2/25/15

THE LOST SONGS OF 'A DAY AT THE RACES'


While watching 'A Day At The Races' this past weekend on TCM, I noticed a snippet of a song in the big finale, when everyone is strutting around the racetrack, waving their hands in the air and in general making horses asses of themselves. Groucho turns to Margaret Dumont, sings a bar of a song called "I've Got A Message From The Man In The Moon", then delivers one of the films better Groucho-isms: "I've got a confession to make. I really am a horse doctor. But marry me and I'll never look at another horse again." What was this little tidbit of a tune doing in there? Rechecking the opening credits, I heard the melody in the overture, thus making Groucho's quoting of it a reprise. But a reprise of what? A song that isn't in the movie? Bravely deciding to nerd-our rather than get some real work done, I dug in and discovered that two songs were cut from "A Day At the Races"--two songs which would have been much better left in, assuming that the big boring Winter Carnival scene was dropped. "I've Got A Message From The Man in the Moon" is a good, second-tier thirties love song, but apparently was one too many for the movie (the surviving love song, "Tomorrow Is Another Day", isn't nearly as much fun). The second was a Captain Spaulding-type number for Groucho called "Dr. Hackenbush." Neither, apparently, was filmed. However Allan Jones, the Zeppo of ADATR, did pre-record the first and the recording survives. Alas the person who posted it disabled embedding of it so you have to click here to listen to it. (Why does it piss me off when people do this on Youtube? It's not as if they haven't already violated copyright law by having posted it without permission to begin with).

But the real treat is the above video, created by a very interesting fellow named Noah Diamond, who is clearly a hard-core student of Marxiana (he actually has restored the long lost Marx show "I'll Say She Is" which I'd love to know more about). He took a 1965 Hollywood Palace performance of the song by Groucho and quite clerverly wove it into a recut of the scene it was supposed to appear in--the somewhat flat first appearance of Groucho at the Standish Sanitarium. Check it out. And I'm afraid I have to agree with a comment he makes on his opening scroll. ADATR is the beginning of the brothers decline and much staler than I remember it, with loads of silly plot and set-piece comedy sequences that are simply not inventive enough to sustain the long waits in between comedy scenes. The Thalberg formula for the Marxes--that it was better for them to be in a movie with a 'real' story than a 'funny' story (like the Paramount comedies)--hasn't worn at all well.

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