Room Service (1938)

“Hello? Room Service. Bring up enough ice to cool a warm body.” Always considered one of the lesser efforts of the Marx Brothers (if not their worst film entirely!) and a box office failure, Room Service actually kept me reasonably entertained and features the added bonus of early (albeit brief) film appearances by both Lucille Ball and Ann Miller (who was just fifteen years old at the time). “Gordon Miller” (Groucho), a sleazy, penniless theater producer, and his two hapless assistants, “Banelli” (Chico) and “Faker” (Harpo), are holed up in a hotel on credit (his brother-in-law is the manager), along with the play’s dimwitted author, “Leo Davis” (Frank Albertson) and the entire theatrical troupe. On the brink of eviction, Miller desperately needs to find some financial backing for his floundering production, Hail and Farewell. However, as usual, just forget about the plot and enjoy the typical anarchic antics of the Marx Brothers. One of the highlights of the film is when the ravenous entourage attacks a tray of hotel food like a flock of seagulls. There’s also a wild turkey flying around the suite and a stuffed moose head hanging on the wall. Unfortunately, the film is pretty much bereft of musical numbers. Directed by William A. Seiter, released by RKO and based on a 1937 play of the same name by Allen Boretz and John Murray, Room Service was remade as a 1944 musical, Step Lively, which starred Frank Sinatra. Albertson portrayed “Sam ‘Hee-Haw’ Wainwright” in It’s a Wonderful Life (1946).

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