"Critics are like eunuchs in a harem; they know how it's done, they've seen it done every day, but they're unable to do it themselves." - Brendan Behan
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Muses in my midst VI
(Groucho Marx and Margaret Dumont in "Duck Soup.")
Great comedy is based on anarchy, and there were no finer anarchists than the brothers Marx. However, to generate subversive sparks, you need a great target, and this is where we come to the divine Margaret Dumont, who's sure to bring some Tinseltown blueblood to my pantheon. Gleaming with pearls and self-importance, she was Hollywood's most enduring grande dame. The boys had it easy. All they had to do was be improbable and wildly funny. It is Margaret who had the tough job - feigning adulation and outrage at the same time as Groucho laid attack to her dignity. In its peculiar way, her nonsensical courtship with the grease-painted, sharp-tongued Lothario was as true and lasting a relationship as Laurel and Hardy, Burns and Allen, and Death and Taxes. The thought of this handsome matron bearing her lorgnette as the doyenne of all things refined is an image of endearing self-mockery that has gotten this writer through many a cold night.