Wednesday, January 21, 2015
At the Circus
Directed by Edward Buzzell and written by Irving Brecher, At the Circus is the story of a lawyer and his two buddies who help try to save a circus from bankruptcy as they also deal with some goons. The film is a simple story that involves the Marx Brothers in Groucho, Chico, and Harpo who do whatever to save a circus and cause chaos along the way. Also starring Eve Arden, Margaret Dumont, and Kenny Baker. At the Circus is an exciting and fun film from Edward Buzzell and the Marx Brothers.
The film revolves a young man trying to save the circus that he runs as the money that was supposed to save the circus was stolen prompting a lawyer and his two friends to get it back and deal with the goons. It’s a simple story that is filled with lots of shenanigans as it’s all about saving a circus where the goons are a strongman, a midget, and a circus manager who want the money for devious reasons. The film’s screenplay doesn’t really do anything to make the story compelling other than make it more about the adventures and what is at stake. Especially as this character in the young man named Jeff Wilson (Kenny Baker) needs the money or else he loses everything including the chance to marry a top circus performer.
Edward Buzzell’s direction is quite lively for not just in his compositions and approach to comedy. It also includes some dazzling sequence that include a scene where the lawyer J. Cheever Loophole (Groucho Marx) is trying to flirt with a circus performer as it involve unique compositions as well as how to set up something that would be funny. Another scene involves Loophole and his buddies interrogating a midget (Jerry Maren) where it’s shot in a small set as it has all sorts of gags. The film also features some musical numbers and sequences that are quite lively as it adds elements to the story as well as what Wilson is trying to do as he is in need to make it on his own. Especially as its climax is lavish as well as filled with lots of hilarity and chaos. Overall, Buzzell creates a very thrilling and exhilarating film about a group of guys trying to save a circus.
Cinematographer Leonard M. Smith does excellent work with the film‘s black-and-white photography as it‘s very straightforward with a few key scenes set at night that includes some of its musical numbers. Editor William H. Terhune does nice work with the editing as it‘s straightforward with some rhythmic cuts for the humor and music sequences as well as fade-outs for the transitions. Art director Cedric Gibbons and set decorator Edwin B. Willis do brilliant work with the set pieces from the tent where Loophole tries to flirt with a performer to the scene where he and his buddies try to interrogate the midget. Costume designers Dolly Tree and Valles do superb work with the costumes with Tree creating the clothes for the women and Valles on the clothes the men wear. Sound recordist G.A. Burns does terrific work with the sound to create some moments in the gags as well as in the film‘s climax. The film’s music by Harold Arlen is fantastic for its playful score as well as songs co-written with Yip Hardburg that are just a delight to hear.
The film’s marvelous cast includes some notable small roles from Jerry Maren as the midget, Nate Pendleton as the strongman, Eve Arden as the beautiful circus performer Peerless Pauline, Charles Gemora as the circus gorilla Gibraltar who would witness the theft, and James Burke as the villainous circus manager James Burke. Margaret Dumont is wonderful as Jeff’s estranged aunt Mrs. Susanna Dukeburry who is often the foil for many jokes while Florence Rice is terrific as the circus performer Julie Randall whom Jeff wants to marry. Kenny Baker is excellent as Jeff Wilson as the circus owner who is trying to save the circus as he deals with being robbed and losing the chance to marry Julie. Finally, there’s the Marx Brothers in phenomenal performances with Chico as the helpful Tony who is very loyal to Jeff as he is very funny while Harpo is just hilarious as the silent circus performer Punchy who comes out with some great gags to keep the humor going. Groucho is a riot as J. Cheever Loophole with his witty banter and willingness to cause chaos.
At the Circus is a remarkable film from Edward Buzzell and the Marx Brothers. The film is definitely one of their finest comedies in terms of set pieces and gags as well as the willingness to bring in some anarchy into any kind of situation. In the end, At the Circus is a sensational from Edward Buzzell and the Marx Brothers.
Marx Brothers Films: (Humor Risk) - (I’ll Say She Is) - (The Cocoanuts (1925)) - (Animal Crackers (1928 film)) - (The Cocoanuts (1929 film)) - (Animal Crackers (1930 film)) - (The House That Shadows Built) - (Monkey Business) - Horse Feathers - Duck Soup - A Night at the Opera - A Day at the Races - Room Service - Go West - (The Big Store) - (A Night in Casablanca) - (Love Happy) - (The Story of Mankind)
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