Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

The Cocoanuts (1929)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

The Cocoanuts (1929)

In the Marx Brothers' debut 96-minute film with music and lyrics by Irving Berlin - one of the earliest successful talkie films; it was derived from a Broadway musical stage hit and marked by numerous clever one-liners and puns and some memorable sequences, but also plagued with long musical interludes and stage-bound, primitive and unspired direction:

Title Credits Visual Screen of Entire Cast
  • during the title credits, there was one visual screen with cameo portraits of each major cast member, identified with both their real names and character names
  • the film's story was set in the 1920s and opened on a Florida beach shoreline where vacationeers lounged, sunbathed, and were served food and drinks, and a bevy of 20 chorus girls in skimpy tank-top bathing suits were lined up in four rows and were performing an athletic, calisthenic dance, and lifeguards posed as they scanned the beach with binoculars
  • the main character was leering and corrupt real estate salesman Mr. Hammer (Groucho Marx) who owned and managed the struggling, basically vacant beach-front resort Hotel de Cocoanut, with his conservative assistant Jamison (Zeppo Marx); Hammer talked his demanding male and female bellhop employees out of their paychecks, reasoning: ("Wages? Do you want to be wage slaves, answer me that....Well, what makes wage slaves? Wages! I want you to be free...One for all, and all for me, and me for you, and three for five and six for a quarter")
  • Jamison presented Hammer with an unsigned Western Union telegram, announcing two guests' arrival as high-paying clients: ("We arrive this afternoon on the 4:30. Kindly reserve two floors and three ceilings....If we like your property, we will immediately buy it")
  • meanwhile on the hotel terrace, scheming, unethical socialite Penelope Martin (Kay Francis) proposed to glum partner-in-crime, socially-prominent, in-debt cad Harvey Yates (Cyril Ring) that they could make millions if he was unable to marry rich ingenue Polly Potter (Mary Eaton), the daughter of wealthy widow Mrs. Potter (Margaret Dumont - Groucho's favorite foil); if he could acquire Mrs. Potter's key, she would sneak into Mrs. Potter's hotel room (next to hers in Room #320 through a connecting, unlocked doorway) and steal her expensive diamond necklace locked in her dresser
  • Mrs. Potter wished her cute blonde daughter Polly to marry Harvey Yates, but Polly insisted on being with Bob Adams (Oscar Shaw), a lowly aspiring architect who worked at the hotel as a clerk; also on the hotel terrace, Bob told his girlfriend Polly that he had dreams of developing a nearby area of land and calling it Cocoanut Manor
  • Mrs. Potter was being conned and courted by fast-talking Hammer to acquire her money, and to fleece speculators by auctioning off Florida 'swamp land' in the Cocoanut Manor area: ("Here it is, Cocoanut Manor -- forty-two hours from Times Square by railroad. 16 hundred miles as the crow flies, 18 hundred as the horseflies. There you are, Cocoanut Manor -- glorifying the American sewer and the Florida sucker"); he went into a long diatribe with her about a land boom in Florida real estate, but judged the Cocoanut Beach area as the "black spot" of Florida - with "no snow, no ice, and no business"; he also joked about the vacant, nearby residential suburban area of Cocoanut Manor: ("It's the most exclusive residential district in Florida. Nobody lives there")
  • at the hotel's front desk, Hammer performed his famous ice-water routine when he answered a phone call from a guest in Room # 318 (Mrs. Potter's room!) requesting ice: "Oh, you want some [ice water]. Get some onions, that'll make your eyes (ice) water"
  • two freeloaders arrived in the lobby: Harpo (Harpo Marx, a harp and clarinet player), who appeared with a honking walking stick-cane, and Italian Chico (piano-playing Chico Marx); they had sent the telegram announcing their arrival, but Hammer said there were no room vacancies; Harpo ate plucked buttons from a bellhop's uniform, regarding them as candy; Hammer noticed their empty suitcase, but Chico explained that they would later fill it - with stolen goods: (Chico: "We fill it up before we leave"); Chico negotiated with Hammer for a room: (Hammer: "What do you want? Would you like a suite ('Swede') on the third floor?" Chico: "No. I'll take a Pollack in the basement"); when Chico asked to "double up" in a room, Hammer responded that he could easily cause stomach cramps with a fresh fruit diet: "Well, eat some green apples"
  • at the front desk, the undomesticated Harpo hurled pens at the wall in an imaginary game of darts, and Hammer (pretending to be a carnival pitchman) rewarded him with a cigar; behind the desk, Harpo also grabbed guests' mail from boxes and tore the letters up; he also stuck a pen into a desk sponge and began eating it (and smearing it with glue); he drank ink from an inkwell to wash it down, and chewed on buckweat flowers in a vase; (later, he came back and nibbled on the telephone mouthpiece); he also jumped behind the desk and rifled through the opened cash register (and then treated the keys as a sound maker with Chico to rhythmically sing "The Anvil Chorus"); afterwards, using multiple call bells, they summoned almost a dozen female bell-hops to the front lobby, and then chased after them

