Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Irving Brecher

Irving Brecher has died. He was one of the last of the major Hollywood writers of the pre-WWII era. He's best remembered for co-writing Meet Me In St. Louis and creating the radio and TV series The Life Of Riley, but I know him as the man who wrote, unassisted, two Marx Brothers films.

Alas, this is not a good thing. The Marxes needed not just the best comedy writer, but teams of them. Thus, their earlier films had scribes such as George S. Kaufman, Morrie Ryskind, Arthur Sheekman, S.J. Perelman, Al Boasberg and many others. After the Brothers left Paramount to work for MGM, and their protector Irving Thalberg died, however, they were shunted off to less money and less talented hands. Thus, when they made At The Circus and Go West, Edward Buzzell directed and newcomer Irving Brecher was the sole screenwriter.

I'm sure Brecher would have been fine if he'd been part of a team, but no one man should have been entirely responsible. As they are, At The Circus and Go West are perfectly enjoyable. It's only compared to the Brothers' earlier work that they fall down.

Here's one of the better scenes from Go West, but really it's only a partly successful attempt to recapture the spirit of better scenes, such as the Contract scene in A Night At The Opera and the Tutsi Frutsi scene in A Day At The Races. Originally Groucho was going to cheat Harpo and Chico, but that wasn't playing well, so the con was reversed.


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