The Marx Brothers and America

Where Film, Comedy and History Collide

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About the Book

Some lessons and teaching methods challenge the notion that learning history must be a droll, dry affair. The ground has shifted from the days in which “serious history” and “boring” went hand in glove. Textbooks and lectures have their place, but less traditional classrooms can be powerfully immersive and insightful. Take, for instance, the 1929 Marx Brothers film The Cocoanuts and what it teaches about both the Great Depression and early sound films.
The Marx Brothers are considered to be among the funniest comedy teams of all time. Four of their 13 films are on the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 greatest American comedies ever made. For many contemporary viewers, though, “getting” the jokes is not always easy because the humor is frequently subjective and timebound. This work looks at the American past through the lens of the Marx Brothers’ films and other projects. Each of the chapters focuses on a specific film, contextualizing the world at the time and how the Marx Brothers lampooned those subjects. Along the way, it demonstrates what the Marx Brothers revealed about weighty topics like gambling, gender relations, immigration, medical care, Prohibition, race and war, all leavened with offbeat humor.

About the Author(s)

Robert E. Weir is a retired history professor who has authored or edited 10 previous books and countless articles, book chapters, and reviews. He is a former senior Fulbright scholar and has taught at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Smith College, and Bay Path University. He lives in Florence, Massachusetts.

Bibliographic Details

Robert E. Weir
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Bibliographic Info: ca. 35 photos, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2022
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8895-4
Imprint: McFarland