In the Marx Brothers' first feature film, Groucho portrays a hotel owner out to fleece everyone, from innocent bellboys to wealthy society types. Chico and Harpo are along for the ride as Groucho's accomplices. Featuring t... more »he music and lyrics of Irving Berlin.« less
"Excuse me, dear Amazonian friends, but how long do we have to be subjected to that kind of abusive prices for used DVD's before you come up with the definitive Marx Brothers Complete DVD Collection? There are only 13 movies and scores of fans waiting for the remastered versions. Count me in for the first set."
The Marxes Unleashed
Scott T. Rivers | Los Angeles, CA USA | 07/17/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Despite its technically inferior sound and variable print quality, "The Cocoanuts" (1929) remains a cinematic landmark. It was the first musical-comedy captured on film and, most importantly, introduced the Marx Brothers to the big screen. Though shot within the stage-bound confines of Paramount's Astoria studio, directors Robert Florey and Joseph Santley manage to incorporate stylish visual touches that complement the anarchic spirit of Groucho, Harpo, Chico and (briefly) Zeppo. As a result, "The Cocoanuts" lacks the stiffness and claustrophobia that plagued many 1929 talkies. Admittedly, there are a few slow stretches, since the filmmakers and performers hadn't quite mastered the pacing and timing of early sound comedy (notice the Groucho-Margaret Dumont exchanges). Still, the film moves at a pretty good clip (except for the forgettable musical interludes with Mary Eaton and Oscar Shaw) while showcasing some of the Marxes' best routines. Harpo, in particular, is brilliant and remarkably inventive throughout. Groucho has plenty of memorable dialogue, but his portrayal of Mr. Hammer is no match for Captain Spaulding or Rufus T. Firefly. Chico, of course, represents the ideal visual-verbal counterpart for Harpo and Groucho, even though his character is more belligerent than usual. And poor Zeppo would have better opportunities in his remaining film appearances. Flaws and all, "The Cocoanuts" survives as a fine introduction to Marxian madness."
The First Talking Film that is Still Fun to Watch!
Robert Moore | Chicago, IL USA | 07/26/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Although THE JAZZ SINGER was appeared in 1927, it took a while for talking films to truly get off the ground, and most THE COCOANUTS remains the only talking film made before 1930 that still is seen with any regularity. Technically, this is a very rough movie. The sound is truly rough, and at times it does diminish the enjoyment of the movie. But fortunately, enough of the anarchistic energy manages to shine through and makes this a thoroughly delightful film despite the limitations of the sound. The most famous onscreen evidence of the problems they had with sound at the time was the over sensitivity the microphones had to higher pitched sounds. As a result, all paper had to be soaked in water to prevent the microphones from picking up the crackling noises it made. In the famous Why a Duck? skit, Groucho has in his possession the most improbably droopy map one could ever imagine encountering.The Marx Brothers were the last of the great vaudeville comic acts to make it to the silver screen. The reason is obvious: while many vaudevillians for whom the spoken word was important managed great silent screen careers, the Marx Brothers relied enormously on speech. Although Groucho was a fine physical comedian, his act was impossible without words; Harpo could easily dispense with sound, but even he whistled, honked, and played the Harp, and much of his humor was framed by the words of others, either friends or enemies; and Chico, who was the only one of the three main brothers who was ungifted in physical humor, would have been completely at sea without being able to speak his indecipherable concoction of Italian. The Brothers were seasoned veterans when THE COCOANUTS was filmed (Chico was 42, Harpo 41, and Groucho 39), and the film itself was an adaptation of a production they had performed on Broadway. Their act translated almost seamlessly onto film, with only a couple of exceptions. For instance, this is the only Marx Brother film in which Harpo wore the red wig that he had long worn in their act. The reason is that it ended up looking brownish instead of red. He switched to a blonde wig, and he wore that color. The film was filmed in Long Island during their run of ANIMAL CRACKERS on Broadway. One of the better decisions was to have Margaret Dumont reprise her Broadway role as Groucho's comic foil in this film (she would appear in seven Marx Brothers films in all, including Mrs. Rittenhouse, whom she was portraying at the time in ANIMAL CRACKERS on Broadway). As great as the Brothers all are, there is no question that their films would have been greatly diminished without her and Groucho's classic "love scenes" (for want of a better description).The film is still a delight to watch because the Marx Brothers have so many marvelous scenes. The auction scene, Groucho's surreal attempts at making love to Margaret Dumont ("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"), the first of Groucho and Chico's great conversations, Harpo's anarchy, all blend together to create the first great talking film. There is one moment I especially love. A woman is crying and Harpo slowly comes up to her, compassion welling up in his face. He reaches over and offers her a lollypop. She throws her arms around him and sobs. One of Harpo's nicest, if somewhat uncharacteristic, moments."
Entertaining and Historically Significant
Joe Libby | 01/12/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"THE COCOANUTS is historically significant as one of the first all-talking, all-singing musical films. It's also significant for unleashing the Marx Brothers onto the movie going public. THE COCOANUTS gave filmgoers a taste of what had Broadway audiences rolling in the aisle and while the film suffers from the static production typical of early musicals, it remains very entertaining thanks to the brothers' anarchic comedy. Director Robert Florey did use some innovative camera shots to help overcome the staginess (i.e. part of Chico's piano solo is shot head-on through the raised piano lid; a novel touch at the time). For many years, THE COCOANUTS was only available in generally awful prints with muddy soundtracks; recently portions of the film in mint condition have come to light, so while it's not a complete restoration, the film looks and sounds better than it has in years. For all it's faults, including an oddly forgettable Irving Berlin score, THE COCOANUTS still provides plenty of laughs."
Let's film a Musical! Via Musical?
Robert Moore | 03/02/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Paramount literally plucked the Brothers off the Broadway stage to film one of the first sound musical films. The Brothers were performing in Animal Crackers on Broadway at night and rushing to the Astoria Studios to film Cocoanuts during the day. When everyone makes claims that the picture is disjointed and clumsy in appearance, keep in mind that the Brothers were giving a full Broadway performance the night before. They were also re-creating antics for a movie based directly on a stage show they had taken on a huge run a year or so earlier. So, in effect they were performing two Broadway scaled shows. But movies are a slow process and this snail pace must have been excrutiating on the timing based Marxes. The Marxes, used to biding time on trains while on the Vaudeville circuit, tried to recapture their mix of good hearted and mean spirited fun during the long delays ( ie..the cameraman filmed from inside a tall box to muffle the sound of the loud camera, Busby Berkeley-type musical numbers, and no audience to gauge response-though performing Cocoanuts as they had for so long on stage, they must have had a feel for time for most anticipated laughs, but could the timing be edited correctly?) The editing is not very good, but can it be blamed on the original film, or what television has trimmed down over the years? Things to note next time you watch Cocoanuts: In The Why a Duck routine Groucho almost slips and calls Chico 'Ravelli', his character name in Animal Crackers (which they were performing at night). Harpo plays a clarinet! Groucho ~"Do you want A Swede on the third floor? Chico ~ "I'd rather have a Polock in the basement" PC there, huh? George Foley was cameraman (any John Landis fan can explain that connection) And look at Margaret Dumont's expression when Groucho tries to explain the preference of an 8 inch water pipe. If you think this humor is dated, you aren't watching close enough! With the exception of Henderson losing his shirt...George S. Kaufman's script is still a wonderful Broadway history lesson forever caught on film!Woman: Did anyone ever tell you, you look like the Prince of Wales? Chico: Better! (Timely there, huh?"