The Cocoanuts - Production

Production

Referring to directors Robert Florey and Joseph Santley, Groucho Marx remarked, "One of them didn't understand English and the other didn't understand Harpo." When the Marx Brothers were shown the final cut of the film, they were so appalled they tried to buy the negative back and prevent its release. Paramount wisely resisted — the movie turned out to be a big hit and earned close to two million dollars.

As the film was made in the early days of sound film, to eliminate the sound of the camera motors, the cameras and the cameramen were enclosed in large soundproof booths with a glass panel to allow filming fronting the booth. Before filming the cameraman was shut inside the booth with packs of ice to prevent condensation forming on the glass panel. The length of filming was therefore limited by endurance of the cameramen within the airtight booths. This practice was commonplace in the early years of sound film and is largely responsible for the static camera work of that era. For many years, Marxian legend had it that Florey, who had never seen the Marxes' work before, was put in the soundproof booth because he could not contain his laughter at the brothers' spontaneous antics.

Every piece of paper in the movie is soaking wet, to keep crackling paper sounds from overloading the primitive recording equipment of the time. In fact, this did not occur to the director until 27 takes had been made (of the "Viaduct" scene) and disposed of because of the noise made by the paper. The director finally got the idea to soak the paper in water; the 28th take of the "Viaduct" scene used soaked paper, and this take was quiet and kept.

The "ink" that Harpo drank from the hotel lobby inkwell was actually Coca-Cola, and the "telephone mouthpiece" that he nibbled was made of chocolate, both inventions of Robert Florey. In A Night in Casablanca, Harpo could again be seen eating "telephones."

Filming took place at Paramount's Astoria Studios in Astoria, Queens. It was the first of only two films done by the brothers in New York (the other was Animal Crackers, released in 1930). After that, production of all Marx films shifted to Hollywood.

Read more about this topic:  The Cocoanuts

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