Posted in WB Cartoon Companion on March 22, 2004
Landmark comedy team comprised of Groucho (né Julius Henry), Chico (né Leonard), and Harpo (né Adolph, also known as Arthur), as well as Zeppo (né Herbert). Their style of cooly calucated anarchy was a hit in vaudeville, then on Broadway, and then in movies from the earliest days of talking pictures. The team reached its height of lunacy in the classic MGM films Duck Soup and A Night at the Opera. After the team left film in the 1940s, Groucho forged a solo career on radio and in television as the host of You Bet Your Life, a gameshow less about the questions asked than about the wisecracks of Groucho.
The distinctive features of Groucho, namely, his crouching walk, huge eyebrows and mustache, initially painted on -- Groucho would later grow a mustache when he realized no one recognized him without it -- and his cigar and glasses were tailor-made for animated shorts, and were given use in such cartoons as Wideo Wabbit (McKimson, 1956) in a spoof of You Bet Your Life, in Hollywood Steps Out (Avery, 1941) as “The Lady in Red”, and Slick Hare (Freleng, 1947) in which he gives his famous line (as he does in Wideo Wabbit) about slipping out of his “wet clothes and into a dry martini”. Groucho was also the originator of the line “Of course, you realize this means war!”, an oft-used line in many Warner Brothers cartoons. Harpo makes an appearence, in character as a woman-chaser, in The Coo-coo Nut Grove (Freleng, 1936), discovering the woman is none other than Groucho! Elmer Fudd does a turn as Harpo in Slick Hare opposite Bugs Bunny as Groucho -- Chico can be seen in a long shot, as well. Two other Harpo turns can be seen in Flowers for Madame (Freleng, 1935) as played by a dandelion and The Organ Grinder (Harman/Ising, 1933). The card-cutting scene in Bugs Bunny Rides Again (Freleng, 1948) is a direct lift from Harpo as well.