Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Four Nuts and a Fruit Cobbler

Lauren and I spent the last morning of her trip quietly watching Three Stooges shorts together. Lauren had a long trip ahead of her, and I'd had enough running around. Dad picked us up at quarter of 12. As it turns out, Lauren's fears of being late for the train were not only unfounded, they were a moot point. An announcer droned that the train to Philly was going to be 11 minutes late. I decided I didn't want to leave Dad waiting with the car still on and hugged my best friend "good-bye."

Spent the rest of the day very quietly. First on my agenda when I got home was figuring out what to do about my bike. The back tire deflated the day Lauren arrived. I'm going to need the bike for work tomorrow. I really do need a new tire, but I didn't feel like hiking all the way up to Haddonfield, especially since I'll be going there for counseling on Tuesday. I did manage to get the tire fixed and to replace the inner tube, once I got the chain back on and the tire pumped. The tire is still bald as an egg and will still need to be replaced, but it'll hopefully hold out until next week.

I went for a short bike ride around Oaklyn. It was a perfect day for it. Yesterday's clouds and humidity were replaced by a fresh, dry breeze, lots of sunshine, and temperatures in the lower 80s. Made quick stops at WaWa (for a Kiwi Strawberry Icee and to try that Limited Edition Nestle Crunch Coconut-Caramel Bar - good stuff) and CVS (didn't have what I was looking for.) I rode down Kendall, past Rose and Craig's house and through the developments. I saw many roving packs of kids enjoying their afternoon off from school (Oaklyn School kids won't be off completely until the end of this week), dog walkers taking their pooches for a stroll, and people mowing lawns and working on gardens bursting with color.

When I got home, I tried one of the recipes in that Better Homes and Gardens Dessert Book I picked up last week during our thrift shop trip. Most of the cake and cookie recipes are either too fattening or would take too much time, but some of the fruit desserts looked divine. I couldn't remember the last time I had a grunt or cobbler, so I whipped up a Peach-Berry Cobbler with fresh blueberries and strawberries and canned peaches.

Ran The Cocoanuts as I baked. The Marx Brothers' sound debut and debut as a unit is very, very much an early talkie musical. Groucho runs a failing hotel in Florida and hopes to get the wealthy Mrs. Potter (Margaret Dumont) to put money into his newest venture, a development in the swamps. Meanwhile, Mrs. Potter's daughter Polly (Pearl Eaton) is in love with a penniless architect (Oscar Shaw), but her mother would rather she married Yates (Cyril Ring). Turns out Yates and his associate (Kay Francis, in her second film) are jewel thieves who only want Mrs. Potter's diamond necklace. Harpo and Chico come into all this to wreck havoc on both Groucho's and the jewel thieves' schemes and reunite the lovers amid some pretty odd dance numbers.

If you like the Marxes and early talkie musicals, you may get a kick out of this. As in some of their later films, the singing ingenues were totally overwhelmed by the Marxes, Dumont, and their brand of lunacy. This was apparently intended to be even more of a musical, but most of Irvin Berlin's score was cut during previews. Considering that what remains is no great shakes, that's not a huge loss. If nothing else, it features Groucho and Chico's classic "Viaduct/Why a duck?" routine. Recommended for Marx Brothers fans who can handle the staginess and this being more overtly musical than usual (and the fact that Universal's print on DVD is not in great shape).

Went right into the bath after the Marxes finished and the Cobbler was out of the oven. It felt so wonderful after all the walking we did this week. I listened to my 20s RCA CD, read Simple Pleasures, and just enjoyed feeling the bubbles over my battered toes.

Did another Marx Brothers movie while eating tuna salad for dinner, then while baking my favorite Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies. (Lauren and I ate almost all of the strawberry ones I made a few days ago.) Monkey Business was the first Marx Brothers movie written directly for film, and it's unusual in a few ways. First of all, it's the only movie I can recall that had all the Brothers together as a team at the outset, instead of Groucho being in charge or a quack authority figure who comes in later. Second, it keeps the female ingenue (Ruth Hall), but gives Zeppo the male ingenue role. The quartet are here traveling as stowaways in pickled herring barrels on a trans-Atlantic cruise. After driving the ship's crew batty for the first half of the film, they spend the second half as bodyguards for a pair of gangsters as Groucho romances one of the gangster's wives (Thelma Todd). When the other gangster's daughter (Hall) is kidnapped, it's the Brothers to the rescue!

The early talkie staginess does still show here, but it's helped by better camerawork and direction. The plot is surprisingly strong for one of their films, especially when it more-or-less takes over in the second half. The Brothers playing announcers for the climatic fight scene is a riot. If you're a Marx Brothers fan, this is a must, and along with Duck Soup, not a bad place to start for newcomers who want to check out the Paramount/Universal Marx movies.

Oh, and Lauren dropped a line from the Yahoo!Messenger app on her smartphone about an hour ago. She was just rolling into the station. The train going to Philly was further held up by a bridge going up, but she had a two-hour layover in Philly, and there were otherwise no problems anywhere.

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