Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Animal Crackers (1930)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Animal Crackers (1930)

In this early (second) Marx Brothers film - a somewhat stagey, zany, rapid-fire, anarchic hit (with a collection of slapstick and verbal gags) based upon their Broadway hit play (by Morrie Ryskind and George S. Kaufman). It was the last of their films to be taken from one of their stage successes and the last to be filmed on the East Coast on Astoria sound stages before they transferred to Hollywood:

  • the comic madness of the Marx Brothers in this early talkies-era film was typical of all their films - an intrusive and silly plot - an excuse for numerous verbal ad-libs and elliptical dislocations, criticism of sophisticated and affected high-society life, expository dialogues and battles (notably between Groucho and Chico), and downright funny sequences
  • the central event was a party scheduled at the sprawling Long Island estate mansion of wealthy dowager Mrs. Rittenhouse (Margaret Dumont) - for the unveiling of famous and pompous art collector Roscoe W. Chandler's (Louis Sorin) oil painting known as "After the Hunt," created by (fictional) artist Beaugard
  • the lavish event was also to honor the return of African big-game hunter-explorer Captain Jeffrey T. Spaulding (Groucho Marx, portraying his most celebrated character) (with "Hooray for Captain Spaulding" - Groucho's familiar theme song), who arrived for the proceedings on a stretcher borne by four bare-chested natives
  • after his grand entrance welcome with his field secretary Horatio W. Jamison (Zeppo Marx), Spaulding almost immediately was ready to leave: "I came to say, I must be going" and sang the song: "I Must Be Going"; Spaulding danced and was convinced to stay as the guests sang: "Hooray for Captain Spaulding" - Groucho's familiar theme song
  • Mrs. Rittenhouse's daughter Arabella (Lillian Roth) was in love with a penniless, struggling, would-be young artist - her fiancee named Johnny Parker (Hal Thompson), to her mother's discontent due to his low social class
  • the guests also included two partners: a musician hired to play trombone, Signor Emanuel Ravelli (Chico Marx), and an individual known as "The Professor" (Harpo Marx) who spent much of his time pursuing a blonde

Spaulding with Emanuel Ravelli (Chico Marx)

Spaulding with The Professor (Harpo Marx)
  • Spaulding and Ravelli engaged in a verbal non-sensical duel of wits about his scale of fees for playing at the event
  • during the proceedings, the valuable painting disappeared (and in the madcap film, there were multiple schemes to replace it with phonies or fakes) and the guests were called upon to find it; toward the film's conclusion, all the copies of the painting, original and fakes, were missing or stolen. (The Professor had taken all three of the paintings)
  • a classic scene was Spaulding's flirtations and simultaneous proposals of marriage with "interior monologues" (three soliloquys) directed toward the audience (in a parody of Eugene O'Neill's Strange Interlude) - to both Mrs. Rittenhouse and her neighbor Mrs. Whitehead (Margaret Irving)
  • other memorable scenes included Spaulding's and Chandler's repeated introductions of themselves (a mockery of introductions in general), and Spaulding's discourse on how the "8-cent nickel" could solve the country's economic problems
  • after an hilarious leg-holding scene (a masterful pantomiming performance) was an unbelievable boxing/wrestling match between the Professor and Mrs. Rittenhouse; then card-sharks Ravelli and the Professor challenged Mrs. Rittenhouse and Mrs. Whitehead to a lunatic bridge game
  • Spaulding delivered a detailed and absurdist monologue about his African exploits to the party-goers (with classic lines such as: "One morning, I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas, I don't know," and "We took some pictures of the native girls, but they weren't developed. But we're going back again in a couple of weeks")
  • in another funny sequence (a marvelous lampooning of legal terminology, filled with business correspondence jargon), Spaulding dictated a business letter to his secretary Jamison that was addressed to his lawyers Hungadunga, Hungadunga, Hungadunga, Hungadunga and McCormack
  • with news of the stolen painting, in another confrontational, non-sensical duel, Ravelli and Spaulding discussed the stolen Beaugard and how to locate the thief; they would search everyone in the house for the painting - if it wasn't there, they would then search the house next door, and if there wasn't a house next door, they'd build one
  • in the film's ending during a classic surreal bit, when Inspector Hennessey (Edward Metcalf) shook the Professor's hand, silverware began dropping from his coat on to the floor; soon the floor was littered with hundreds of pieces of silverware; to escape arrest, the Professor sprayed everyone with knock-out ether and then knocked himself out next to the pretty blonde he had been chasing throughout the entire film

"I Must Be Going"

Spaulding Dancing As Guests Sang "Hooray for Captain Spaulding"

Leg-Holding Scene With Mrs. Rittenhouse

Lunatic Bridge Game

Captain Spaulding's African Exploits Monologue

Letter Dictation to Secretary Jamison


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