Sam Grunion
Created by Frank Tashlin, Mac Benoff, Ben Hecht (uncredited), Harpo Marx

"I am the same Sam Grunion who solved the international uranium-mining swindle. Scotland Yard was baffled; the FBI was baffled. They sent for me and the case was solved immediately: I confessed."
(Sam Grunion)

In Love Happy, the last film the Marx Brothers ever made together, Groucho plays wise-cracking private eye (hah!) SAM GRUNION, who comes to the rescue of a bunch of plucky young hopefuls trying to stage a Broadway show when they clash with a gang of jewel thieves. The thieves are after the famous Romanoff diamonds, which have been hidden in a can of Portuguese sardines (don't ask!).

Aiding and abetting are shoplifter Harpo (Harpo!) and conman Faustino the Great (Chico!).

This is definitely the weakest of the Brothers' films, with Groucho rarely interacting with Harpo and Chico, and rumours persist that the film was only made to pay off Chico's gambling debts. In fact, originally the film was supposed to feature only Chico and Harpo, but MGM refused to release the film without Groucho, so he shot a few scenes as well as a new ending and supplied some voiceover narration (how noir!).

But hey, even weak Marx Brothers has its moments. And a then almost-unknown Marilyn Monroe makes a brief appearance as Groucho's (oops! I Mean Sam's) client. Supposedly Groucho wanted to give the kid a break.

Groucho has previously played a gumshoe in The Big Store (1941, MGM).

After the critical and commercial failure of The Big Store, Groucho Marx vowed that there would be no more Marx Brothers films. However, a funny thing happened on the way to retirement. Two more Marx Brothers films would surface: A Night in Casablanca and Love Happy. Both films share one thing in common: They were made as a way to help Chico ease the massive debts he had collected between films.

While The Big Store and A Night in Casablanca were not among the best Marx Brothers films, Love Happy is a marked improvement. What plagued the later Marx Brothers films was an exaggerated emphasis on unnecessary musical numbers and not enough on the Marxes' greatest strengths. For this final film, the brothers took care to avoid the problems that characterized the majority of their MGM output. Harpo conceived the basic story himself with help from Chico and handed screenwriting reins to one of the best comedic talents around: Frank Tashlin. Tashlin began his career as a writer and director of various Looney Tunes shorts for Warner Bros. His gag-writing skills aided him in crafting wacky set pieces and gags for the Marx Brothers to act out and improvise upon. Love Happy also benefits from a premise—a Broadway musical in rehearsals—that allows the audience to accept the musical numbers as a natural extension of the story rather than time filler. Not since A Night at the Opera have the musical numbers felt this organic rather than forced. Love Happy is filled with wall-to-wall laughs and gags that caused me to laugh harder than any picture in recent memory. The chase sequence between Harpo, Grunion, and the crooks is the most exciting and gut-bustingly funny chase since the runaway train in Go West.

THE EVIDENCE

FILM

Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.


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