The Marx Brothers ‘Go West’ in One of many First Western Comedies

In 1940, the Marx Bros. appeared in one of many earliest cinematic western comedies, an neglected image referred to as Go West. It comes from fairly late within the post-Zeppo period, a run of images typically thought-about inferior to when the brothers have been at their peak. Nonetheless, even with out Zeppo — who was an important a part of the Marx method, a secret sauce if you’ll the Brothers made a reasonably admirable chunk of movies after their Paramount days. Go West is one among them, even when it by no means fairly matches the heights of the comparatively Zeppo-less A Evening on the Opera.

Go West, the Marxes’ solely frolic by means of the Western style, pokes enjoyable on the clichés of the style in the same manner that Mel Brooks would do preeminently with Blazing Saddles simply over 30 years later. The place Blazing Saddles basically reinvented the Western and comedy film alike, Go West is extra typically completely content material with being a automobile for 80 minutes’ price of classic Marx Bros. gags. Which isn’t precisely a nasty factor. The film is aware of precisely what the brothers do effectively, and it provides them the house to do it. It’s like seeing a seasoned, growing older rock band simply creeping out of their time, pulling no punches and enjoying the hits you wish to hear.

RELATED: Zeppo Marx and the True Story Behind How He By no means Discovered His Place Inside the Marx Brothers

‘Go West’ is One of many Earliest Western Comedies

Chico Marx, Groucho Marx and Harpo Marx in 'Go West.'
Picture by way of MGM 

The Western comedy, merely a single entry within the in depth listing of Western subgenres, is a very tough type to achieve. Its listing of classics is extremely slim, and as A Million Methods to Die within the West and The Ridiculous 6 each proved, filmmakers attempting to mix the 2 genres have a tendency solely to fail miserably at doing both effectively. Brooks’ aforementioned Blazing Saddles is an untouchable masterpiece, and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs and My Title Is No one each handle to be genuinely humorous photos set within the type of Westerns, however these are solely rarities.

Whereas not the primary to make a Western comedy, the Marx Bros. have been, on the very least, early out of the gate. Go West is predated by 15 years by the identically titled Buster Keaton flick. Laurel & Hardy dabbled within the style with Manner Out West in ’37, and W.C. Fields did the identical with My Little Chickadee in ’40, the identical 12 months because the Marx’s movie. Together with these different three examples of comedic legends injecting their humor into western (and western-adjacent genres), Go West principally finds the western setting as a automobile for a collection of in any other case unrelated gags which might be classic Marx Bros.

Whether or not or not the movie really works as a complete is difficult to say. There’s undeniably some good stuff in it, with a handful of bits displaying the brothers, if not at prime type, fairly rattling shut. The story admittedly will get in the way in which greater than it ought to, particularly contemplating how uninspired the precise plot is.

In ‘Go West,’ the Marx Bros. Chase a Fortune

Groucho and Chico Marx in 'Go West.'
Picture by way of MGM

The plot of Go West feels lower and pasted from any forgettable Western movie of the period, revolving round a precious land deed owned by an outdated man (Tully Marshall) and eyed by a scheming railroad government (Walter Woolf King) and saloon proprietor (Robert Barrat). Operating parallel is a Romeo & Juliet-like romance plot involving a younger couple (John Carroll and Diana Lewis) who rely on the sale of the plot to formally pursue their love with one another.

In fact, the brothers get entangled and sully issues up. Chico and Harpo, buddies of the landowner, are lent the property deed for collateral of a modest mortgage. Groucho, showing as an uncharacteristically dim-witted hustler-type, tries to trick them into promoting to him. Earlier than lengthy, he’s quickly strong-armed and deceived by the movie’s antagonists into handing the deed over to them, and so the three crew as much as attempt to get it again.

That’s just about it. Undoubtedly not probably the greatest comedy plots, not even within the Marx catalogue.

The place Does ‘Go West’ Match Within the Marx Bros.’ Filmography?


Go West is a largely middling Marx Bros. film that by no means reaches the not possible heights of their best works. By no means a completely dangerous movie, this Western comedy struggles to make any of the broader plot really humorous. Moderately, the moments that discover the brothers participating of their signature anarchic comedy at a break-neck tempo. Actually, Go West works as dwelling proof of the truth that producer Irving Thalberg was instrumental within the Marx Brothers’ downfall by introducing extra plot-based constructions into their work.

The start of the movie works as a result of it units up a easy premise — Groucho, Harpo, and Chico’s characters developing quick to buy a prepare ticket out west to be able to pan for gold — and makes use of to convey out some wonderful jokes. When informed a prepare ticket prices $70, Groucho slaps a stack of payments on the counter. “Don’t trouble counting it,” he tells the attendant. “There’s solely $60,” the attendant complains. “I informed you to not rely it,” snaps Groucho. Harpo and Chico, desirous to get their very own fare, plot up a wonderful gag involving a $10 invoice tied to a string.

Thankfully, Go West has some basic Groucho one-liners (“I used to be going to thrash them inside an inch of their lives, however I didn’t have a tape measure”/“I offer you my solemn phrase as an embezzler, I’ll be again in ten minutes”), and a few bits that allow Harpo do some enjoyable little slapstick bits. As typical in these movies, there’s additionally a fantastic little musical quantity during which Chico performs a damned entertaining piano rendition of “The Woodpecker Tune,” snatching up a fruit from Harpo midway by means of and rolling it alongside the keys in pitch-perfect melody.

In distinction to its heights, Go West has its share of lows. The plot, as beforehand talked about, solely manages to disrupt the established comedic tempo set out by the movie’s opening scenes. A very lengthy sequence initially of the third act involving an indigenous tribe ages about in addition to Mickey Rooney‘s look in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. It is a kind of issues that undeniably weigh the image down, particularly looking back, and the completed product would have aged significantly better with out it. The ill-conceived caricatures actually are no worse than people who virtually each goddamn western of the period have been responsible of, however what appears like a chance to spoof these clichés solely find yourself insensitively indulging in them.

That mentioned, Go West is at its greatest when the brothers’ slicing humor is geared toward both A) each other, or B) the movie’s villains. Groucho’s wise-ass zingers nonetheless pop with wit, and Harpo/Chico’s duality of bodily/wordy comedy nonetheless mixes excellently. A gag early within the image, during which the three brothers try and rip-off each other out of a prepare fare, is a spotlight. The same, later scene in a stagecoach is one other.

The climax of the movie, although, is undeniably Go West‘s most memorable trait. The brothers, chased by the antagonists, trigger utter mayhem as they make their manner by means of (and on prime of) a fast-moving prepare. It by no means reaches the jaw-dropping spectacle of, for instance, The Common, nevertheless it nonetheless makes for an enjoyably elaborate sequence rife with slapstick gags.

By the point the credit roll, although, it’s onerous to not be left wanting extra from the brothers. Contemplating that Go West got here on the tail finish of their profession of working collectively, it’s additionally onerous to count on something extra. The boys would solely have three extra movies in them after Go West, and every of them works even lower than their comedy western. From there, the brothers would disband (artistically, not less than), and Groucho would go on to make a collection of respectable, however underwhelming solo movies.

Go West by no means reaches the heights of Animal Crackers, Duck Soup, A Evening on the Opera, and even Monkey Enterprise. Then once more, not many movies ever might. What Go West does handle to do is give the Marx Bros. a handful of basic comedy bits that fondly keep in mind how good they might be at their peak. Even when it’s all hidden among the many dust and silt, there’s nonetheless some gold to be panned out.

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