The Marx Brothers in…”A Day at the United Nations”?


This is another of those legendary Never-Wases, a loss perhaps even more regrettable than the rejected Salvador Dali scenario. In 1960, after making The Apartment, Billy Wilder planned a Cold War satire starring the Marx Brothers, to have been called A Day at the United Nations. What I didn’t realize until recently is that, unlike the Dali project, this one actually came close to becoming a reality. Not only had Wilder and his collaborator I.A.L. Diamond completed a 40 page  treatment, but the Marx Brothers had signed on to do it, and formal press announcements were made! It was really going to happen!

Unfortunately, Harpo, then in his early 70s, had a heart attack, and then Chico passed away, closing the door forever on the possibility of any more Marx Brothers movies. The Cold War comedy Wilder would end up making was One, Two, Three with James Cagney.

I trust that it would have been a classic — I picture something in feeling and tone similar to The Mouse that Roared or Dr. Strangelove. Yet when I read what they had planned I do find myself a little disappointed to learn that Wilder had planned to make the brothers jewel robbers; the brothers don’t seem to have factored into the U.N. plot much at all, although Wilder did envision a climax wherein Harpo would be addressing the General Assembly with translators for all nations struggling to put his honks and visual puns into words. That sounds excellent! But you can see how I would be disappointed that Groucho doesn’t get to be Secretary General or Chico the Italian ambassador. At any rate, you can more details about this sadly aborted project here at Marxology:

For more on comedy film history please check out my book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Mediaalso available from etc etc etc

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