Sunday, February 26, 2012

Hello: Hello, I Must Be Going

Groucho Marx and Margaret Dumont: Hello, I Must Be Going
[purchase the film]

Animal Crackers was released more than 80 years ago, in 1930, and it is still funny. The second Marx Brothers movie released, it was a film version of a popular stage play that they starred in. The Marx Brothers were incredibly popular in their day, but faded from popularity until interest in their brilliance was revived starting in the late 1960’s through the 1970’s. Then, it seems, they faded again from popularity. It is interesting how fashions change in art criticism. You see it in the music world, too, when say, all of a sudden, ‘80’s dance music that was critically scorned becomes cool again. I wonder if their classic movies and routines, which are based on absurdity, double entendres, zany word play and physical humor will become exposed widely again, or if their black and white movies, dated plots and references and generally primitive production values will ever catch the fancy of people raised on The Hangover and Avatar.

This song, sung by Groucho, was written by Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby. It is a short introduction to the longer and somewhat more famous “Hooray for Captain Spaulding,” which became Groucho’s signature song, but it epitomizes the Marx Brothers’ humor. The absurdity of Groucho, playing Captain Spaulding, the honored guest at a high society party, singing that he “must be going,” as soon as he arrives, is just a start. But you can understand why he is not comfortable there, and wanted to leave. His hostess, Mrs. Rittenhouse, played by Margaret Dumont, implores him to stay, singing:

For my sake you must stay.
If you should go away, you'll spoil this party I am throwing.

Groucho responds:

I'll stay a week or two.
I'll stay the summer through.
But I am telling you that I must be going.

But Dumont is not deterred:

Before you go will you oblige us
and tell us of your deeds so glowing?

Groucho then sets up the punch line:

I'll do anything you say.
In fact, I'll even stay!

The party goers respond, in unison:


And Groucho finishes the bit by singing:

But I must be going.

For years, Groucho perpetuated a myth that Dumont was so good as a straight woman in this and many other Marx Brothers’ films because she didn’t actually get the jokes, but apparently that wasn’t true, and she was just a gifted comic actress.

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