Zoo in Budapest
Cast & Crew
Rowland V. Lee
O. P. Heggie
One afternoon at the Budapest Zoo, Katrina, a governess, shows the animals to her cousins Freda and Paul Vandor; Count Adolf chides Countess Felicia about her disgust for the animals' smell; Rajah the elephant sprays Sultan the tiger with water; and Zeppo, a sick chimpanzee, is taken from his mate Maria to the hospital. When Dr. Grunbaum, the zoo's director-general, is confronted by an irate patron whose skunk fur was stolen the previous week, Grunbaum knows at once the identity of the culprit: Zani, the son of the late headkeeper, who has grown up in the zoo and hates the world outside and its people. Zani admits that he took the fur and says that he burned it because people should not kill animals and wear their fur. The kindhearted Grunbaum gives Zani another chance, to the disgust of Grunbaum's strict assistant, Garbosh. As Miss Murst, the leader of a group of orphan girls, lectures her charges about the animals, Eve, who has just turned eighteen and is about to be sent from the orphanage to a tannery to work for five years, is encouraged by her friend Rosita to escape. At the lion's cage, Zani pretends to speak to the lions, but Eve knows that his words to the lion are really dares for her to escape because he has been surreptitiously speaking to her like this for weeks. As the girls are crossing a bridge to leave, Eve gives a signal, and one of them dives into the water to create a diversion which allows Eve to hide. Unaware of Eve's escape, Zani overhears Countess Felicia ask Count Adolf to buy a fox she sees so that she can have its fur. In anger, Zani steals the fur the countess is wearing. As the zoo closes, Paul, unhappy that he has not been able to ride the elephant, sneaks away from Katrina and hides. Miss Murst and Katrina both notify the zoo guards about their missing charges, as Countess Felicia and Count Adolf report the theft of the fur. Dr. Grunbaum sadly tells Garbosh to turn Zani over to the police. Learning that Eve is missing, Zani finds her on an island on the zoo grounds, and they wait together until nightfall. He then kisses her and leads her to an abandoned bear pit. Zani goes to get food and, seeing that Zeppo is not responding to treatment, advises the doctor to bring Maria, who then gives Zeppo mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Zani brings food and Mimi, a monkey, to Eve, but rebukes her when she says she has been thinking that they might marry. He then reassures her that he likes her, and as they embrace, they hear Paul approach in tears. While Mimi entertains Paul, Heinie, a brutish attendant whom Zani earlier fought, discovers them. Zani chases Heinie, but when he hears Garbosh say that he plans to search the bear pit, Zani, to protect Eve and Paul, gives himself up. Heinie returns to Eve and tries to kiss her, but Zani, hearing her scream, breaks free and fights Heinie. Zani and Eve are then caught, while Paul and Mimi wander into a building where Ferenc, a guard, had been earlier locked into a cage by Heinie. Ferenc instructs Paul to open his cage, but Paul mistakenly opens Sultan's cage instead. Paul hides in a little opening under the cage while the tiger jumps onto the back of Rajah and scratches him. Rajah breaks through a door and calls the other elephants, who knock over many cages. Lions, tigers, monkeys, elephants, bears and porcupines run rampant. Although a sympathetic guard lets Zani and Eve escape, when Zani hears Paul's cries, he rescues him and Mimi, with Rajah's help, but he is severely scratched by a leopard. Afterwards, Zani marries Eve, and as they plan to live together in a cottage on the estate of Paul's parents, taking care of their animals, Eve expresses her long-felt hope that now they can live like other people.
Rowland V. Lee
O. P. Heggie
Louis De Francesco
Jesse L. Lasky
Rowland V. Lee
E. Clayton Ward
Zoo in Budapest
True to its title, Zoo in Budapest takes place in the capital of Hungary - as envisioned by Twentieth Century-Fox, of course, which makes it about as authentic as the Budapest cooked up by MGM for The Shop Around the Corner in 1940 or the Poland concocted by United Artists for To Be or Not to Be in 1942. The action transpires almost entirely at the city zoo, presided over by sedate Dr. Grunbaum, who has plenty of things to take care of: one of the monkeys is gravely ill, the tiger keeper is feuding with the elephant keeper, and a young employee named Zani loves all of the animals so much that his loyalty is stirring up trouble.
Zani has deep roots in the zoo community. His father was a zookeeper who died after being mauled by a lion, whereupon he was taken in and raised by Dr. Grunbaum, who taught him everything there is about caring for animals. Zani learned his lessons all too well, developing such great compassion that every time a visitor arrives wearing a garment made of fur, he finds a way to steal and burn it as a protest. Reluctantly deciding that Zani must face punishment under the law if he persists, Dr. Grunbaum extracts a promise from the irrepressible youth that he'll never, ever do this again. No sooner does Zani give his word, however, than he overhears a woman telling her husband that she simply must have another fox pelt to match the one she's wearing. This is more than the lad can bear. Snatching the lady's fur right off her shoulders, he becomes a fugitive, hiding from justice inside the zoo that he calls home.
