Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Groucho Marxist T Shirt

One of the best funny t-shirts I've ever owned was a Groucho Marx T shirt  from the early 70s, when there was a revival of Marx Brothers films in New York. My parents took me to see some of them, which began my lifelong love of the Marx Brothers. It's a white T shirt with a caricature of Groucho that's saying "Tell 'em Groucho sent you." And so I did!

I like a lot of their movies from the 1930s, like A Night at the Opera and Animal Crackers, but I also  enjoy their first movie, The Cocoanuts, made in 1929, when talkies were very new. It was based on a Broadway musical from 1925 which was written for them. Both the play and the movie make fun of the 1920s Florida real estate boom. Groucho's character runs a hotel called the Hotel de Cocoanut, and there is much horsing around in the hotel lobby. Harpo drinks ink and eats a telephone at the check-in desk - which were actually made of Coca Cola and chocolate.

Since sound was such a new innovation in the movies in 1929, all the paper in the film had to be saturated with water so it wouldn't make any noise. And the poor cameraman was shut up in a glass booth (to keep things quiet on the set) loaded with ice (to keep the cameraman from overheating). Five songs in the movie were by Irving Berlin, but none of them were particularly memorable - anyone recall "Monkey-Doodle-Doo" or "Tale of the Shirt"? I thought not.

I also like all of the Marx Brothers movie posters, like the one for The Cocoanuts (above right). You can see that this was the only movie where Harpo had a red wig (you can't tell in the actual movie, since it was in black and white). I love how outrageous they were for their time, and how whenever they show up in the movie, the boring conventional plot would go right out the window. These days, the most revolutionary I get is perhaps waiting a bit past the Due Date for some of my library books. Done, ideally, while wearing a Groucho Marx T shirt. Because as an anonymous Frenchman once said, I am a Marxist -  of the Groucho variety.


Barbara said...

Some of the highlights of my childhood were going to Marx Brothers marathons. Loved them - still do.

Remember, there is no Sanity Clause.

dottie's delights said...

ooh, is this the shirt you were talking about? Definitely looks like a vintage 70s shirt...I think someone gave it to Chloe Sevigny!