Go West (1940) starring the Marx Brothers – Groucho, Chico, and Harpo
Synopsis of Go West
The Marx Brothers — Groucho, Chico, and Harpo — end up in the American Old West, where Chico and Harpo are unsuccessful prospectors, who befriend a desert rat who gives them the deed to some property for only ten dollars. Groucho tries to sell that land to the railroad company at an inflated price, only to have it stolen by the villain of the picture. Without that land sale, the movie’s romantic couple will be kept apart by the girl’s grandfather — the desert rat that Chico and Harpo befriended!
Movie review of Go West starring the Marx Brothers
First off, I want to make it clear that I truly enjoyed Go West—it’s a very funny Marx Brothers movie, quickly paced, with excellent comic bits. The romance between the romantic leads is sweet and doesn’t detract from the movie. Likewise, there are several musical numbers that fit in nicely, never going overlong, fitting in with both the overall movie and the Marx Brothers’ respective talents (Groucho’s comments during Lulubelle’s song, Chico’s piano routine, and a wonderful segment where Harpo takes an Indian (i.e. Native American) weaving loom and turning it into an impromptu harp).
The movie begins with S. Quentin Quale (played by Groucho Marx), a shyster lawyer and embezzler, who’s ten dollars short of the fare needed for a train ticket to go “Out West.” He meets Joseph Panello (Chico Marx) and his brother Pinky (Harpo Marx), who proceed to fleece Groucho out of his money, while Groucho tries unsuccessfully to fleece them. It’s a hilariously funny scene, and one of the best examples of the three brothers interacting.
Later, Harpo and Chico are luckless gold prospectors, digging in the desert for gold, and not finding any. Their friend, an old prospector, needs ten dollars to stake a new claim and they give him some of the money that they stole from Groucho. The prospector, however, won’t take charity and insists that they take the deed for some worthless property in exchange for the money. Unknown to the prospector, his granddaughter’s suitor has convinced the railroad company that they should purchase that same “worthless” land to build the railroad through. He’s done this to try and undo the bad feelings between their two families so that the happy couple can get married.
Soon, Chico and Harpo are meeting with a representative from the railroad aboard a stagecoach to sell the land, which would have worked—except that Groucho is aboard the stagecoach, and after raising the price time and again, he convinces them not to sell after all. Groucho intends to sell the land to the villain of the picture, who has his own land that he wants the railroad to purchase. The Marx Brothers make their way to the western town, where Groucho “helps” Lulubelle, a saloon singer, sing one of her songs, and then proceeds to meet with the villain—only to lose the deed to the villain, with nothing to show for it. This is followed by a very funny bit between Harpo and the villain, where they act out a “high noon” gun battle, where Harpo finally draws a feather duster!
Later that night, the Marx Brothers try to sneak into the villain’s office to steal the deed back—with Harpo trying a variety of increasingly silly attempts at breaking into the safe, while Chico and Groucho “entertaining” some of the saloon’s dancing girls in the outer office—who, in turn, are trying to get them drunk (on mint juleps) until the villain can arrive and take care of them. After a very funny drinking scene, the villain does arrive, and takes them prisoner at gunpoint — only to be taken prisoner at gunpoint himself. And then another person takes them all at gunpoint, and another, finally ending with our heroes escaping.
All that remains is to get the deed to the railroad people—so they hide that night at a friendly Indian village, which gives much room for comic mayhem, ending with a funny routine where Harpo plays a harp duet with the Indian chief—if the chief can ever get a note in! The following day, they try to get to their goal on a train, but the villains haven’t given up yet, and try several things to stop the train. It’s an extended, very funny scene, ending with the Marx Brothers tearing the train itself up as fuel for the engine’s boiler—a scene reminiscent of a similar situation in Around the World in Eighty Days, frankly. It’s very funny, very frenetic, and very madcap—including the train going off the tracks, hitting a farm house, pushing it along, etc. All ends well, with a very funny bit as Harpo pounds the final “spike” for the railroad.
In all, I enjoyed Go West very much, as did my children, and hope that you do as well. I rate it 4 stars out of a possible 5.
Trivia about Go West starring the Marx Brothers
- The name of Groucho Marx’s character, “S. Quentin Quayle”, caused a stir when the film was first released due to the subtle but clear joke: the use of the term “San Quentin quail”, which means “jail bait”.
- The film opens with Horace Greely’s famous quotation: “Go West, Young Man, go west.”