There's a love angle too, of course. A group of orphans visits the zoo under the surveillance of a guardian more strict and stern than the people who guard the lions and bears. One of the young women is Eve, who's just reached the age when she'll have to leave the institution and do years of obligatory work in a nasty old tannery. Eve has a crush on Zani, and with help from another girl she escapes from the group, disappearing into the shrubbery, and waiting there for the man of her dreams, who promptly falls for her. They conceal themselves in an abandoned bear shelter. But since half the people in Budapest are hunting for Zani and the other half are searching for Eve, their position is precarious at best. Even worse, Zani has a bitter enemy - the hyena keeper, Heinie by name - and all will be lost if he discovers their den. Also present is a little boy in a fancy suit, who has slipped away from his parents and gotten lost. He touches off the climax when he tries to help a zookeeper who has gotten locked in a cage, pulling the wrong lever and causing a zoo-wide animal riot.
The movie's secondary characters are walking Hollywood clichés - the bearded Dr. Grunbaum, the sour orphanage matron, the ill-shaven Heinie, and so on. The same goes for Eve, played by Loretta Young as a pert and pretty stereotype, albeit an extremely fetching one. Zani stands out conspicuously from the crowd, however, thanks to Raymond's energetic acting. Using his whole body to express Zani's exuberant personality and emotions, Raymond cavorts around the set like one of the zoo's monkeys, vaulting over fences and clambering up cages like a born acrobat. He serves as a living link between the human and animal characters, and is always a pleasure to watch.
Zoo in Budapest also benefits from clever touches provided by director Rowland V. Lee and his crew, especially in the idyllic scenes showing Zani and Eve in their Eden-like garden. Here the cinematography turns almost dreamlike - credit the gifted Lee Garmes for this - and Harold Schuster's editing brings flora, fauna, and lovers into a gentle flow of images. This portion of the film works considerably better than the climax, which tries desperately to be thrilling but doesn't quite succeed. The problem is obvious budget limitations that necessitate clunky process shots and tricky editing in place of visually convincing hand-to-hand, or rather fang-to-claw, excitement.
Released a year before Production Code censors took on full power in June 1934, Zoo in Budapest manages to be a little racy from time to time - either enticingly, as when Eve changes clothes in the vegetation, or harshly, as when Heinie tries to rape Eve in the bear shelter. It also anticipates today's animal-rights crusades, and anti-fur activists will find it very sympathetic to their cause. The picture was released eight years before the Animal Humane Association started monitoring the treatment of nonhuman movie actors, however, and while there's no footage of obvious abuse, one can't help wondering how carefully the film's many animals were protected, especially during the free-for-all that climaxes the story.
To finish with a more offbeat concern about the picture, a friend who knows a lot about hyenas tells me they're actually brave and imposing beasts, not the scavengers and cowards they're made out to be in so much pop culture. Zoo in Budapest perpetuates false notions of hyenas by picturing them as creepy and associating them with Heinie, the zoo's most craven and devious keeper - and not even Zani comes to their defense. So let's hear it, hyena lovers! Enjoy the rest of Zoo in Budapest, but raise your voices against Hollywood's injustice toward these noble beasts!
Director: Rowland V. Lee
Producer: Jesse L. Lasky
Screenplay: Dan Totheroh, Louise Long, and Rowland V. Lee; story by Melville Baker and Jack Kirkland
Cinematographer: Lee Garmes
Film Editing: Harold Schuster
Art Direction: William Darling
With: Loretta Young (Eve), Gene Raymond (Zani), O.P. Heggie (Dr. Grunbaum), Wally Albright (Paul Vandor), Paul Fix (Heinie), Murray Kinnell (Garbosh), Ruth Warren (Katrina), Roy Stewart (Karl), Frances Rich (Elsie), Niles Welch (Mr. Vandor), Lucille Ward (Miss Murst), Russ Powell (Toski), Dorothy Libaire (Rosita)
by David Sterritt
Zoo in Budapest
This was Jesse L. Lasky's first production for Fox. According to news items, James Cruze was originally scheduled to direct this film, but because he was busy with Tars and Feathers, which was released as Sailor, Be Good!, Lasky signed Rowland V. Lee. According to information in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department at the UCLA Theater Arts Library, Fox contracted with I. S. Horne of San Marino, CA for the rental of 311 animals and birds for the film. Variety commented, "Seemingly what Lasky has tried to do is to make a picture which has in it something of the strange fascination of romance and atmosphere of Liliom (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30; F2.3093) and at the same time an element of Hollywood punch. He has gotten both things and they don't blend." According to Daily Variety, in July 1962, officials at Twentieth Century-Fox discussed the possibility of having an updated screenplay written, but no remake has been produced. According to modern sources, Loretta Young was borrowed from Warner Bros., and Tom Ricketts was in the cast.
Released in United States 1933
Released in United States 1974
Released in United States 1933
Released in United States 1974 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition (A Tribute to the Art of Cinematography) March 28 - April 9, 1974)