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LOVE HAPPY, 1949
Directed by David Miller
Starring: The Marx Brothers, Marilyn Monroe
Review by Steve Painter
The Marx Brothers help young Broadway hopefuls while thwarting diamond thieves.
The final Marx Brothers movie was Love Happy (1949). At least it was the final movie for the three Marx Brothers to appear together. In 1957 they all appeared in separate segments of The Story of Mankind. Actually, for a good part of Love Happy, only Harpo and Chico appear. Groucho is nowhere to be seen, which really takes away from this movie.
In order to pay off more of Chico’s gambling debts the Marx Brothers were forced to make this last movie. For the rest of his life, Chico’s gambling debts would have to be paid off by either Groucho or Harpo or Zeppo, who became rich as an agent after leaving the Marx Brothers act. Although money was the main reason why the Marx Brothers decided to make another movie, getting funding was not so easy. In fact, there was so much trouble getting funding that the end had to be changed to accommodate some product placement advertising from the firms that were paying for the movie.
If you are a fan of Harpo Marx then this movie should appeal greatly to you. Harpo wrote the story and is the main character. In a familiar routine, Harpo begins the movie by stealing something. This time it is food. He ends up stealing a can of sardines that contains priceless diamonds. Being the great guy Harpo is; he was not stealing the food for himself, but for a group of struggling theatre performers.
The theatre company is in such dire straits that the show’s backer is threatening to close the group’s play before it can be taken to the stage. He wants to reposes some of the scenery used for the play, but is foiled in his attempt by Faustino the Great, a mind reader who is looking for a job. Of course Faustino is played by Chico and because Chico is able to foil the plot, the grateful director allows him to remain as part of the crew.
With Harpo stealing the diamonds a $1,000 reward is put out for his capture. Harpo is captured and taken to the apartment where they bad guys attempt to interrogate him. Although it seems like an obvious comedic situation to use with Harpo, this is the first time that he is put in a situation where people try and make him talk. Typically it is Chico who tries to get Harpo to talk, and he knows that Harpo doesn’t talk, but here the bad guys have no idea Harpo can’t talk so there is some good comedy in them trying to use interrogation techniques while trying to make Harpo speak. Of course they can’t. They get too tired and when they leave, Harpo telephones Chico, who is able to understand him when he communicates through a bike horn.
Apparently the can of sardines that contain the diamonds was left outside of the theatre for a cat to eat. Harpo finds the sardine can when he arrives back at the theatre. Amazed at what he has found, Harpo pockets the diamonds.
The bad guys have tried to get the diamonds back themselves, but have failed. So they decide to enlist the help of a private detective, this is where we are formally introduced to Groucho. The movie actually starts with Groucho saying that he has been trying to find these diamonds for many years and the story we are about to see is how he was able to finally get them. This is all very nice, but the scene in which the bad guys threaten to kill Groucho in an hour if he does not get the diamonds back before them is notable for the first appearance of a future screen legend – Marilyn Monroe.
In a walk-on role, Marilyn Monroe was cast as a client that comes to see Groucho’s character just after the bad guys arrive. Groucho is so thankful that someone has opened his door to let him out that he runs and leaves, but when he sees that Marilyn Monroe is the girl who opens the door he immediately comes back in where the bad guys are and tries to seduce the young screen legend.
The introduction of Marilyn Monroe and Harpo’s interrogation scenes are basically all that are worth mentioning in the movie. The rest is Groucho and the bad guys chasing Harpo around the roof tops of New York while billboards and lighted advertisements, put up by the movie’s financers, clutter the screen.
Today, Love Happy is billed as a teaming of Marilyn Monroe and the Marx Brothers in order to get people to watch the movie. Don’t be fooled though. Neither one is at the top of their powers. The Marx Brothers were doing this for money and Marilyn Monroe did not know how to use what she was given yet. Perhaps in another time or place this team would have worked out well. The possibilities sure could have been endless, but so could’ve the teaming up of Lucille Ball with the Marx Brothers in Room Service and that was also a dud.
The bottom line is, don’t watch Love Happy unless you are a huge fan of Harpo.