MARX MOVIE MADNESS MONTH #21: Chico’s Sit Coms
In celebration of Marxfest, every day this month we will be paying tribute to a different Marx Brothers film. While there are only 13 extant cinematic features including the entire team, we will make up the difference with solo film appearances, famous proposed but unfilmed features, lost films, and television projects. We’ll be moving through them chronologically.
By the early 1950s, each of the Marx Brothers was officially flying solo. Groucho was the most successful of the team as a single, as the host of the long-running radio and tv game show You Bet Your Life, and as the star and co-star of several films, in addition to several cameos and supporting parts. Next came Harpo, for whom Love Happy had been crafted as a solo vehicle and made numerous tv appearances, the most famous of which has been his turn on I Love Lucy.
Least remembered has been Chico, who actually had his own television shows.
From 1950 to 1951 he starred in The College Bowl, a hybrid sit-com/ variety show in which he played the proprietor of an ice cream shop frequented by college kids, who would proceed to perform musical numbers. A young Andy Williams was one of the regulars. Reportedly, Chico’s character was muted on this show….less of the dialect humor and punning. For years this show was thought to be completely lost for all time, but one of the great revelations we’ve had in Marxfest is that scholar Rob Bader laid his hands on a kinescope of an episode, and it is included in his upcoming DVD The Marx Brothers TV Collection, a must-own for any Marx Brothers fan.
For more on comedy film history please check out my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etcTo find out about the history of vaudeville, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.