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Movie Poster of the Week: The Marx Brothers in Posters

Groucho, Harpo and Chico—and sometimes Zeppo—in illustrated form through the ages.
Above: 1960s French stock poster for Marx Brothers revivals.
This weekend New York’s Film Forum begins a week-long series entitled The Marx Brothers & The Golden Age of Vaudeville which is as good an excuse as any to look at the representation of the greatest sibling comedy team in cinema through movie posters. It has long been a tradition in movie poster illustration to render comedy stars as caricatures—often with oversized heads on small bodies—and Groucho, Harpo and Chico were a caricaturist’s dream. (Zeppo, the straight man, less so, but he left the act after Duck Soup in 1933, and re-release posters for the films he appeared in tend to ignore him, as in the Belgian Duck Soup and the Danish Horse Feathers below). With their distinctive props—Groucho’s oversized greasepaint mustache and cigar, Harpo’s curly blonde wig and Chico’s Alpine hat—the threesome could be rendered in broad strokes that made them instantly recognizable. Some of the early American posters were drawn by the great Broadway portraitist and caricaturist Al Hirschfeld, though they are unsigned. (Coincidentally Hirschfeld’s final drawing, made at the age of 99, was a private commission portrait of the Marxes).
In their later films, like Love Happy, even when their female co-stars were rendered realistically or even as photographs, the Marx Brothers were rendered as cartoons. But what cartoons! What follows is a wide variety of international posters and other promotional art for all their films—presented in chronological order by the film’s original release date—in a myriad of illustrative styles.
Above: 1929 US insert for The Cocoanuts (Joseph Flatley and Robert Florey, USA, 1929).
Above: US insert for Animal Crackers (Victor Heerman, USA, 1930).
Above: US window card for Monkey Business (Norman McLeod, USA, 1931). Design by Constantin Alajalov (1900-1987).
Above: 1931 US three sheet for Horse Feathers (Norman Z. McLeod, USA, 1932).
Above: 1952 Danish re-release one sheet for Horse Feathers (Norman Z. McLeod, USA, 1932).
Above: US window card for Duck Soup (Leo McCarey, USA, 1933).
Above: US one sheet for Duck Soup (Leo McCarey, USA, 1933).
Above: Swedish one sheet for Duck Soup (Leo McCarey, USA, 1933).
Above: Belgian poster for Duck Soup (Leo McCarey, USA, 1933).
Above: Belgian poster for A Night at the Opera (Sam Wood, USA, 1935).
Above: 1960s Spanish poster for A Night at the Opera (Sam Wood, USA, 1935).
Above: 1972 Swedish poster for A Night at the Opera (Sam Wood, USA, 1935).
Above: 1981 Spanish poster for A Night at the Opera (Sam Wood, USA, 1935).
Above: Belgian poster for A Day at the Races (Sam Wood, USA, 1937).
Above: Spanish poster for A Day at the Races (Sam Wood, USA, 1937).
Above: 1982 German re-release poster for A Day at the Races (Sam Wood, USA, 1937).
Above: US insert for Room Service (William A. Seiter, USA, 1938).
Above: French grande for Room Service (William A. Seiter, USA, 1938).
Above: 1950s re-release Spanish poster for Room Service (William A. Seiter, USA, 1938).
Above: US one sheet for At the Circus (Edward Buzzell, USA, 1939).
Above: French poster for At the Circus (Edward Buzzell, USA, 1939).
Above: Swedish poster for At the Circus (Edward Buzzell, USA, 1939).
Above: 1948 Italian re-release poster for At the Circus (Edward Buzzell, USA, 1939).
Above: 1970s German re-release poster for At the Circus (Edward Buzzell, USA, 1939).
Above: Lobby card for Go West (Edward Buzzell, USA, 1940).
Above: US one sheet for Go West (Edward Buzzell, USA, 1940).
Above: Promotional art by Jacques Kapralik for Go West (Edward Buzzell, USA, 1940).
Above: US one sheet for The Big Store (Charles Riesner, USA, 1941).
Above: Japanese poster for A Night in Casablanca (Archie Mayo, USA, 1946).
Above: 1950 Italian poster for A Night in Casablanca (Archie Mayo, USA, 1946). Art by Enrico DeSeta.
Above: US one sheet for Love Happy (David Miller, USA, 1949).
Above: Argentinean one sheet for Love Happy (David Miller, USA, 1949).
Above: Promotional art for Love Happy (David Miller, USA, 1949).
Above: 1970s US stock poster for Marx Brothers revivals.
Above: 1970s Japanese poster for Marx Brothers festival. Art by Akira Mouri.
Posters courtesy of Heritage Auctions, CineMaterial and Posteritati.

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