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With: Harpo Marx, Chico Marx, Ilona Massey, Vera-Ellen, Marion Hutton, Raymond Burr, Melville Cooper, Paul Valentine, Leon Belasco, Eric Blore, Bruce Gordon, Marilyn Monroe, Groucho Marx
Written by: Frank Tashlin, Mac Benoff, based on a story by Harpo Marx
Directed by: David Miller
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 91
Date: 03/03/1950

Love Happy (1949)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Canned Sardines

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

David Miller's Love Happy (1949) is the last official Marx Brothers movie, and it's an awkward attempt to combine the stuff that made the brothers great in their earlier movies, with some more "modern" stuff. The result is some decent scenes, plus many other flat ones, but very few actual laughs.

Groucho kicks off the movie, playing Detective Sam Grunion and narrating the story. He appears only sporadically, throwing out a couple pale versions of his once cutting one-liners. The major focus is on Harpo, who works for a theater troupe, using the endless pockets of his overcoat to shoplift all the food the cast and crew needs for lunch. Chico, playing "Faustino," gets a job with the troupe and becomes the mute Harpo's translator.

While shoplifting, Harpo accidentally steals a tin of sardines in which the priceless Romanoff diamonds have been smuggled. The evil Madame Egelichi (Ilona Massey) has been after the diamonds for years and kidnaps Harpo to try to "make him talk." A young Raymond Burr plays her hired thug. The whole thing ends with a rooftop chase, involving several funny advertising billboards and a fake, second set of diamonds.

Marilyn Monroe is often featured in this film's advertising, and though she literally appears for about one minute, with Groucho, she already has the stuff of a big star. (Her breakout roles in The Asphalt Jungle and All About Eve came the following year.)

Miller gives Chico a piano-playing sequence and Harpo a harp-playing sequence, but he also gives Harpo a kind of sad love story that always seems doomed. Most of the scenes go on too long; the earlier Marx Brothers films were based around long scenes, but they had energy and built jokes upon jokes, whereas the scenes in Love Happy more or less drag to a halt.

This is certainly a minor film, and nowhere near the excellence of Duck Soup (1933) or A Night at the Opera (1935), and newcomers to the Marx Brothers should not make this their first film. But if you're already a fan, Love Happy has enough sweet, silly moments to make it worth a shot.

In May of 2014, Olive Films released the movie on DVD and Blu-ray, with no extras.

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