Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
August 03
The Cocoanuts August 3, 1929
The Cocoanuts released

While the legendary vaudeville team the Marx Brothers had dabbled in silent film––making the now-lost short Humor Risk in 1921––The Cocoanuts was their first real feature. Originally a Broadway musical that ran for 377 performances starting in 1925, The Cocoanuts was a loosely-plotted tale set in Florida during the real-estate craze created to showcase the Marxs’ high-jinx and the musical numbers composed by Irving Berlin. When Paramount approached the Marx Brothers, they were already having their second Broadway hit with Animal Crackers. To make the film, Paramount arranged for the comedy team to work by day at their Astoria studio in Long Island, before being rushed to Manhattan to perform at night. Filming the wild antics of these vaudeville stars proved daunting for the director and technicians. As an early sound film, the camera was locked down and action had to be constrained to a tight area, a difficult order for performers known for their ad-lib routines. To keep the sound down, they had to wet down everything, including every piece of paper so that it didn’t crinkle in the microphone. And the film world didn’t completely get their humor. Producer Monta Bell wanted Groucho to remove his trademark grease paint moustache, which the comedian wisely resisted. Groucho quipped of the two directors, “One of them didn't understand English and the other didn't understand comedy.” When the Marx Brothers saw the final product, they were horrified, and offered to buy back the production in order to destroy the film. Luckily Paramount resisted and film went on to be a huge hit, earning over 2 million dollars. The Marx Brothers made only one more film, Animal Crackers, in New York before heading out to Hollywood to become bona fide movie stars.


More Flashbacks
August 3, 1950
John Landis born

A pivotal moment in the life and career of John Landis , who was born on this day in 1950, came in 1969 when he was promoted to assistant director on the film Kelly's Heroes - after the original A.D. had a nervous breakdown.

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3 August 1929
Top Marx for First Film

On this day, the moviegoing world was introduced to four wacky brothers who appeared in the film version of a play, The Cocoanuts, they had made popular on Broadway.

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