The Annotated Marx Brothers: A Filmgoer's Guide to In-Jokes, Obscure References and Sly Details Illustrated Edition
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“it’s gold to a real Marx Brothers fan”―Communication Booknotes Quarterly
“very interesting, entertaining, and enlightening...impressive...the quintessential look at the comedy team’s films...indispensible”―Examiner
“it might have been thought that there was nothing new to add to the legions of books on the Marx brothers, and then along comes this worthy and funny book...invaluable for the modern audience for the Marx Brothers...highly recommended”―Destructive Music
“an invaluable guide to some of the most surrealistic comedies ever produced in Hollywood”―Crime Time
“I’ve been hoping that someone would write a book like this. Now, when somebody doesn’t get Groucho’s joke about the Irish chiropodist in Animal Crackers. I don’t have to explain it. I can just point to this book!”―Randy Skretvedt, author of Laurel and Hardy: The Magic Behind the Movies.
About the Author
- Publisher : McFarland & Company; Illustrated edition (February 5, 2015)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 316 pages
- ISBN-10 : 078649705X
- ISBN-13 : 978-0786497058
- Reading age : 18 years and up
- Item Weight : 1.3 pounds
- Dimensions : 7 x 0.63 x 10 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #617,031 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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What makes this book unique among the plethora of books on the brothers is that he talks about the films themselves more so than the biographies of the players. You get both to some extent, but the lives have always gotten more discussion in books. Previous writers have failed to explore so many of the things that make them interesting on screen.
It helps to know going in that Coniam is firmly in the camp of fans and critics that prefer the anarchist brothers from the Paramount films over the nary-do-well misfits from the later years. He goes in depth to explain how much Groucho's persona shifts by the time they make At the Circus, for instance. He doesn't see Groucho Marx as a performer making acting choices but as a character having choices forced upon him through the writers and directors. Keaton and Chaplin wrote their own material during the silent era so they did have the power of consistency or evolution the Marx Brothers lacked directly, but the brothers had the writers they liked even if the directors were a mixed bag. I personally like the variety of characterization within the characters.
I really enjoyed Coniam's appreciation of Chico Marx. Like Harpo and Groucho, there is no one else like Chico. I love Chico's con man word play as much as Groucho's puns and Harpo's antics. I can also appreciate that Chico made it possible for them to have a longer movie career with his connections and love of the work.
Another service Coniam provides here is that he debunks some long held stories like Dumont didn't understand that jokes or that the brothers roasted potatoes in Thalberg's fireplace. These have been repeated and said so many times by other authors Coniam was the first I know who looked at the logic of these statements instead of just repeating them.
This book stands alone in several ways and it's essential reading if you plan to study the cinema of the Marx Brothers.
For any Marx Brothers fan, this book will be most welcome. The brother's movies bear repeated viewing, for there is something the viewer may not have noticed before. There are a lot of things going on and especially with Groucho (and to a lesser extent Chico) a lot of things being said, with some of the choicest tidbits being an aside (often an adlib) to other action going on. And now withthis book, those off tghe cuff remarks can be deciphered, and adds more enjoyment to the movies.
It is plain that the author (who is English) is a devoted Marx Brothers fan. He writes very well and with humor, and some of his descriptions and explanations of American in-jokes and phenomena for the unknowing British audience are very good. Americans take it for granted that people know our culture and slang.
Exccellent book, recommended for the die-hard Marx Brothers fan as well as those who are interested in the history of early talking films and films of the 1940's.
As a Brit, Coniam explains some Americanisms that need no explanation to those of us living in the U. S., but that's part of the fun of reading the book (smiling inwardly and saying to yourself, "Aha! I already knew that!" and/or "What a cultural divide there is between our two English-speaking nations").
The book is broken up into chapters on each film, beginning with an overview before providing time-coded descriptions/explanations/annotations/analyses of various aspects of the films. I have read a number of books on the Marx Brothers, some dating back to the 1960s and 1970s (e.g., THE MARX BROTHERS: THEIR WORLD OF COMEDY and GROCHO, CHICO, HARPO, AND SOMETIMES ZEPPO); recently, I read GIMME A THRILL (the story of I'LL SAY SHE IS) and FOUR OF THE THREE MUSKETEERS (about the Marxes' stage career), and I can say that this book adds greatly to the store of knowledge about the comedy team.
Top reviews from other countries
Deliberately iconoclastic, wilfully antagonist and desperately disappointing.
A very well presented and well written book which is easy to read and extremely enjoyable for the avid fan or those new to the Brothers!
A great book by a genuinely nice guy
its a must've for any marx brothers fan and one I'm proud to own
Each chapter is each film with some general information followed by much closer details from certain scenes in them. Some of these details were good in that they explain long dated references and jokes but some are more tedious and only important to the "comic book guy" esq people out there.
Some chapters he gives a briefer explanation of his personal feelings towards the movie then moves on, which is fair enough. In others, such as Duck Soup, he seems to spend the entire chapter slating the film and making sure we all realise why he's correct and we're wrong. I understand it's all opinion about which films are best, but when someone unashamedly defends Room Service & Love Happy but is quite hostile towards Duck Soup, A Day at the Races and Go West, it just seems like they've spent so long analysing everything (despite his many objections to the contrary) that they've gotten too close and lost all persepective.
There are also a few instances where he addresses some long standing stories/ legends about the brothers and dismisses them for no real reason other than he thinks they're rubbish. He may be correct, but it was the way it's wrote with authority without indisputable facts that began to grate.
It's worth a read for the factual details (although maybe not the price it's currently on sale for!) but I wish I could unread quite a bit of it. There seems to be a few books about my precious Marx Brothers that are a lot of opinion and I hope it stops before history gets completely re-written.
To contradict this I might check out Gimme a Thrill: The Story of I'll Say She Is, which sounds like it could be a genuinely new and interesting subject on the brothers.