The Marx Brothers as Social Critics

Satire and Comic Nihilism in Their Films

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About the Book

The Marx Brothers’ films are packed with slapstick and obvious jokes, gags, puns, pratfalls, and mimicry. But beneath the laughs is a serious and biting condemnation of American culture. This book examines historical events, political practices, economic conditions, manners and customs, literary subjects, and popular entertainment as satirized in the films and considers the ways in which the films were relevant in their era and remain so today.

About the Author(s)

Martin A. Gardner has worked in advertising and as a writer for The Village Voice, House Beautiful, and Art Business News, among other periodicals. He lives in New York.

Bibliographic Details

Martin A. Gardner
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 218
Bibliographic Info: 11 photos, filmography, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2009
pISBN: 978-0-7864-3942-3
eISBN: 978-0-7864-5454-9
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface      1

1. An Indifferent World      5

2. Triumphs, Tryouts, and Turkeys: The Film Career      15

3. The Writers      27

4. You Can Get Stucco      40

5. Is It Swordfish?      54

6. The Seven-Cent Nickel      63

7. A Job in the Mint      72

8. A Standing Army      80

9. Dear Old Ivy      89

10. A Coed with Two Pair of Pants      97

11. The Whole Wig      102

12. It’s Tough on My Suspenders      113

13. Three Hardboiled Eggs      119

14. Ice Water in 318      127

15. The Main Hungerdunger      136

16. Grand Slam      145

17. A Very Strange Interlude      152

18. A Brace of Woodpeckers      164

19. Upside Down      171

20. Whim Wham      174

Appendix: Credits of the Films Discussed      185

Chapter Notes      189

Bibliography      199

Index      209

Book Reviews & Awards

“still very much a loving tribute to the joy and insanity of The Marx Brothers…always a good sign when a book about movies sends you back to watch them again”—Scarlet; “meticulous scholarship and close analysis”—American Studies; “Martin A. Gardner’s new The Marx Brothers as Social Critics book provides new insights and his attention to period detail is a pop culture bonus.”—Wes Gehring, film professor at Ball State University and associate media editor for USA Today magazine.