- In Groucho’s first solo appearance in a film (without his brothers) he puts on the old mustache and tails again and performs a number called “Go West, Young Man.”
- The elaborate chase climax was going to be deleted before filming because MGM execs thought it was too expensive.
- Cast members Earl Covert, Phil Neely and Bob Priester are in studio records/casting call lists for this movie, all for ‘Specialty Bits in the “As If I Didn’t Know” Number’, but that song was not performed in the print shown on Turner Classic Movies (TCM). The song and its composers are credited onscreen, so its music may be included in the score, but it is not known if a production number was filmed and then cut, or simply not filmed at all.
Funny movie quotes from Go West starring the Marx Brothers
[Arriving at the railroad Station]
S. Quentin Quale (Groucho Marx): Any of you boys got change for ten cents?
S. Quentin Quale (Groucho Marx): Well, keep the baggage.
S. Quentin Quale (Groucho Marx): You love your brother, don’t you?
Joseph Panello (Chico Marx): No, but I’m used to him.
[as Quale destroys Rusty’s first hat]
Joseph Panello (Chico Marx): Hey whataya do with that hat; that hat cost a lotta money.
S. Quentin Quale (Groucho Marx): How much did it cost him?
Joseph Panello (Chico Marx): I dunno; he stole it.
S. Quentin Quale (Groucho Marx): There’s something corrupt going on around my pants but I just can’t seem to locate it.
S. Quentin Quale (Groucho Marx): Where have I seen your face before?
Joseph Panello (Chico Marx): Right where it is now.
S. Quentin Quale (Groucho Marx): Madam why that baby constantly crying?
Mother on Stagecoach: He can’t stand the jerks in the coach.
[Harpo and Chico get up to leave]
S. Quentin Quale (Groucho Marx): Lulubelle, it’s you! I didn’t recognize you standing up.
S. Quentin Quale (Groucho Marx): You know there’s a drunk sitting at the first table who looks exactly like you? And one who looks exactly like me. Dull, isn’t it?
S. Quentin Quale (Groucho Marx): [dramatically] Suppose I brought you back to my native land. What- what would my people say?
Drunk in Saloon: Burp.
S. Quentin Quale (Groucho Marx): Well, they’d phrase it more delicately.
S. Quentin Quale (Groucho Marx): Time wounds all heels.
S. Quentin Quale (Groucho Marx): You must fan the flames of love with the bellows of indifference.
S. Quentin Quale (Groucho Marx): Didn’t we meet at Monte Carlo the night you blew your brains out?
S. Quentin Quale (Groucho Marx): I give you my solemn word as an embezzler I’ll be back in ten minutes.
S. Quentin Quale (Groucho Marx): I’d have thrashed him to within an inch of his life, but I didn’t have a tape measure.
S. Quentin Quale (Groucho Marx): There’s only one law in the west: the law of blood and bullets. It’s either shoot or be shot. What are we gonna do?
Joseph Panello (Chico Marx): Sue ‘em!
S. Quentin Quale (Groucho Marx): [Obviously intoxicated, commenting on his glass having just been shot in half by Baxter] Less whiskey next time my glass can’t take it.
Joseph Panello (Chico Marx): My father-a shot the Indians in eighteen forty-two
S. Quentin Quale (Groucho Marx): Oh, he should-a shot the stork-a, when the stork-a brought-a you.
Red Baxter: I don’t like your faces.
S. Quentin Quale (Groucho Marx): I suppose you think we like ‘em.
S. Quentin Quale (Groucho Marx): I ask you, who swindled you out of Manhattan Island for $24?
Joseph Panello (Chico Marx): White man.
S. Quentin Quale (Groucho Marx): Who turned you into wood and stood you in front of a cigar store?
Joseph Panello (Chico Marx): White man.
S. Quentin Quale (Groucho Marx): Who put your head on a nickel and then took the nickel away?
Joseph Panello (Chico Marx): Slot machine.
[Indicating a gag around the train engineer’s mouth]
S. Quentin Quale (Groucho Marx): Did ya know this is the best gag in the picture?
S. Quentin Quale (Groucho Marx): [throwing a box of popcorn into the train’s boiler] Pop goes the diesel!
[Chico suggests telephoning for help]
S. Quentin Quale (Groucho Marx): Telephone? This is 1870. Don Ameche hasn’t invented the telephone yet!