Harpo Ripping Up Hotel Guests' Mail

Harpo Eating Items at the Hotel's Front Desk

The "Anvil Chorus" Played On the Hotel's Cash Register
  • spontaneously, Hammer, Chico, and Harpo re-enacted Willard's famous "Spirit Of 76" painting in the hotel lobby, by pretending to march off as a fife and drum corps of the American Revolutionary War, playing an imaginary flute and drumming; Hammer placed a handkerchief as a bandage on his forehead
  • meanwhile, Penelope and Yates conspired to scapegoat the two petty criminal-freeloaders as the two culprits who had stolen Mrs. Potter's necklace, by having them appear outside Mrs. Potter's room (Room #318) at the time of the planned robbery
  • Chico humorously told Harpo how he desperately needed money: "Right now I'd do anything for money! I'd kill somebody for money. I'd kill you for money. (pause) Ha ha ha. Ah, no. You're my friend. I kill you for nothing"
  • tall law enforcement officer Detective Hennessey (Basil Ruysdael) entered the hotel lobby, and immediately treated Harpo and Chico suspicously; he revealed his badge under his coat; Harpo responded by revealing a liquor bottle under his coat in the same place; as Hennessey left, Harpo revealed he had stolen his badge
  • the pompous pretender Mr. Hammer simultaneously courted and insulted Mrs. Potter: ("Your eyes, your eyes, they shine like the pants of a blue serge suit....That's not a reflection on you - it's on the pants"); he asked: "Are you sure your husband's dead?...Oh, but I love you, I love you! Can't you see how I'm pining for you?"; when asked by Mrs. Potter if he would be interested in her if she was poor: ("I don't think you'd love me if I were poor"), Hammer responded: "I might, but I'd keep my mouth shut"); then he tried to literally wrestle her, grab her and seduce her: "Well, say, that you'll be truly mine, or truly yours, or yours truly....Just think, tonight, tonight, when the moon is sneaking around the clouds, I'll be sneaking around you. I'll meet you tonight under the moon. Oh, I can see you now — you and the moon. You wear a neck-tie so I'll know ya"
Hammer Attempting to Seduce Mrs. Potter
  • in her room #320, Penelope tentatively entered connecting room #318 (Mrs. Potter's room), as Harpo entered her room from the hallway and then hid under her bed; he observed and listened as Harvey entered Penelope's room from the hallway and gave her the key to Mrs. Potter's locked jewelry case; he suggested that after the theft, the purloined diamond necklace could be stashed in a hollow tree stump a mile away; he gave her a map (with his notes) of the area, known as Cocoanut Manor; Harpo snatched the map with notes when Penelope dropped it into his hat (believing it was a wastebasket)
  • there was a short sequence of synchronized peekaboo, including the slow and rapid opening and slamming of hotel doors (at first, Hammer was at the outer door to #318, Penelope at the connecting door, and Chico at the outer hall door to #320); soon the three played a dizzying and confusing game of appearing and disappearing through all the doors of the adjoining rooms; Hammer addressed the camera: "This hotel not only has running water, it has running guests"; soon after Mrs. Potter arrived in her room, and Detective Hennessey also entered to look around (with Hammer shadowing him and keeping pace behind him without being detected)
  • during the crazy shenanigans in the connected rooms, Penelope was able to sneak into #318, open Mrs. Potter's dressing table drawer, and remove her necklace from the locked case; she then put the jewelry down the front of her dress before exiting into the hallway and back to her room
  • Hammer orchestrated a rigged Florida land auction sequence to sell lots in nearby Cocoanut Manor; there was clever wordplay between the two about lots: (Hammer: "You know what a lot is?" Chico: "Yeah, its-a too much" Hammer: "I-I don't mean a whole lot, just a little lot with nothing on it." Chico: "Any time you gotta too much, you gotta whole lot....Sometimes you got a little bit. You no think it's enough, somebody else maybe think it's-a too much, it's-a whole lot too. Now, it's-a whole lot, it's-a too much, it's-a too much, it's-a whole lot -- same thing")
  • Hammer showed Chico a wet blueprint map of the area to be auctioned off: "On this site, we're going to build an Eye and Ear Hospital. This is gonna be a sight for sore eyes. You understand?"; Hammer also described the river area: "And all along the river, all along the river, those are all levees (Levites)"; Chico asked: "That's the Jewish neighborhood?"; Hammer paused before answering: "Well, we'll Passover that"
