Underappreciated Comedic Performances

The Oscars are approaching; I anticipate them, as usual, with complete indifference since it is unlikely that I have seen any nominated film. When I interviewed Roger Simon on my radio show last week, he seemed taken aback when I said that I’d never actually seen the Godfather movies. Hey, they’re violent. I don’t like violence.

I do like comedy, however, and at Big Hollywood, Steve Mason takes note of the fact that the Academy has generally devalued comedy, and tries to identify “the greatest unrecognized comedic performances of all time.” He includes a clip from early in Jerry Lewis’s career that helps to explain why Lewis was once considered funny, and reminds us of some of Hollywood’s funnier performances over the years.

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It’s fun; check it out. I note, however, one significant omission: Mason includes nothing from the Marx Brothers, Paul’s favorites. No one ever dreamed of giving the Marx Brothers an Academy Award, but surely they are worthy of inclusion on any list of underappreciated comic genius. Here, for example, is a scene from A Night at the Opera. Maybe Paul will be moved to comment further.

PAUL adds: I can argue about almost anything, but I can’t argue about what’s funny. I will say that I’ve seen most of the movies on Mason’s list and many of them are quite good. At the top of my list (among Mason’s ten) are His Girl Friday, in which (believe it or not) Cary Grant borders on Groucho Marx a few times, and To Be of Not To Be.

That said, there are five or six Marx Brothers movies that I prefer to anything on the list. They are A Night at Opera, Duck Soup, A Day at the Races, Animal Crackers, Monkey Business and possibly Horse Feathers.

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