Animal Crackers (1930) Director: Victor Heerman
“One morning, I shot an elephant in my pajamas.
How he got in my pajamas, I don’t know.”
The second of the classic Marx Brothers films after The Cocoanuts in 1928, and one of their best in my view, Animal Crackers was released by Paramount Pictures and it was their last film to draw its plot directly from the stage performance of the same name. After Animal Crackers, the Marx Brothers started implementing newly crafted scripts. Animal Crackers is rightly labeled a satire against aristocratic, high society –the endless anarchic chaos lampoons the old Gilded Age ruling class in ways neither Charlie Chaplin nor Buster Keaton were able to do.
Animal Crackers opens when an aristocrat named Mrs. Rittenhouse (Margaret Dumont) hosts a gala at her manor. Captain Spaulding (Groucho Marx) arrives fresh from an African safari ironically singing “I must be going” and selling unnecessary insurance to Mrs. Rittenhouse. Signor Emanuel Ravelli shows up (Chico Marx) along with the professor (Harpo Marx), who never speaks. The hijinks and puns are fluid throughout the film as the brothers all become involved in various ironic and anarchic situations. Some examples include when Harpo literally bounces a check on the floor, when Chico says “you go Uruguay and I’ll go mine,” and when Groucho says, “One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas I don’t know,” or “We took some pictures of the native girls but they weren’t developed. We’re going back again in a couple of weeks.” One of the funniest scenes occurs when all characters are gathered round a table playing cards cheating and remaking the rules as they play. Other continuing jokes include when Groucho makes an aside comment to the audience by reciting lines from Eugene O’Neill’s plays, Groucho reintroduces himself to several different characters despite having already met them, Zeppo dictates a nonsensical letter to his attorney, and Chico asks Harpo for a “flash” leading Harpo to continue pulling items out of his pants including a fish, flask, flute, a flit, a flush and others.
The plot concerns the stealing and replacing of an expensive painting in the manor. Eventually everyone is knocked out when the police arrive, except the Professor who knocks himself out.
Notable Groucho Marx Quotations:
- “Hello, I must be going
I cannot stay
I came to say
I must be going…”
- “One morning, I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas, I don’t know.”
- “We took some pictures of the native girls, but they weren’t developed. But we’re going back again in a couple of weeks.”