Saturday, February 4, 2012
Great On Screen Couples: Groucho Marx and Margaret Dumont
The only woman who could hang with Groucho was Margaret Dumont. Although Thelma Todd was game as well. The pair starred together in seven films and were a delight to see them in. Now granted Groucho was part of the Marx Brothers but Dumont gave him a great foil in film after film. Now, she was usually the butt of many of his jokes but their was denying their chemistry. The comic shenanigans Groucho pulled on her were classic and often left viewers side-splitting with laughter.
Dumont first paired with Groucho and his brothers on Broadway in 1925 for The Cocoanuts. Followed by Animal Crackers in 1928. Hollywood came a calling with the advent of talking pictures and The Cocoanuts was the first feature they made in 1929. Other films followed with regularity and success: Animal Crackers (1930), Duck Soup (1933), A Night At The Opera (1935), A Day At The Races (1937), At The Circus (1939) and finally The Big Store in 1941. Dumont was not cast in Go West (1940) and audiences and most fans feel that it is the weakest of the films. She was quickly brought back for The Big Store.
But after that film, Dumont would not work with Groucho or the brothers again. She would star with other comedians like W.C. Fields, Red Skelton, Laurel & Hardy, Abbott & Costello and Danny Kaye. But she was always at her best with Groucho. Her flustered expressions at Groucho's jokes are timeless. I don't think there was a better actress who could work the screen like Dumont with Groucho as she played it straight to Groucho's irrevant characters.
Here are some notable facts about the pair:
When Dumont started work on A Day At The Races, she told co-star Maureen O'Sullivan, "It's not going to be one of those things. I'm having a very serious part this time."
Groucho once said that many people believed they were married in real life, even though they were not.
Dumont gave Groucho the nickname Julie, short for his birth name Julius.
Perpetuating Groucho's joke on the subject, film critics and historians have incorrectly stated for decades that since Dumont never broke character or cracked a smile at Groucho's jokes, she did not "get" the Marx Brothers' type of humor. The fact is she knew the jokes were funny indeed, but as a seasoned actress and a professional kept a straight face no matter what.
One of their best scenes together.....