The Marx Brothers and America

Where Film, Comedy and History Collide


In stock

About the Book

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 the 1929 Marx Brothers film The Cocoanuts and what it teaches about both the Great Depression and early sound films. The Marx Brothers are 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 can be 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, the book 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 ten 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)
Pages: 294
Bibliographic Info: 29 photos, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2022
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8895-4
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4872-9
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii
Preface 1
One. That’s Not Funny: Comedy and Context 7
Two. The Cocoanuts (1929) 18
Three. Animal Crackers (1930) 35
Four. Monkey Business (1931) 51
Five. Horse Feathers (1932) 68
Six. Duck Soup (1933) 84
Seven. A Night at the Opera (1935) 105
Eight. A Day at the Races (1937) 124
Nine. Room Service (1938) 142
Ten. At the Circus (1939) 154
Eleven. Go West (1940) 168
Twelve. The Big Store (1941) 182
Thirteen. A Night in Casablanca (1946) 198
Fourteen. Love Happy (1950) 215
This Is the End: Five, Four, Three, Two, One… Zero 227
Glossary—Forms of Humor 245
Chapter Notes 249
Bibliography 275
Index 279

Book Reviews & Awards

Weir’s book is engaging and readable. It will be a helpful companion to the legendary comedians and their films. …recommended”—Choice