Leonard Maltin Review

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It’s a bit awkward reviewing projects in which I am involved. I’ve always made a practice of stating it up front, even though in most cases I’m only a contributor and not responsible for the documentary, book, or DVD as a whole. That doesn’t mean I can hide or ignore my enthusiasm for some of these endeavors, and that’s true of these new releases.

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I am quoted in the promotion of Robert S. Bader’s massive new tome Four of the Three Musketeers: The Marx Brothers On Stage (Northwestern University Press). Robert is a friend who has been obsessively pursuing this project for years, documenting little-known (and often unknown) facts about the brothers’ early years in vaudeville and eventual move to Broadway. It’s amazing to ponder how long they worked together before they ever set foot in front of a camera. I call Robert’s book “a revelation” because that’s exactly what it is. One of the services he has rendered for posterity is debunking many fanciful but usually fictitious stories that Groucho, Harpo and Chico spun about themselves for years. He also provides eye-popping illustrations I’ve never seen before. Visit his website HERE

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I am happy to be an interviewee in Constantine Nasr’s new 80-miute documentary The Marx Brothers: Hollywood’s Kings of Chaos, which is part of Universal Home Entertainment’s new four-disc Blu-ray set comprising all of the Marxes’ early talkies: The Cocoanuts, Animal Crackers, Monkey Business, Horse Feathers, and Duck Soup. There’s little that hasn’t already been said about these peerless comedians but I still found it entertaining to trace their careers and methodology with the help of such experts as Robert Bader, Dick Cavett, Groucho’s grandson Andy, F.X. Feeney, David Mandel, Jeffrey Vance, Drew Casper, Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, Anthony Slide, and Harpo’s son Bill. I also provide a commentary track for Duck Soup in tandem with Robert Bader which I hope is fun to listen to. The set offers new high-resolution scans of the original film negatives and excerpts of Harpo and Groucho’s appearances on the Today show.

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