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Animal Crackers

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Animal Crackers (1931)
Animal Crackers

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Additional Information
The maddest comics of them all!

Animal Crackers, like The Cocoanuts before is an all-but-literal translation to film of a smash-hit Marx Brothers Broadway musical. The aristocratic Mrs. Rittenhouse (Margaret Dumont) holds a weekend party at her Long Island Estate. Her guest of honor is famed (but likely fraudulent) African explorer Geoffrey T. Spaulding (Groucho Marx). Also showing up are renegade musician Signor Emmanuel Ravelli (Chico Marx), the mute, girl-chasing "Professor" (Harpo Marx) and Spaulding's faithful secretary Horatio Jamison (Zeppo Marx). The film, revolving around a stolen painting, finds Groucho lecturing on his most recent safari ("One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas, I don't know"), Harpo and Chico unabashedly cheating at bridge, Groucho dictating a wildly nonsequitur letter to the firm of Hungerdunger, Hungerdunger, Hungerdunger and McCormick, and Groucho and Chico drawing up plans to build a house.

Animal Crackers is a 1930 Marx Brothers comedy film, in which mayhem and zaniness ensue when a valuable painting goes missing during a party in honor of famed African explorer Captain Spaulding. A critical and commercial success on its initial release, filming took place at Astoria Studios in Astoria, Queens; it was the second of two films the Brothers would make in New York.

In December 1973, UCLA student and Marx Bros. fan Steve Stoliar drove to Anaheim, California, to view a rare screening of Animal Crackers at the Old Town Music Hall theater. The print shown there was a poor-quality bootleg, probably because the film had not been distributed for theatrical release since the mid-1950s. Paramount Pictures had allowed its licenses to expire, and rights had reverted to the authors of the Broadway stage play: the playwrights George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind, the composer Harry Ruby, and the lyricist Bert Kalmar. Although EMKA, Ltd. (now part of Universal Television) had acquired Paramount's older films in 1959, Animal Crackers evidently was regarded as a mess best left untouched. Stoliar impulsively called Groucho Marx to enlist Groucho's support for an unlikely campaign to attempt to persuade — or pressure — Universal to re-release the film. Groucho agreed to visit the UCLA campus for a publicity event.[4]
On February 7, 1974, Groucho and his assistant, Erin Fleming, visited UCLA under the aegis of Stoliar's newly-formed "Committee for the Re-release of Animal Crackers" (CRAC). The event drew about 200 students, 2,000 signatures on re-release petitions, and several reporters.[5] Universal scrambled to appear responsive: a spokesman told a UCLA Daily Bruin reporter that the studio was "delighted" by the interest, and that "we have negotiated with the heirs of the writers (Morrie Ryskind and George S. Kaufman), but they were asking much more than we wanted to spend. Just recently we reached an agreement, and we're waiting to sign the contracts." (Not quite: Ryskind was still in the pre-heir stage — he lived until 1985. The songwriter Harry Ruby was also alive, though he died two weeks later, aged 79.) The spokesman added that he expected the film would soon be released. As the Daily Bruin put it, "The rest of the day belonged to Groucho, as he showed surprising flashes of his old brilliance." Asked to name his favorite comedian, he said: "Me." He also said that "Animal Crackers is the best of our movies."[6]
Groucho's UCLA appearance generated national press coverage. An appearance on the nationally-syndicated Merv Griffin Show soon followed. In April, 1974, Groucho and Stoliar "received an answer from Universal. According to Vice President Arnold Shane, they were 'delighted with the response of the students.'" On May 23, 1974, attempting to gauge public interest, Universal screened a sharp new print of the film at the UA Theater in Westwood, just south of the UCLA campus. Groucho made a personal appearance and walked unescorted into the theatre on the left aisle. He was wearing his beret. People in the audience stood up and started applauding and soon the entire theater joined in. Encouraged by the response there — the lines stretched around the block for months — on June 23 the studio screened the film at the Sutton Theater in New York.[7] Groucho attended the New York premiere. A near-riot broke out and a police escort was summoned. From there Animal Crackers went into national release.
It is also because of these rights issues that Animal Crackers did not see an appearance on television until July 21, 1979, when CBS broadcast the film

Release Date: August 28, 1930

Distrib: Paramount


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