Friday, September 14, 2007

Zeppo Marx

I have a confession to make. I’m a Zeppo Marx fan. Feel free to laugh. The general opinion of him is either to brush him off as the fourth Marx brother or ask “Who?” I, however, always saw him as a remarkably restrained talent who served as the liason between the mundane world and the chaos of his brothers. Many critics say he was never successful because he was the straight man, or that he never gained a comic persona that held up against Groucho, Harpo and Chico, but I disagree.

I’ve always seen Zeppo as the necessary glue that held everything together. He always had a knowing smile that said he was in on the madness, and while he was not over the top like his brothers he was always an active participant. Even when he played the romantic lead he always seemed to me to have a subtle subversive streak that bellied the chaos. After ‘Duck Soup’ I sincerely thought the rest of the Marx Brothers Films lost something.

So here is my tribute.

Rhapsodies doesn’t take place in the real world. And before you say “it’s a comic, of course it’s not in the real World!” I will say yes, this is true, but since this is the case I see no reason not to exploit it to the fullest. Usually I stay low key about this, saving it for brand names and state senators. You don’t want to go too far, after all you want the audience to recognize this world and be comfortable in it. But every now and then I like to throw in some things that are blatant. This is one of them: in the world Rhapsodies takes place in Zeppo Marx had a VERY successful career as a romantic lead after he left the Marx Brothers; starting with a big break in 1936 when he beat out William Powell for the lead role in ‘My Man Godfrey’.