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The Big Store

The Big Store (1941) starring the Marx Brothers – Groucho, Chico, Harpo – Margaret Dumont, Tony Martin

In the department store, Harpo acts as a snake charmer while Groucho and the crowd looks on in The Big Store

In the department store, Harpo acts as a snake charmer while Groucho and the crowd looks on in The Big Store

In  The Big Store — which was intended to be the final Marx Brothers movie, but thankfully wasn’t — the basic plot has a musical composer (Tony Martin) inherits half interest in a large department store (the “big store” of the title) — and is under a death threat from unscrupulous businessmen. His friend and piano instructor, Ravelli (Chico Marx) has the “famous” lawyer,  Wolf J. Flywheel (Groucho Marx) and his brother Wacky (Harpo Marx) to help protect him.

Groucho Marx sleeping on the job in the bed department in The Big Store

Groucho Marx sleeping on the job in the bed department in The Big Store

This is all really just an excuse for the Marx Brothers to cause mayhem in the toyland that is a large department store — and for Groucho to romance rich Margaret Dumont one last time. Some of the routines are hilarious (such as the scene in the bedroom department, where people keep losing their kids) — others don’t, and the zany ending probably goes on too long. In addition, there are some extended musical numbers that don’t advance the story and could be totally cut from the film without affecting the flow of the story.

Harpo, Groucho and Chico develop the photograph that reveals the villain's identity in The Big Store

Harpo, Groucho and Chico develop the photograph that reveals the villain’s identity in The Big Store

In all, I’m glad that  The Big Store wasn’t their swan song — A Night in  Casablanca was a much better attempt at that.

The Big Store is available on DVD as part of  The Marx Brothers Collection.

Funny movie quotes from  The Big Store

Woman Shopper: [to Flywheel lying on a bed] Can you tell me the price of this bed?
Wolf J. Flywheel (Groucho Marx): $8000
Shopper: Why that’s preposterous! I can get the same bed anywhere in town for $25.
Wolf J. Flywheel (Groucho Marx): Yes, but not with me in it!

Martha Phelps (Margaret Dumont): Tell me, Wolfie dear, will we have a beautiful home?
Wolf J. Flywheel (Groucho Marx): Of course. You’re not planning on moving, are you?
Martha Phelps (Margaret Dumont): No, but, uh, I’m afraid after we’re married awhile, a beautiful young girl will come along, and, uh, you’ll forget all about me.
Wolf J. Flywheel (Groucho Marx): Don’t be silly. I’ll write you twice a week.

Mr. Grover (Douglas Dumbrille): If Ms. Phelps were not my fiancée, I would turn in my resignation and walk out of this store for good!
Martha Phelps (Margaret Dumont): Oh no, no…
Wolf J. Flywheel (Groucho Marx): Fiancée?
Martha Phelps (Margaret Dumont): Yes.
Wolf J. Flywheel (Groucho Marx): You mean a woman of your culture and money and beauty and money and wealth and money would, would marry that imposter?

Ravelli (Chico Marx): I take-a your picture. Hey! Look at me and laugh.
Wolf J. Flywheel (Groucho Marx): I’ve been doing that for 20 years.

[Wolf is about to propose to Martha]
Wolf J. Flywheel (Groucho Marx): Martha, dear, there are many bonds that will hold us together through eternity.
Martha Phelps (Margaret Dumont): Really, Wolf? What are they?
Wolf J. Flywheel (Groucho Marx): Your government bonds, your savings bonds, your liberty bonds …

Wolf J. Flywheel (Groucho Marx): [Flywheel has mistaken the Hastings brothers for the killers and handcuffed them] There you are. I give you the killers.
Tommy Rogers (Tony Martin): Why, it’s the Hastings brothers, the men who are going to buy the store.
Wolf J. Flywheel (Groucho Marx): Gentlemen, I’m terribly sorry, but it’s really not my fault. You certainly do look like crooks.

Wolf J. Flywheel (Groucho Marx): [In “Sing While You Sell” number] Come on, Wacky: Nagasaki!

Guiseppi: [to Wacky] Hey, pressa’ the grapes – no pressa’ my wife!

Trivia for  The Big Store

  • The Marx Brothers announced that this would be their last film, but they actually went on to make two more.
  • The final teaming of The Marx Brothers with Margaret Dumont.
  • This is the only film of The Marx Brothers where Harpo Marx is initially teamed with Groucho Marx instead of Chico Marx.
  • This is the only one of The Marx Brothers films to ever feature Chico Marx and Harpo Marx perform a piano duet.
  • Tony Martin’s “Tenement Symphony” was later razzed by Groucho Marx as “the most godawful thing I’d ever heard.”
  • This is the only Marx Bros. film where Harpo plays the harp twice.
  • British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was watching a private screening of this film when he received news that Nazi second-in-command Rudolf Hess had flown to Britain on an unauthorized mission to end the conflict between Britain and Germany during World War II. Churchill decided that the news was so unimportant he ignored it, went back into his screening room and watched the rest of the movie


Computer nerd by day, professional clown on evenings and weekends (Raynbow), who combines the two by maintaining a bunch of websites dedicated to the history and performances of clowning, such as Free Clown Skits, and comedy such as Best Clean Funny Jokes.

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