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Horse Feathers / Animal Crackers

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Album Review

As its name suggests, the Spanish label The Soundtrack Factory specializes in presenting excerpts from vintage movie soundtracks, often combining two or more on a single disc. This CD contains songs and dialogue from the Marx Brothers' second and fourth movies, Animal Crackers (1930; based on the brothers' 1928 Broadway musical) and Horse Feathers (1932). The collection leaves something to be desired, beginning with the sequencing, which puts the second film ahead of the first, then bunches five dialogue-only passages from the films at the end as so-called "bonus tracks." Also, the packaging seems to have been assembled by a non-English speaker who didn't listen very carefully to the material. Thus, one track is called "Introducing Mario Ravelli," a reference to the character played by Chico Marx in Animal Crackers, even though that character's name, as is evident on the track, is Emanuel Ravelli. And a comic dialogue section in which Groucho Marx, playing Captain Spaulding in Animal Crackers, proposes marriage to both Margaret Dumont and Margaret Irving at the same time has been titled, ungrammatically, "The Captain Between Two Womans." (It's a bit like what you might get if Chico designed the package.) But despite the typos and misspellings, the material itself is as good as ever, and the sound isn't bad for soundtrack recordings from the early '30s. Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby's comic and romantic songs, from "Everyone Says 'I Love You'" to "Why Am I So Romantic?," are more noticeable than they are onscreen, and it is particularly evident that Animal Crackers, with its frequent choral parts, originated on-stage. This collection could have been done better, but Marx Brothers fans will be happy it's been done at all.


Formed: New York, NY

Genre: Comedy

Years Active: '20s, '30s, '40s, '50s

On-stage and in film, the Marx Brothers' antic comedy won millions of fans and left a major pop cultural legacy. Movies like The Coconuts (1929) and A Night at the Opera (1935) remain popular, and both Groucho Marx's wisecracking persona and Harpo Marx's silent, woman-crazed clown remain well-known icons. From their beginnings in vaudeville during the 1910s, to their rise as popular film comics during the Depression, Chico, Harpo, Groucho, Gummo, and Zeppo Marx delivered an energetic, anarchic comedy...
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