everyone else with ether, he lies down next to her and knocks himself out.
  • Shake Someone, Objects Fall: The silverware cascading from Harpo's coat as the policeman shakes his hand.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": Geoffrey (as he's called in the headlines) or Jeffrey (in the credits sequences)?
  • Surreal Humor: Harpo and Chico are absconding with the painting. They go to exit out a picture window but it's pouring rain. They go out the other side of the room instead, and there it's sunny and beautiful. Chico cries out "California!" as they leave.
  • Too Important to Walk: Captain Spaulding makes his entrance in a sedan chair carried by Hollywood Natives.
  • Visual Pun: "Three cheers for Captain Spaulding!" (Harpo runs in with three chairs)
    • Harpo is full of these. In another scene, he drops a check on the floor to see if it will bounce. It does!