Marx Brothers' Rights Settled16 Apr, 2004 By: Fred Topel
Warner Bros. Home Video is releasing The Marx Brothers Collection on May 4 with seven films previously unavailable on DVD. Films produced by MGM like A Night at the Opera and A Day at the Races make their DVD debut under Warner banner. Bill Marx, son of Harpo Marx, said that it took many years to settle the rights to the films owned by the families of Groucho, Harpo and Chico.
“For the past seven or eight years … each estate has had their own rights and everybody would have to come to the Marx Brothers and negotiate with each individual estate,” Marx said. “That no longer occurs now. They just come to one of us and we do the negotiation for the Marx Brothers. And if they just want one person, they go to that particular estate. It was all cleared up legally in the year 2000 or 2001. We're all happy campers and it's just taken a while for merchandisers and people to recognize that they can come to us now. It's a one stop, no hassle deal and we're just thrilled [to bring the movies] to DVD now, long overdue as far as I'm concerned.”
While legal matters were being settled, the films had to be restored.
“As you know, everything takes time. It took Warner time to clean up and redigitalize and remaster all of these films to make them look beautiful,” said Marx. “I understand that they really did a beautiful job on Night at the Opera and Day at the Races which required special attention because the [film prints] had been used so much that they had to really fix them up nicely.”
Marx was not interviewed for the DVD extra features, but he joked that it could be better to keep some of his stories to himself. “Maybe it's just as well they didn't because I tell a lot of stories in my speaking engagements and I probably would dilute my product if I did an interview.”
Other Marx Brothers movies like Duck Soup and Monkey Business were released on DVD by companies like Image Entertainment. Marx hopes the special edition releases of the Warner Bros. titles will encourage a more detailed re-release of other studios' films. “I'll bet you that they'll be coming out again. They'll re-release all of that, now that Warner is coming out with the MGM [titles] and the other things. I'll be surprised if Universal doesn't follow suit very soon.”
In addition to the Marx Brothers fans who will buy the DVD set, Marx also hopes that a new generation of fans will discover his family's legacy.
“I just hope we can introduce the Marx Brothers in the 21st century with this package and do a lot more things with the brothers and their approach toward humor which is unique.”