  • their conversation segued into the film's most famous sequence - a tongue-twisting, precisely-timed "viaduct"/"Why a Duck?" routine between con man Chico and Hammer, beginning with: "Now here is a little peninsula and here is a viaduct leading over to the mainland"; Chico obfuscated and kept replying: "Why a duck?"
  • Chico was chosen to aid him by masquerading as a bidder to inflate the sales prices ("If somebody says $100, you say $200"); at the auction site, Hammer called everyone's attention to the upcoming auction: "All ye suckers who are gonna get trimmed, step this way for the big swindle!"; before the questionable auction commenced, Polly (in a thin sundress) provided entertainment by singing: "The Monkey-Doodle-Doo"; as she twirled around and danced, she was backed by a troupe of dancers in jungle costumes
  • as the auction began, the swindling promoter and auctioneer Hammer spoke: "Florida, folks! Sunshine, sunshine! Perpetual sunshine all the year around! Let's get the auction started before we get a tornado"; he described the residences to be built on the lots, and offered a worthless personal guarantee: "You can have any kind of a home you want to. You can even get stucco -- Oh, how you can get stuck-o!"; he added: "Now is the time to buy while the new boom is on. Remember that old saying: 'a new boom sweeps clean' and don't forget the guarantee - my personal guarantee: If these lots don't double in value in a year, I don't know what you can do about it"
  • Chico got carried away and persistently did most of the auction bidding, and kept outbidding himself!; after the aggravated Hammer sold his first lot to Chico, he told Jamison: "Wrap up that lot and put some poison ivy on it"; he also offered additional words of advice: "Believe me, you gotta get up early if you want to get out of bed"; Chico bragged about his bidding abilities: "When I start, I no stop-a for nothing. I bid 'em up. I go higher, higher, higher, all the time is go higher"; after Chico stalked off in a huff, Hammer was forced to beg for bids and threatened to quit: ("Well, if there's not gonna be any more bidding, I might as well quit. What's the matter with you people? Can't you visualize bargains? Don't you want to make money?")
  • Mrs. Potter broke up the auction by announcing distressful news that she had been robbed of her expensive diamond necklace worth $100,000 dollars; Hammer asked: "Was it valuable?"; she offered a reward of $1,000 dollars, but Chico out-bid her and offered $2,000 dollars
  • bumbling and gullible Detective Hennessey entered to investigate the theft, and quickly suspected Harpo; to vindicate himself, Harpo led everyone to the tree stump and fished out the stolen necklace; but Hennessey felt he was being fooled: "So that's it! I saw you in that room last night. Grabbin' off stuff for the reward, eh? Now, then, you -- come clean!"; Harvey stepped forward and insinuated that Polly's suitor Bob Adams, who had outbid Harvey for the lot where the tree was located, was the actual culprit
  • Penelope reinforced Harvey's suspicions by framing Bob; she claimed that he had told her the night before that he had stolen the necklace for her; Penelope further lied when she claimed: "He didn't know what he was doing. I begged him to take it back"; Hennessey arrested Bob and led him away, as Mrs. Potter denounced Polly's fiancee; she confirmed that Polly would be marrying Harvey instead: ("Your engagement will be announced tonight")
  • in the next scene, Chico and Harpo attempted to break Bob out of jail, and he became eager to join them when he learned that Polly was being set up to marry Harvey Yates; kleptomaniac and pickpocket Harpo proved Bob's innocence, by providing the thieves' map and note (Harpo had stolen it while hiding under Penelope's hotel room bed)
  • on the hotel terrace that evening, a nonsensical, South American gaucho-themed wedding announcement party and dinner was held; chorus girls danced, viewed with an innovative, pre-Busby Berkeley aerial shot of their choreography as they created kaleidoscopic patterns; they also formed a chorus line and performed synchronized kicks and arm-waving; wearing a low-cut gown, Polly sang a refrain of "When My Dreams Come True"
  • during the theme party, the brothers stole Detective Hennessey's undershirt (who complained "Who got my shirt?! What's become of my shirt? I want my shirt") as they played a game of tic-tac-toe on it; in a musical sequence known as "I Lost My Shirt," the guests sang "The Tale of the Shirt" to the tune of Georges Bizet's Carmen
At the Wedding Announcement Party and Dinner

