Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Deputy Seraph (1959)

I had mentioned in my previous blog Love Happy is officially the Marx Brothers last film together. Although, they had appeared in a film titled The Story of Mankind in 1957, the Brothers did not actually appear together in the film.

In 1959, producer decided to try and make a pilot for a new television series starring the Marx Brothers titled Deputy Seraph. Encouraged by the audience reaction to the Brothers briefly appearing together at the end of an episode on General Electric Theater which featured Chico and Harpo titled The Great Jewel Robbery producers proposed a weekly series which would star Harpo and Chico as a pair of guardian angels who would possess people for a short time in order to help them with their problems.

The title itself reflecting the Western shows that were popular on TV at the time.

Groucho was cast as Deputy Seraph who would appear in every third show to help Harpo and Chico out of some pandemonium they created.

The clips below are only fragments of what was filmed of the pilot. When doctors discovered that Chico was suffering from arteriosclerosis (which would kill him two years later) and thus could not be insured, the producers had to cancel the project.

So this is why you hear the brothers answering to nobody or scenes seem fragmented. You're really watching outtakes rather than a full television episode.

I found it somewhat sad to watch seeing that Chico was so sick at the time and forgetting or unable to deliver any of his lines. For someone like me who prefers to remember the Marx's as they were in Monkey Business or Duck Soup, it might be better of the series never aired.

I am glad that Groucho never fell into the trap the Stooges did by continuing with Joe Besser or Curley Joe. Even if he recruited Zeppo or Gummo to fill in for Chico and Harpo after they passed on it wouldn't have the same dynamics as Groucho, Harpo and Chico.

Although, we are all familiar with Zeppo's persona. Which apparently both Groucho ha stated that Zeppo never got a fair shake by producers. To be honest, I'm not sure what kind of personality Gummo possessed when he was with the Brothers on stage.

To be warned, the picture quality and sound is a bit rough. But for Marx fans, it is interesting to watch from a historical point of view.


Comicbookrehab said...

Joe Adamson wrote of an occaision where Zeppo filled in for Groucho in a performance of The Cocconuts. The reaction from Groucho was that it was good - a bit rough, but good enough for him to be proud of his younger brother.

The best joke in Deputy Seraph is Groucho on a motorcycle. That's as good a gag as any that were in the MGM films, but otherwise he looks like he just dropped in between tapings of "You Bet Your Life?".

As for the Stooges. I remember seeing Curly Howard's last appearance for the 1st time a few months ago. It was a cameo where he played a sleeping passenger aboard a train, barking in his sleep, and he didn't have to shave his head this time, so we got to see him with a full head of hair. It was cute - then I realized that was his last bow.

Bret M. Herholz said...

I saw a clip of Curly doing that. Originally, that was to mark his comeback with the Stooges. Sadly, his health started to decline again after that taping and it turned out to be his very last appearance with the Stooges.

Bret M. Herholz said...

I do agree with you. It does look like Groucho dropped in during taping for that show, doesn't it?

I had read the bit about Zeppo. I guess Groucho has stated that Zeppo had a sharper wit than people realized just because the writers and filmmaker never wrote his character well.

I suppose with Groucho, Chico and Harpo they all had a schtick. With Zeppo, because he was the youngest I imagine they immediately dropped him into the role of straight man or defacto romantic interest for the actress in the film like in the case of Monkey Business and Horse Feathers.

Comicbookrehab said...

Zeppo became his brothers agent for a time, but then parted ways after he negotiated a good deal for Room Service and they treated him like hired help the whole way.

I didn't know that was meant to be Curly's comeback. Does that mean Shemp was only suppoesed to be temporary? I do notice that, technically, the shorts with Shemp have better timing and pace. The early films seem like home movies, coasting a lot on Curly's popularity. In real life, Curly partied hard and got into fights with perfect strangers expecting him to do his "whoop,whoop,whoop, Moe,Larry,Cheese!" schtick whenever and wherever.

Bret M. Herholz said...

I think if I remember the story correctly Shemp agreed to fill in while Curly was recovering. However, it became a permanent gig after Curly died. That is, until Shemp himself died.

Even though Shemp was never as good as Curly for me. At the same time, I never minded shorts with him in them. It was when we started getting into Joe Besser/Curly Joe territory that I stop watching.