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The Big Store

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Genre  Comedy, Musical
Language  English
6.6/10 IMDb

Director  Charles Reisner
Music director  Hal Borne, Georgie Stoll
The Big Store movie poster
Writer  Nat Perrin, Sid Kuller, Hal Fimberg, Ray Golden
Release date  June 20, 1941 (1941-06-20)
Screenplay  Sid Kuller, Nat Perrin, Ray Golden, Hal Fimberg
Cast  Groucho Marx (Wolf J. Flywheel), Chico Marx (Ravelli), Harpo Marx (Wacky), Tony Martin (Tommy Rogers), Virginia Grey (Joan Sutton), Margaret Dumont (Martha Phelps)
Similar movies  Birdman, Pitch Perfect 2, Aladdin, Frozen, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Straight Outta Compton
Tagline  Gorgeous Girls! Uproarious Fun! The Big Musical Show!

Private detectives Wolf J. Flywheel, Wacky and Ravelli (The Marx Brothers) are hired by the officious Martha Phelps (Margaret Dumont), co-owner of the Phelps Department Store. Her beloved nephew, Tommy (Tony Martin), has been assaulted, shortly after he announced plans to sell his share of the store. Unbeknownst to Martha, the culprit is her fiance, sleazy store manager Mr. Grover (Douglas Dumbrille), who wants Tommy dead before the sale exposes his years of fraud and theft.


The Big Store movie scenes

The Big Store (1941) is a Marx Brothers comedy film in which Groucho, Chico and Harpo work to save the Phelps Department Store, owned by Martha Phelps (Margaret Dumont). Groucho plays detective Wolf J. Flywheel, a character name originating from the Marx-Perrin radio show Flywheel, Shyster, and Flywheel in the early 1930s.

The Big Store was the last of five films the team made under contract to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and it was advertised as their final film. However, they would return to the screen in A Night in Casablanca (1946) and Love Happy (1949).

The Big Store co-starred long-time Marx Brothers foil Margaret Dumont as well as the love interests Tony Martin and Virginia Grey. The Big Store was Dumonts seventh and final film with the Marx Brothers. The villain was portrayed by Douglass Dumbrille, who had played a similar role in A Day at the Races.

Tagline: "Where everything is a good buy. Goodbye!"

The Marx brothers run havoc in a department store while protecting its owner.


The Phelps Department Store owner Hiram Phelps has died, leaving half-ownership in the business to his nephew, singer Tommy Rogers. The other half is owned by Hirams sister, Martha Phelps (Margaret Dumont), Tommys aunt. Rogers has no interest in running a department store, so he plans to sell his interest and use the money to build a music conservatory. Store manager Grover (Douglas Dumbrille) wants to kill Rogers before he can sell his share, marry the wealthy Martha, then kill her to become sole owner of the Phelps Department Store. Martha is highly suspicious, worried about Tommys safety lest anyone suspect her of foul play to take over the store. Against Grovers wishes she hires Wolf J. Flywheel (Groucho) as a floorwalker and bodyguard. Between Tommy wooing his sweetheart Joan (Virginia Grey) and Flywheel romancing Miss Phelps, the brothers eventually expose and thwart the plot to kill Tommy.

The big store 1941 official trailer 1 groucho marx movie hd

The film has two extended scenes, one of them in the stores bed department, which has all kinds of novel beds that come out of the walls. The second lengthy scene takes place near the end of the film: Groucho, Chico and Harpo escape their pursuers during a madcap chase through the entire store, using the elevator, a staircase, chandeliers, roller skates, a mail chute and a bicycle. This chase involves an unusual amount of Mack Sennett-type slapstick stunts for a Marx Brothers movie.

One gag breaks the fourth wall, during the "Sing While You Sell" sequence: while Groucho is narrating a fashion show, he asides "This is a bright red dress, but Technicolor is so expensive." Later in the film, Groucho breaks the fourth wall again when he comments "I told you in the first reel [Grover] was a crook."

Marx brothers the big store 1941 scene2

Musical numbers

As in the previous Marx Bros. MGM films, the movie contains elaborate musical numbers, such as the upbeat "Sing While You Sell," led by a singing, dancing Groucho; and the "Tenement Symphony" sung by Tony Martin and a childrens choir. The screenwriting team of Kuller, Golden, and Fimberg also supplied the lyrics to Hal Bornes original music. Also of note is that this is the second film in which an instrumental version of "Cosi-Cosa" from A Night at the Opera can be heard (playing during the moving bed scene), the first being A Day at the Races.

  • "If Its You"- Tony Martin (music & lyrics by Ben Oakland, Artie Shaw & Milton Drake)
  • "Sing While You Sell"- Groucho, Six Hits and a Miss, Virginia OBrien and Harpo as a drum-beating snake charmer
  • "Rock-a-bye Baby"- Virginia OBrien
  • "Mama Yo Quiero"- Chico and Harpo (piano duet)
  • "Mozarts Sonata in C major" - Harpo (harp)
  • "Beethovens Minuet" - Harpo (harp/cello/violin, although perhaps supplied by noted jazz violinist Georgie Stoll)
  • "Tenement Symphony"- Tony Martin, onstage choir and orchestra, featuring Chico and Harpo
  • Cast

  • Groucho Marx - Wolf J. Flywheel
  • Harpo Marx - Wacky
  • Chico Marx - Ravelli
  • Tony Martin - Tommy Rogers
  • Virginia Grey - Joan Sutton
  • Margaret Dumont - Martha Phelps
  • Douglas Dumbrille Mr. Grover
  • William Tannen - Fred Sutton
  • Henry Armetta - Giuseppi
  • Anna Demetrio - Maria
  • Marion Martin - Peggy Arden
  • Paul Stanton - Arthur Hastings
  • Russell Hicks - George Hastings
  • Bradley Page - Duke
  • Virginia OBrien - Kitty
  • Charles Lane - Finance Company Agent (Uncredited)
  • Six Hits and a Miss
  • Similar Movies

    Groucho Marx and Harpo Marx appear in The Big Store and A Day at the Races. Groucho Marx and Harpo Marx appear in The Big Store and A Night at the Opera. Groucho Marx and Harpo Marx appear in The Big Store and Animal Crackers. Groucho Marx and Harpo Marx appear in The Big Store and Duck Soup. Groucho Marx and Harpo Marx appear in The Big Store and At the Circus.


    The film made a profit of only $33,000. Nonetheless, it was among the more profitable Marx Brothers films of this time.


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