Marx. Bros. in Ludicrous Gaucho Costumes at Party

Hennessey: "I Want My Shirt!"

Playing Tic-Tac-Toe on Hennessey's Undershirt

The Progressively Drunken Harpo at the Party
  • Hammer was appointed the Master of Ceremonies at the dinner and delivered a non-sensical rambling speech as he stood on a chair, while Harpo became progressively more and more inebriated as he kept leaving the scene to visit the spiked punch-bowl; Hammer then introduced Mrs. Potter as "the well-preserved and partially pickled, Mrs. Potter"; he criticized her as she spoke: "The old gal is stewed to the eyebrows"; Chico entertained the guests at the piano with the playing of Victor Herbert's "Gypsy Love Song," while often using his trademark "shoot the keys" technique
  • afterwards, Polly stood up and incriminated Harvey for drawing a map to Cocoanut Manor's tree stump where the jewels were hidden, since his handwriting matched an engagement note he had also written to her; the crooked Yates fled from the party as legitimate land tycoon John W. Berryman arrived; he offered to purchase Bob's design plans for Cocoanut Manor, and asked Hammer if he could accommodate 400 guests for the weekend; the threesome of Hammer, Chico, and Harpo quickly exited the table

Polly Exposing the Duplicity of the Crooked Yates - The Author of Notes on a Map Showing the Location of Tree Stump With Stolen Jewels

Mrs. Potter Announcing New Wedding Plans for Bob Adams and Polly
  • now declared innocent, Bob's fortunes improved when Mrs. Potter apologized and announced a change in the proceedings - her daughter would now be marrying bridegroom Robert Adams; nearby, Hennessey's new handcuffed prisoners were Yates and Penelope

Opening Sequence on a Florida Beach: Athletic Bathing Beauties

Hotel Manager Mr. Hammer (Groucho Marx) with Unpaid Bell-Hops

Penelope Martin (Kay Francis) Scheming with Social Cad Harvey Yates (Cyril Ring) to Steal Mrs. Potter's Necklace

Lovers: Bob Adams and Miss Polly Potter

Polly Reprimanded by her Mother, Wealthy Widow Mrs. Potter (Margaret Dumont), For Being With Bob

Florida Hotel Owner Mr. Hammer (Groucho Marx) with Mrs. Potter

Two Freeloaders: Chico and Harpo with Mr. Hammer in the Hotel's Lobby

Threesome Re-Enacting 'Spirit of '76' March in Lobby

Police Detective Hennessey Showing His Badge, and Harpo Showing a Liquor Bottle

Penelope Plotting with Harvey in Her Room (#320) to Steal Mrs. Potter's Necklace, and Hide it In a Tree Stump

Lots of Running Around in Connecting Hotel Rooms (l: #318 and r: #320) - An Early Split-Screen

Penelope's Theft of Mrs. Potter's Necklace

Wordplay About Sale of Lots at Cocoanut Manor Between Chico and Hammer

"Why a Duck?" (Viaduct) Routine Between Hammer and Chico

Polly Twirling Around in a Skimpy Sun Dress with Jungle-Costumed Dancers
("The Monkey-Doodle-Doo")

Hammer Leading a Rigged Land Auction with Chico as His Main Bidder

Hammer Offering Asides During the Auction

Harpo Locating Mrs. Potter's Necklace Hidden in Nearby Tree Stump

Fiancee Bob Adams Framed by Penelope and Denounced by Mrs. Potter

Bob's Jail-Break

Innovative Aerial View of Dancers at Engagement Announcement Party

Polly Singing: "When My Dreams Come True"

The Conclusion: The Happily-Engaged Couple


Greatest Scenes: Intro | What Makes a Great Scene? | Scenes: Quiz
Scenes: Film Titles A - H | Scenes: Film Titles I - R | Scenes: Film Titles S - Z