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Groucho Marx in the Mikado

4.2 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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(Jun 19, 2012)
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Editorial Reviews

For the legendary comic actor Groucho Marx, playing the role of Ko-Ko in The Mikado "fulfilled a lifelong ambition." The Mikado was Groucho's favorite among the works of his beloved Gilbert and Sullivan, and the 1960 Bell Telephone Hour production was adapted for television and directed by Martyn Green, a man Groucho revered as an authority on interpreting the role of Ko-Ko. The strong supporting cast features distinguished veterans like Helen Traubel, Stanley Holloway, Robert Rounseville, and Dennis King, as well as young artists like the lovely soprano Barbara Meister as Yum-Yum and Groucho's 13-year-old daughter, Melinda, as Peep-Bo. Special features [46 minutes] include audio interviews with Dick Cavett, Melinda Marx, and Barbara Meister; Martyn Green in excerpts from H.M.S. Pinafore (Bell Telephone Hour, 1963, in color), cast bios, the commercials from the original telecast, and more!

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Groucho Marx, Stanley Holloway, Robert Rounseville, Dennis King, Helen Traubel
  • Directors: Martyn Green
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Classical, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Video Artists Int'l
  • DVD Release Date: June 19, 2012
  • Run Time: 52 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0081NAVGG
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #61,700 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
This is the long-awaited first authorized video release of the legendary MIKADO telecast of April 29, 1960, starring the one and only Groucho Marx. The cast studio recording (which is not identical to the actual TV soundtrack) has been out on audio since the time of the original telecast, but this is the first time that the video has been made available to the public. The score is condensed to fit into The Bell Telephone Hour's 60-minute format (allowing room for commercials), but the adaptation was done with great ingenuity and finesse by Gilbert and Sullivan authority Martyn Green. The entire cast is top-rate: Helen Traubel as Katisha, Stanley Holloway as Poo-Bah, Dennis King as The Mikado, Robert Rounseville as Nanki-Pooh, Barbara Meister as Yum-Yum, Sharon Randall as Pitti-Sing, and Melinda Marx (Groucho's daughter, who was only 13 at the time!) as Peep-Bo. Many fans of Groucho Marx may not know that he had a great passion for Gilbert and Sullivan, which family and friends described as bordering on obsession. Having his daughter with him on the set of this MIKADO must have been the icing on the cake for Groucho, who later wrote that this production - his one opportunity to play his dream role of "Ko-Ko," - "fulfilled a lifelong ambition." Note that the program is in black & white, since the original color videotape master has long been lost.
VAI's edition adds a number of interesting special features, including:
* Commentary: "Revisiting Mikado" - audio interviews with cast members and friends of Groucho, including Dick Cavett, Melinda Marx Leung, Barbara Meister, Sharon Randall Erdman, and Yvonne Chauveau Dollard (widow of Martyn Green).
* Video bonus: Scenes from H.M.S. PINAFORE featuring Martyn Green, Margot Moser, and Mac Morgan (Bell Telephone Hour, 1963; 12 minutes, color)
* Cast bios
* The original Bell Telephone commercials
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Format: DVD
VAI has just released a Bell Telephone Hour presentation of Gilbert and Sullivan's Mikado. And it stars Groucho Marx. Somewhat unbelievable, somewhat astonishing and somewhat strange, but it's true. Marx, who had loved the D'Oyly Carte operettas all of his life, had always wanted to play Ko-Ko, the Lord High Executioner. And his dream came true. In 1960. On TV.
At 70, he's absolutely amazing. If Groucho starring is amazing enough, the supporting cast is absolutely terrific. In fact, in many ways Groucho is nearly outclassed by his co-stars, yet his love of the material is so patently there, and his comic technique, suited more to musical comedies than the more rarified operetta format, serves him well. Shot live and in color, with the gargantuan cameras, the whole thing must have been a pretty terrifying experience, and in the early parts of the piece, he seems a bit nervous. But, by the end of the show, he is absolutely glowing with happiness, talent and joy.
The producers have surrounded Groucho with the best of the best. Musical and operetta star Dennis King, who made his Broadway debut in the early '20s, is a spectacularly funny Mikado. He doesn't have the lower register that most Mikado's boom out, but the subtlety in his humor and dexterity with the murderously difficult Gilbert dialogue more than make up for the lack of growl. Barbara Meister is a young and appealing Yum-Yum, but surely Gilbert and Sullivan must be the purgatory for any legit soprano, which she clearly is. Robert Rounseville is a secure and masculine Nanki-Poo, traits not common in most Gilbert and Sullivan tenors. With a little bit of luck, Stanley Holloway, fresh from My Fair Lady, is a properly pompous and pretentious Pooh-Bah.
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Format: DVD
My fellow Amazon reviewer "Allan" has already provided you the basics of this wonderful DVD, but I wanted to add a bit more info and share my reaction to watching it.

As previously noted, the print is in black and white as no color kinescope has ever been found. But the print that VAI has is more than acceptable. The three acts were condensed into 52 minutes by G&S expert Martyn Green, but all the major songs are there. Watching Groucho and Helen Traubel sing "There is beauty in the bellow of the blast" is wonderful. Traubel is a Margaret Dumont who can sing! Groucho was 70, as was Traubel, when this show was performed.

VAI added great bonuses too! The 27-minutes of "commentary" consists of separate recorded phone interviews made in May 2012 (boy, did they work fast on this!) with Dick Cavett (good friend of Groucho's), Melinda (Marx's daughter, who also appeared on the show), Barbara Meister (also in cast) and Green's widow. These audio commentaries are heard while we see stills as well as some scenes from the performance.

Then there are the three Bell Telephone commercials (lasting six minutes total) which were excised by VAI to allow you to view the three acts without interruption. Each has a relation to music or Japan. Lastly we have 12 minutes IN COLOR of Green performing excerpts from G&S's H.M.S. Pinafore from 1963

A must for G&S fans, Marx brothers fans and anyone who remembers when shows like this aired for FREE with commercials that actually respected the viewer.

This is first time on home video for this show - the soundtrack was released after the airing on Columbia Records.

Thank you VAI! Hip Hip Hooray!

Steve Ramm
"Anything Phonographic"
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