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Room Service / At the Circus (1938)

Cast: Groucho Marx, Groucho Marx, Chico Marx, more...
Director: William Seiter, William Seiter
    see all cast/crew...
Rating: Not Rated
Studio: Warner Home Video
Genre: Comedies
Running Time: 165 min.
Languages: English
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
    see additional details...

Having paid $255,500 for the rights to John Murray and Allen Boretz' Broadway hit Room Service, RKO Radio then scouted about for a "perfect" cast. Thanks to the persistence of show-biz agent Zeppo Marx, RKO was able to secure the services of Zeppo's brothers Groucho, Harpo and Chico Marx for $100,000. The result is an uneven but entertaining blend of traditional stage farce and Marxian madness. Groucho plays two-bit producer Gordon Miller, who has gone deeply into debt while trying to stage a turgid production called "Hail and Farewell". Miller and his entire cast are ensconced in the Great White Way Hotel, managed by his brother-in-law Gribble Cliff Dunstan, who is fed up with the troupe's inability to pay its bills. As Miller, his director Harry Binelli (Chico) and his business manager Faker Englund (Harpo) try to figure out new methods of raising money, in walks Leo Davis Frank Albertson, the wide-eyed playwright, who is unaware that his masterpiece is in danger of closing before it even opens. He soon figures out what's what after Harry and Faker hock his typewriter for eating money. When hotel inspector Wagner Donald MacBride threatens to throw Miller and his entourage out bag and baggage, the producer and his cronies fake a measles epidemic so that Wagner will be forced to allow them to stay. Salvation seems at hand when Jenkins Philip Wood, a potential backer, arrives with a blank check in hand. But after sampling a bit of the lunacy that has surrounded the play since its inception, Jenkins dashes off, refusing to finance such a chancy property. Miller manages to mollify Wagner by pretending that Jenkins has invested money in the show, but when this scheme falls through, our hero resorts to really drastic measures by pretending that Davis and Faker have both committed suicide because of Wagner's persecution. Weaving in and out of the proceedings are nominal heroines Lucille Ball and Ann Miller, as well as Philip Loeb (who played Faker in the original Broadway production), brilliantly cast as a mild-mannered bill collector. Room Service is hardly typical Marx Bros. fare, despite the efforts by screenwriter Morris Ryskind to inject characteristic verbal gags and visual bits into the action; the film works better as a situation comedy than as a Marx vehicle (Groucho's only comment on the subject was that his brother Zeppo should have arranged a larger salary). In 1943, RKO Radio remade Room Service as a musical titled Step Lively, which was actually something of an improvement on the original. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

Special Features:

    SIDE A
  • Vintage Short Party Fever and Classic Cartoon The Daffy Doc
  • Theatrical Trailer

    SIDE B

  • Vintage Short Dog Daze and Classic Cartoon Jitterbug Follies
  • Theatrical Trailer

GreenCine Member Reviews

Two full-length films for the price of one by MBreslau July 2, 2012 - 9:54 AM PDT
These may be the least well known of the Marx Brothers movies - and perhaps the earliest too. We get to hear Groucho sing (not bad), and all kinds of silliness, and too many musical interludes that do little to enhance the movies. FWIW, I enjoyed Circus more than Service.

All Marx fans should see these at least once.

Finally by PandT April 30, 2004 - 1:21 AM PDT
The Marx Brother's films were missing from the other great films at Greencine, and it's great to see that these timeless comedies are getting their due. You cannot call yourself a fan of film and not at least see these classics once each. I have seen these movies hundreds of times, probably, since the time my father told my mother to let my sister and I stay up until 1:00 am to see these guys for the first time way back in 1964 when I was 8. Groucho is probably THE most influencial comic of the 20th Century, considering that his sarcasm and edgy nose-thumbing of anything status-quo in the Establishment has been copied but frankly never equaled. His brothers Harpo and Chico are obviously brilliant seconds to Groucho's glue in plot lines (if you can call them that) , but what wonderful seconds they are ! Chico is brilliant as the piano playing stereo-type Italian huckster, but it is Harpo who often steals the show as the craziest mime character ever. His screamingly funny idiocy is matched only by his sly and zany trickery...always somehow out-smarting the nasty "bad guys". Then we see Harpo rip open a piano and magically and poignantly charm us to tears with his beautiful harp playing...these Marx Brothers are hilarity for the ages..what more can one of their biggest fans say ?

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 7.33)
21 Votes
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