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Room Service (1938)

Room Service (1938)

Directed by William Seiter with a screenplay by Morrie Ryskind this slightly above average Marx Brothers comedy also features Lucille Ball Ann Miller Frank Albertson and Donald MacBride (among others). Though the film lacks a lot of the staples of their earlier films (music Zeppo & memorable quotes besides “jumping butterballs”) it’s still an entertaining 80 minutes. Groucho plays the would-be producer of a play Chico’s his assistant and Harpo is Harpo; all three are destitute (that is to say their money has run out). They’ve been holed up in a New York hotel with 20 members of their cast (Ball is one of its leads) while rehearsing it running up a bill of $1200 over several months before its manager Groucho‚Äôs brother-in-law (Cliff Dunstan) is caught by one of the hotel’s would-be vice presidents (MacBride) who insists that they pay their bill or get out! The play’s small town author (Albertson) from Oswego shows up in time to get mixed up in the mess; he’s corrupted by “the boys” and also falls in love with one of the hotel’s employees (Miller who doesn’t dance in this film); she would like him to find a role for one of the hotel’s ham waiters (Alexander Asro). In the nick of time they find a would-be backer a famous wealthy financier whose representative (Philip Wood) informs them that his boss who would like his mistress to have a role in their play wishes to remain anonymous for fear of scandal. Philip Loeb plays a collector who wants to repossess the penniless author’s typewriter; Charles Halton plays the hotel’s doctor who’s called into verify that the author is indeed sick and thus can’t be evicted. The first two thirds of the film takes place in one room in the hotel and most of the last third was shot in another (a suite). Later remade as the musical Step Lively (1944) with Frank Sinatra who plays the author.

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