The Cocoanuts (1929)

<strong class="MovieTitle">The Cocoanuts</strong> (1929)

(On DVD, May 2018) Even as I get deeper and deeper in film history, I’m still amazed at older movies’ ability to get big laughs nearly a century later. So it is with the Marx Brothers’ The Cocoanuts, their first surviving film and yet amazing self-assured in the way it features the Brothers at their best. At this stage of their career, of course, the Marxes weren’t amateurs: they had a solid vaudeville career already, and the movies were merely a way to capture many of their stage routines. Where movies went a bit further were in featuring musical numbers, part of the late-1920s definition of what a musical film could be. The plot merely helps arrange the comic routines and the musical numbers—although it does offer a satirical glimpse at the 1920s Florida real estate boom. Despite the uneven picture quality and the not-so-good sound, some sequences are still very funny: the auction scene in particular is still remarkably amusing. While The Cocoanuts is far from the brothers’ best work, it’s still very much aligned with their most successful films and can be seen in continuity without trouble.

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