AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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At the Circus
Alternate Title: Day at the Circus
Director: Edward Buzzell (Dir)
Release Date:   20 Oct 1939
Production Date:   began 22 May 1939
Duration (in mins):   87
Duration (in reels):   9
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Cast:   Groucho Marx (Attorney [J. Cheever] Loophole)  
    Chico Marx (Antonio)  
    Harpo Marx (Punchy)  
    Kenny Baker (Jeff Wilson)  
    Florence Rice (Julie Randall)  
    Eve Arden (Peerless Pauline)  
    Margaret Dumont (Mrs. [Suzanah] Dukesbury)  
    Nat Pendleton (Goliath)  
    Fritz Feld (Jardinet)  
    James Burke (John Carter)  
    Jerry Marenghi (Little Professor Atom)  
    Barnett Parker (Whitcomb)  
    Charles Gemora (Gibraltar)  
    Granville Bates (Judge)  
    Irving Bacon (Telephone operator)  
    John Dilson (Defense attorney)  
    Herbert Ashley (Detective Bludge)  
    Irene Colman (Girl on stand in courtroom)  
    Barlowe Borland (Thorndyke)  
    Emory Parnell (Ringmaster)  
    Henry Sylvester (Court clerk)  
    Frank Orth (Waiter)  
    Willie Best (Red Cap)  
    Forbes Murray (Captain)  
    Harry Hayden (Conductor)  
    Murdock MacQuarrie (Attendant)  
    Sidney Miller (Member of quartette)  
    Mickey Daniels (Member of quartette)  
    George Bookasta (Member of quartette)  
    Eugene Jackson (Member of quartette)  
    Byron Foulger (Meek defendant)  
    Mariska Aldrich (Mannish woman)  
    Matt McHugh (Taxi driver)  
    Buck Mack (Checker player)  
    Paul Borne (Vaudeville entertainer)  
    John Binns (Old man)  
    Henry Blair    
    Betsy Gay    
    Patricia Segar    
    Robert Winkler    
    Freddie Walburn    

Summary: Having foresaken a life of luxury in the mansions of Newport for the sawdust of the Wilson Wonder Circus, Jeff Wilson is now in danger of losing his beloved bigtop unless he can pay the $10,000 that he owes his partner, John Carter. Believing that an attorney can solve any problem, Antonio, a circus employee, sends for his old friend, attorney J. Cheever Loophole. Meanwhile, Carter, who does not want to reliquish his share of the circus, conspires with the strongman, Goliath, to rob the unsuspecting Jeff. After Goliath steals the money, Antonio, Loophole and Antonio's friend Punchy search for incriminating evidence, but Antonio bungles the investigation. Hence, when Loophole discovers that Jeff has a rich aunt, Suzanah Dukesbury, living in Newport, he decides to extract the money from her. Arriving on the eve of Mrs. Dukesbury's social extravaganza, Loophole is mistaken by the grand dame as a representative of the distinguished French conductor, Jardinet, who is to play at the party. Taking advantage of the situation, Loophole wheedles a $10,000 fee from the wealthy widow and telephones Jeff to bring the circus to Newport for a performance. As Mrs. Dukesbury awaits the arrival of the prestigious symphony, she is appalled to hear not the strings of Beethoven but the calliope of the circus. Carter then attempts to sabotage the circus one more time, but fails, and the show goes on. 

Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp. (Loew's, Inc.)
Distribution Company: Loew's Inc.  
Director: Edward Buzzell (Dir)
  Sandy Roth (Asst dir)
Producer: Mervyn LeRoy (Prod)
Writer: Irving Brecher (Scr)
Photography: Leonard M. Smith (Photog)
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons (Art dir)
  Stan Rogers (Art dir assoc)
Film Editor: William H. Terhune (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Edwin B. Willis (Set dec)
Costumes: Dolly Tree (Women's cost)
  Valles (Men's cost)
Music: Franz Waxman (Mus dir)
  Murray Cutter (Vocal and orch arr)
  George Bassman (Vocal and orch arr)
  Ken Darby (Vocal and orch arr)
Sound: Douglas Shearer (Rec dir)
Dance: Bobby Connolly (Dance dir)
Production Misc: A. J. Cantu (Tech adv)
  Anna Merkel (Tech adv)
  S. L. Cronin (Tech adv)
  Charles Stallings (Unit mgr)
Stand In: Evelyn Jurs (Singing voice double for Florence Rice)
Country: United States
Language: English

Songs: "Lydia the Tattooed Lady," "Two Blind Loves," "Step Up and Take a Bow" and "Swingali," words and music by E. Y. Harburg and Harold Arlen.
Composer: Harold Arlen
  E. Y. Harburg

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Loew's Inc. 10/10/1939 dd/mm/yyyy LP9173

PCA NO: 5616
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Sound System

 
Genre: Comedy
  Comedy
Sub-Genre: Carnival/Circus
  with songs
 
Subjects (Major): Circus owners
  Circuses
  Dowagers
  Lawyers
  Mistaken identity
  Partnership
 
Subjects (Minor): Aunts
  Conductors (Music)
  French
  Newport (RI)
  Orchestras
  Parties
  Robbery
  Sabotage
  Strong men

Note: The working titles of this picture were The Marx Brothers at the Circus and Day at the Circus . News items in HR note that Mervyn LeRoy hired magician A. J. Cantu, circus performer Anna Merkel and former circus manager S. L. Cronin as technical aides. 130 circus performers from the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus appeared in the circus sequences of this film. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Daily Variety   12 Oct 39   p. 3.
Film Daily   17 Nov 39   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   8 May 39   p. 22.
Hollywood Reporter   23 May 39   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   24 May 39   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   27 May 39   pp. 6-7.
Hollywood Reporter   27 Jun 39   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   13 Oct 39   p. 3.
Motion Picture Daily   17 Nov 39   p. 2.
Motion Picture Herald   15 Jul 39   p. 45.
Motion Picture Herald   21 Oct 39   p. 36.
New York Times   17 Nov 39   p. 17.
Variety   18 Oct 39   p. 14.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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