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The Big Store 1941

NR CC
3.8 out of 5 stars (31) IMDb 6.6/10

House detective Wolf J. Flywheel - Groucho - investigates mismanagement at Margaret Dumont's department store with predictably wacky results.

Starring:
Groucho Marx, Chico Marx
Runtime:
1 hour, 23 minutes

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Product Details

Genres Musical, Comedy
Director Charles Reisner
Starring Groucho Marx, Chico Marx
Supporting actors Harpo Marx, Tony Martin, Virginia Grey, Margaret Dumont, Douglass Dumbrille, William Tannen, Marion Martin, Virginia O'Brien, Henry Armetta, Anna Demetrio, Paul Stanton, Russell Hicks, Bradley Page, Marvin Bailey, Six Hits and a Miss, Pauline Byrne, Vince Degen, Howard Hudson
Studio Warner Bros.
MPAA rating NR (Not Rated)
Captions and subtitles English Details
Purchase rights Stream instantly Details
Format Amazon Video (streaming online video)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Scott T. Rivers VINE VOICE on July 29, 1999
Format: VHS Tape
"The Big Store" (1941) was intended to be the Marx Brothers' cinematic farewell. After seeing the finished MGM product, it's understandable that Groucho, Harpo and Chico would reconsider and bow out on a stronger note with "A Night in Casablanca." Though "The Big Store" has the brothers in good form, it suffers from a weak script and an overabundance of bad musical numbers. Groucho has some great moments as detective Wolf J. Flywheel and his final pairing with Margaret Dumont is memorable. In addition, Harpo and Chico perform their only piano duet. Unfortunately, MGM saddles the Marxes with Tony Martin and his awful "Tenement Symphony" — not to mention a silly climactic chase that belongs in an Abbott and Costello movie. It's a shame that "The Big Store" wasn't more consistent in tone.
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"The Big Store" features an amusing chase sequence with Harpo on roller skates and Groucho pedaling a bike/unicycle, yet it rankles with one of the Marxes most un-P.C. moments, a furniture dept. scene with offensive Chinese and Italian caricatures. Additionally, musical pieces span the sublime to the annoying. Harpo's beautiful performances of Mozart and Beethoven are starkly contrasted by Tony Martin's bellowing on an equally un-P.C. "Tenement Symphony." Groucho nailed the lid on this pretentious noise when he called it, "the most godawful thing I'd ever heard." Chico is limited to a piano duet with Harpo for "Mamãe Eu Quero," while Groucho is out of place on a hep to the jive "Sing While You Sell."

Having Maggie Dumont aboard for her Marx finale is a plus, but Virginia Grey as female lead is no coup; she's downright forgettable. This one feels and at times looks like what it is: a 'B' unit MGM "contractual obligation" throwaway.

This is strictly for Marx completists. For the rest of us, a one-time rental will more than suffice.
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Format: VHS Tape
As is typical with the Marx Brothers films during this period of their MGM career, THE BIG STORE has its good and its bad points. Overall, I enjoyed it, although I can't deny that there were some truly painful moments along the way. The department store setting is a good one, but I think that they didn't quite get all the potential out of it that they could have. I imagine if this film had been done earlier in the Brothers' career (and while they were still at Paramount), it would have been one of their all-time classics. As it exists, it is merely good, not great.
First of all, it's great to see Margaret Dumont back after missing out on the previous GO WEST and having a diminished role in AT THE CIRCUS. She's always a delight in these films, and the scene of her initial hire of Groucho as a private detective is a joy. Unfortunately, the rest of the guest cast is totally unmemorable. The romantic leads in this film are perhaps the blandest ever seen in a Marx Brothers film, and that's saying something! Douglass Dumbrille returns to play the same sort of bad guy character he did the last time (the casino-owning Morgan in the far superior A DAY AT THE RACES) and does a pretty decent job, although his henchmen and co-conspirators aren't up to much.
I mentioned the blandness of the romantic leads, but their lackluster appeal is matched only by their insipid songs. I listen to this tedious, boring stuff and can only think to myself that rock'n'roll was still over a decade away -- hang in there, guys! On the other hand, Harpo and Chico get possibly the best musical scenes in their movie careers. Their piano duet is wonderful, and makes me wish they had done this sort of musical and comedy collaboration in earlier films.
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Format: VHS Tape
Most of the criticism you have read of this movie is true, unfortunately. Simply stated, the musical numbers get in the way of the Marx Brothers. Tony Martin's "Tenement Symphony" tries for Gershwin level heights, but fails. It may have worked in another film, but it's a dud in a Marx Brothers comedy. By this stage of their career, the Marx Brothers' film product was about on the same level as the Three Stooges. Nevertheless, let's consider the positives. Groucho is still Groucho. A silly script will not silence snappy comebacks and stinging one-liners. Chico sparkles at the piano with his distinctive finger-shooting style. As Groucho poses for a picture, Chico says, "Look at me and laugh." Groucho shoots back, "I've been doing that for twenty years." Maybe the best line in the film. It makes up a little for the lack of a typical Groucho-Chico exchange in fine "Sanity Clause" tradition. Harpo gets some laughs as he imitates Giuseppe, the harassed father of twelve kids, and his "leaning tower" walk. Check out Harpo's work as Groucho's chauffeur and general office factotum. Groucho's old car with a banner welcoming Admiral Dewey sets the auto industry back 40 years. His detective office is a joke, but he manages to get Margaret Dumont as a client. Groucho's long screen flirtation with Dumont is on display for the last time. Complaints of musical numbers notwithstanding, deadpan singer-comedienne Virginia O'Brien rocks on with "Rockabye Baby," not bad for 1941. As an extra bonus, a Robert Benchley comedy short is included with the movie. Collectors of Marx mania need this addition to their personal film library, regardless. From this point forward, you are on your own. ;-)
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