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Room Service

Room Service(1938)

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The opening title card reads: "RKO Radio Pictures, Inc. presents the Marx Brothers in Room Service." According to a June 1937 Hollywood Reporter news item, RKO purchased John Murray and Allen Boretz' stage play for $255,000. Room Service was the first and only Marx Brothers film that was not written originally as a vehicle for them. Screenwriter Morrie Ryskind rewrote the stage play somewhat to highlight the brothers' style of comedy. Donald MacBride, Philip Loeb, Philip Wood, Alexander Asro and Cliff Dunstan appeared in the original Broadway production. Loeb played "Harry Binion" in that production, the role that was rewritten by Ryskind for Chico Marx. The other actors recreated their stage roles for the film. A June 1938 Hollywood Reporter news item announced that Charles Halton was "repeating" his Broadway role for the film. Halton May have performed in the stage play, but he did not appear with the original Broadway cast. Jack Byrne played the part of "Timothy Hogarth" in the original Broadway production and was slated to perform in the film, but RKO production files indicate that he was replaced by Philip Loeb. Production files also note that Leonid Kinskey was to appear as "Sasha Smirnoff," but left the production to do retakes on an M-G-M film. A May 1938 Hollywood Reporter news item announced Loeb as the film's dialogue director. It is not known if he performed that task in addition to assisting director William Seiter. A July 1938 Hollywood Reporter news item states that Fritz Feld left the cast of Room Service to appear in Paramount's Campus Confessions. Although the brothers and a dubbed Frank Albertson sing parts of songs, including "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," no full-blown musical numbers were included in the film.
       Modern sources note that the original name of the play-within-the-play-God's Speed-had to be changed to Hail and Farewell to appease film censors. In a modern interview, Groucho made the following remarks about Room Service: "So they [RKO] came to us and paid us a lot of money. I think it May have been $150,000.00 each. We accepted on the condition that the picture be shot in four weeks." Another modern source claims that the Marx Brothers were paid a total of $250,000, a deal engineered by their brother, agent Zeppo Marx. Modern sources state that rehearsals for the film were conducted in June 1938 and that the script was not finished until July 25, 1938, a month into production. The film lost $340,000 at the box office, according to modern sources. RKO remade the play in 1944 as Step Lively, a musical starring Frank Sinatra and directed by Tim Whelan.