William Flew and Marx Brothers

April 12, 2011 § 3 Comments

Photographer Virgil Apger Year 1937 Location Hollywood Harpo, the usually mute Marx brother, once said: “Most people at some time want to throw things around recklessly. They don’t – but we do.” This aptitude for anarchy, the central tenet of Marx Brothers comedy, is clear in this scene from their 1937 film, A Day at the Races.

Known as the “framing Dr Hackenbush” scene, it has the fraudster physician, played by Groucho, being set up by a femme fatale before her plot is foiled by Chico and Harpo’s characters, carrying wallpaper rolls and a bucket of paste. Chaos, as usual, reigns.

This was the second collaboration between the Marx Brothers and MGM’s wunderkind producer, Irving Thalberg, the first being A Night at the

Opera. Sadly, Thalberg died two weeks into filming, leaving the comedy trio without a friend at the studio and unable to repeat the success of their films with him, which Groucho admitted were the best they made.

The Marx Brothers respected Thalberg greatly. However, even he couldn’t escape the unique brand of Marx chutzpah. After keeping them waiting one too many times, Thalberg returned to his office to find the brothers inside, roasting potatoes on an open fire. Naked.

 

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