One of Marilyn’s earliest – and shortest – film appearances was in the final Marx Brothers comedy, Love Happy (1949.) Although not a great success, it is a sort of curate’s egg among fans of classic cinema. Now for completists, author Kevin Scott Collier has published The Marx Brothers’ Love Happy Confidential, a brief guide (just 48 pages) including vintage press articles and stills.
Love Happy (1949) was the final, and least successful Marx Brothers film. Today it is chiefly remembered for a short scene pairing Groucho and a young Marilyn. Writing for Pop Matters, Jose Solis takes another look at this comedic curiosity.
“It seems as if the film created a rift in the siblings’ relationship, as Groucho would pretty much go on to disown this film from existing within the canon of official Marx Brothers’ movies, going as far as to completely ignore it in his autobiography. It seems as if the only cause of pride he found in the film was his ‘accidental’ discovery of an actress who would go on to become one of Hollywood’s brightest icons: Marilyn Monroe, who would be dead little over a decade after the film was made.
Love Happy is by no means a bad film—it has some of the funniest scenes in the Marx Brothers’ filmography. When watching the movie, however, its problematic production history is obvious. For example, there are no scenes featuring all three brothers together, despite director David Miller’s sly hints teasing the audience into believing this will occur at some point. (Miller would go on to direct camp classic Sudden Fear starring Joan Crawford). There is an epic scene towards the end that seems to promise us of the explosive encounter to come, which then never materializes.
By the time they made the film, the Brothers weren’t even performing together as an act. Perhaps Love Happy is nothing but a reminder of the power money has over artists. Perhaps it’s an interesting reminder of how Hollywood has time and time again made people who weren’t on the best terms work together to create something. Or, perhaps, it should simply be remembered or thought of, as the movie where Marilyn first took the world’s breath away, at least for a few seconds. (Her ‘official’ debut would come the following year in All About Eve).”
‘I don’t have the evidence to prove it,’ writes Stuart Mitchner in Princeton Town Topics, ‘but I’d bet that the majority of first-run movies made between 1920 and 1950 are set in New York City and that of those, more than half open with a shot of Times Square at night.’
He goes on to mention Harpo Marx’s spectacular flight ‘across the floodlit playground of animated neon above Times Square’ in Love Happy (1949), the final Marx Brothers movie in which a young Marilyn also appeared:
‘Love Happy opened at the Criterion Theatre on Times Square the first week in April 1950. Among several things the “horrible movie” (Groucho’s comment) has going for it is Marilyn Monroe, who pays a brief, breathtaking, off-the-shoulder-evening-gowned visit to Groucho’s nearsighted private eye Sam Grunion (“Men follow me” is how she explains her predicament).’
Marilyn’s screen time in the final Marx Brothers movie, made in 1949, adds up to less than a minute – but she certainly made the most of it!
Funding was withdrawn before shooting ended, hence a very long rooftop chase scene where the actors pass countless neon advertising signs. Despite only having a walk-on role, Marilyn was chosen to promote the film and flew to New York City – probably for the first time – in July.
It’s rather an odd film but well worth seeing if you’re a diehard Marx or Monroe fan. Available on DVD, and showing this Sunday, August 1, at 6pm, and again on Tuesday, August 3rd, at 6pm, at the Bio Orion in Helsinki.