September 11, 2004
This little-known 1950 (I still say 1949) movie marks the final appearance of the Marx Brothers, and while it isn’t very good when compared to their classics, it isn’t that bad, either. I would have to say that I prefer Love Happy to the later MGM pictures like At the Circus or Go West or The Big Store (wretched movies, all). What largely disappoints is that, for the most part, only Chico and Harpo are seen; Groucho only appears in an occasional monologue, and doesn’t even appear with his brothers until the very end of the movie.
Why this was done, we can only speculate, but it’s too bad, because this would have been far more enjoyable if the three were actually together.
The plot, like pretty much all the plots after A Night at the Opera, is completely forgettable and meaningless, largely a vain attempt to mimic the formula that Irving Thalberg used so successfully. I don’t know why anyone would go to a Marx Brothers movie to watch some faceless romantic couple overcome some hardship. Who cares about these people, anyway? I don’t watch Bugs Bunny to see a refined reading of Falstaff. I want screwball comedy and lightning-fast one-liners.
Needless to say, I prefer the Paramount Marx Brothers movies like Horse Feathers and Duck Soup, which had about as much plot as your average Road Runner cartoon. Yet even so, I honestly can't remember a single thing about the story in this movie, except that I wanted it to be over as quickly as possible.
Love Happy is remembered largely because it marks the first screen appearance of Marilyn Monroe, but even here, you’re bound to be disappointed. Her cameo is little more than a momentary walk-on with Groucho, it has absolutely nothing to do with anything, and you’ve completely forgotten about it five minutes later.
I don’t want to make it seem as though this movie is a total loss. There’s enough here to enjoy if your favorite Marx is Chico, or especially Harpo. It’s always such a joy to see these boys perform, and for some it may be worth sitting through all the dead wood to see Harpo one last time. And, again, where’s Groucho? The man was obviously still funny; if you doubt me, then go watch the recent DVD set of You Bet Your Life.
If we actually had the three of them together for more than just one scene, things would be completely different. As it stands, we're left with something that's incomplete; practically the gold standard of mediocrity, and dull.
The Marx Brothers belong to the days of vaudeville and '30s comedies, where the pacing and tempo were fast, fast, fast. By the end of the 1940s, audiences prefered formula pictures with a slower speed and more standard structure. Isn't this the reason why so many comedies from that decade were so dreadfully dull?
Love Happy was reportedly made to pay off Leonard (Chico) Marx's gambling debts. It shows.