Room Service (1938 film)

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Room Service
Room Service DVD cover.jpg
Room Service DVD cover
Directed by William A. Seiter
Produced by Pandro S. Berman
Written by Glenn Tryon
Philip Loeb
Screenplay by Morrie Ryskind
Based on Room Service (play) 
by Allen Boretz & John Murray
Starring Groucho Marx
Chico Marx
Harpo Marx
Lucille Ball
Ann Miller
Frank Albertson
Music by Roy Webb
Cinematography J. Roy Hunt
Edited by George Crone
Production
  company
RKO Radio Pictures
Distributed by RKO Radio Pictures
Release date(s)
  • September 30, 1938 (1938-09-30) (USA)
Running time 78 min.
Language English
Budget $884,000[1]
Box office $875,000[1]

Room Service is a 1938 RKO film comedy starring the Marx Brothers and based on the 1937 play of the same name by Allen Boretz and John Murray. It co-stars Lucille Ball, Ann Miller, Alexander Asro, and Frank Albertson.

Plot outline[edit]

This is the only Marx Bros. film that was not written especially for the team. Less frenetic and more physically contained than their other movies, the plot revolves around the shenanigans of getting a stage play, Hail and Farewell, produced and funded by mysterious backer Zachary Fisk, while evading paying the hotel bill.

Groucho plays producer Gordon Miller, whose staff includes Harry Binelli (Chico) and Faker Englund (Harpo). They have assembled the cast and crew of the play in the hotel ballroom, as well as a substantial debt to the hotel. Miller is planning on skipping out on the hotel without paying the bill when he receives word that one of his actresses, Christine Marlowe (Lucille Ball), has arranged for a backer. Miller must keep his room and hide the cast and crew until the meeting with the backer can take place.

At the same time, a troubleshooter for the hotel chain, Gregory Wagner (Donald MacBride) discovers the debt. Assured by hotel manager Joe Gribble (Cliff Dunstan), who happens to be Miller's brother-in-law, that Miller had skipped, Wagner is surprised to find Miller still in his room, now joined by the play's author, Leo Davis (Frank Albertson), who has arrived in town and checked into Miller's room.

When Wagner threatens to evict Miller before the backer can arrive, Miller and Binelli convince Davis to pretend to be sick. To obtain food, Miller promises waiter Sasha Smirnoff (Alexander Asro) a part in the play. When Davis leaves to spoon with girlfriend Hilda Manney (Ann Miller), Englund takes over as the sick patient examined by a doctor brought in by Mr. Wagner. Wagner leaves to confront the crowd in the ballroom, while the doctor examines the patient. To delay the doctor giving his report to Wagner, Binelli and Miller tie him up, gag him, and lock him in the bathroom. The agent for Mr. Fisk arrives to sign over the cheque, the doctor breaks free in the bathroom, and the agent is hit on the head accidentally as Englund chases a flying turkey around with a baseball bat. The agent just wants to escape the madness, but reluctantly signs over the cheque, and leaves.

Davis returns and says he heard the agent saying he'll cancel the cheque, and just signed it to get out of the room. Wagner is fooled into believing all is okay, and upgrades the boys to a fancier room. Later, as the play is about to open, the cheque from Fisk bounces, Miller, Binelli, and Englund manipulate Wagner into believing he's driven the play's author to take poison. They pretend to give Davis large quantities of Ipecac which is actually drank by Englund, who eventually Davis pretends to die. Wagner is bluffed into believing it's all his fault and helps take the "body" down to the alley. As Miller and Wagner prop Englund on a crate, a passing policeman asks what's going on. Miller bluffs their way out of the situation, so he and Wagner make an escape, leaving Englund "asleep". They go to watch the end of the play, which is a scene where the miners are bringing a body from out of the mine. The body on the stretcher is Englund's. Wagner realizes he's been duped as the play is greeted with thunderous applause and a revived Davis appears next to Wagner at the back of the theatre.

Main cast[edit]

Character Actor
Leo Davis Frank Albertson
Sasha Smirnoff Alexander Asro*
Timothy Hogarth Philip Loeb
Joseph Gribble Clifford Dunstan*
Hilda Manney Ann Miller
Faker Englund Harpo Marx
Gordon Miller Groucho Marx
Harry Binelli Chico Marx
Gregory Wagner Donald MacBride*
Christine Marlowe Lucille Ball
Dr. Glass Charles Halton
House Detective Max Wagner
Simon Jenkins Philip Wood*

*Indicates the actor created the role on Broadway.

Production[edit]

Zeppo Marx, who had retired from the screen after Duck Soup and was now representing his brothers, brokered a deal with RKO to produce the version of the Broadway play Room Service by John Murray and Allan Boretz. The play was adapted for the screen by Morrie Ryskind. This was the only Marx Brothers film in which the main characters were not created especially for Groucho, Chico and Harpo.[2]

Reception[edit]

The film recorded a loss of $330,000.[1]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Richard Jewel, 'RKO Film Grosses: 1931-1951', Historical Journal of Film Radio and Television, Vol 14 No 1, 1994 p57
  2. ^ "Room Service (1938) Review". A Life At The Movies. September 20, 2010. 

External links[edit]