Animal Crackers (1930)
The main plot of this one unravels the adventures of Groucho Marx as a captain Jeffrey T Spaulding, who attends a party in a Long Island estate thrown by a wealthy matron, Mrs Rittenhouse. During the party, Arabella, Mrs Rittenhouse’s daughter decides to play a trick on her matriarch and replaces a valuable painting with a fake one. Jeffrey Spaulding becomes a detective and investigates the possible robbery. The movie is filled with one-line jokes and visual gigs, while the most comical moments are those in which Jeffrey Spaulding reminisces about his adventures in the deep jungles of Africa, revealing, at the same time, that he has never even been to such exotic destinations.
Monkey Business (1952)
In Monkey Business, the Marx Brothers play stowaways on a passenger ship to New York. During the journey, they are hounded from their hiding places by the ship’s captain and his determined – if a tad stupid – group of officers, and forced into an absurd chase around the liner. Eventually, the Marx Brothers become entwined with the machinations of gangsters, also traveling aboard, and hilarity ensues. Following the release, Monkey Business was a big commercial success and is now considered to be one of the Marx Brothers’ finest works.
Horse Feathers (1932)
This story revolves around a football match between the fictional Darwin and Huxley Colleges. Groucho plays professor Quincy Adams Wagstaff, the new president of Huxley Colleg, while Zeppo plays his son, Frank. Frank advises his father to hire new football team members to help win the match. Unfortunately, he hires the wrong men: Baravelli, the ice-man, and Pinky, a dog catcher. Of course, classic Marx-esque disaster results and plenty of laughs follow. The photo of the Marx Brothers from the last scene made a cover of TIME in 1932.
Duck Soup (1933)
Duck Soup is now widely regarded by movie critics as a masterpiece of Marx Brothers performance, but in 1933, the film received mixed reviews. The story revolves around the fictional country of Freedonia, a small bankrupt country in need of financial aid. The wealthy Mrs Teasdale is called upon to save the country by offering the treasury $20 million. She agrees, under one condition, in her hands will rest the power to appoint a new country leader. Of course, she opts for Rufus Firefly, who turns out to be totally incompetent – as you might expect of Groucho Marx! After his appointment, Freedonia becomes embroiled in sorts of troubles and it’s left to the wit and charm of the Marx Brothers to find a way out.
A Night at the Opera (1935)
This one’s plot opens with character Mrs Claypool in a restaurant, waiting for Otis B Driftwood (Groucho), her business manager, who is having a dinner with another woman in the same place. When they find out that they are, in fact, sitting at opposite tables, Driftwood introduces Mrs Claypool to the opera director, named Gottlieb. Driftwood persuades Mrs Claypool to invest in the opera so that he can hire Lassaparii, the world’s greatest tenor. Driftwood thinks he is getting Rodolpho Lassparri but she is actually getting opera chorister, Ricardo Baroni. It’s all a typical Marx Brothers ploy, winding up in nonsense and ridiculousness by the bucket load.