Jolly Fellows | Chicago Reader

Jolly Fellows

Many movies tried to copy the crazed farce of the early Marx Brothers comedies—Diplomaniacs (1933) with Wheeler and Woolsey, Million Dollar Legs (1932) with W.C. Fields—but the only one I've seen that approaches the Marxes' delirious, full-throttle anarchy is this 1934 Russian comedy by Grigori Aleksandrov. A Crimean shepherd is mistaken for a famous conductor and invited to a swank society party, where he?s tracked down by an army of his animal pals (there's nothing as reliably funny as a bull drinking out of a punch bowl). As a singing maid, Lyubov Orlova (who later married Aleksandrov and became a Soviet movie icon) enters one scene sliding down a banister with a tall stack of plates. The music is integral to the comedy, and in this case it generates some of the most surreal gags: practicing his violin, the shepherd reads the musical notation formed by the birds perched on telephone wires, and later a brass band rehearsal turns into a shower when water sprays out of the bells. Also known as Moscow Laughs. In Russian with subtitles. 96 min.

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