Last week, my heroes at Shout Factory unleashed The Marx Brothers TV Collection, a comprehensive, three-disc set that’s like Christmas come early for us “Marxists.” Among its many pleasures — variety show guest shots, dramatic turns on anthology series, appearances on celebrity golf and poker shows (yes, they had those back then) — is the set’s crown jewel: the obscure, final appearance of the three brothers together, on an episode of The General Electric Theater. Inspired by this find, we take a look at some of the other long-lost or long-forgotten television turns by Hollywood legends.
The Marx Brothers in The Incredible Jewel Robbery
When this episode of the GE Theater anthology series (hosted by Ronald Reagan!) aired in 1959, the Marx Brothers’ final film as a team, Love Happy, was a good decade in the rearview, and the boys certainly look their age. But it’s a pretty good little comedy, done almost entirely without dialogue, with some inspired slapstick and a clever heist scheme at its center. And it’s a joy to see the brothers up to their old tricks — particularly Harpo, who unsurprisingly flourishes in the pantomime style, pulling “Gookies,” blowing smoke bubbles, and, in the climactic titular sequence, imitating Groucho (shades of Duck Soup). It’s mostly Harpo and Chico’s show, and was advertised as such; Groucho’s cameo appearance at the end had to be kept an unadvertised secret, due to his quiz show You Bet Your Life airing on a rival network. When he lopes in at the end, joining his brothers and mouthing the show’s only line of dialogue (“We won’t talk until we see our lawyer!”), it’s just like old times.