the greatest of all Marx Brothers scenes" (114). Groucho peers into what once was a mirror. As he slowly steps forward, his image appears, played by Harpo. Groucho begins to walk and jump and tiptoe back and forth across the mirror's frame. His image reflects back his movements. Then suddenly a second image of Groucho appears in the mirror, following Groucho's actions, and there are three Grouchos. The identity between self and self-image undergoes a Lacanian revelation: I am mysteriously more than any image of me. Clowns acknowledge their own incomplete self-images, and they laugh at and rejoice in their own limited vision, encouraging us to go and do likewise.
The Marx Brothers have always been popular, but during the iconoclastic 1960s their films began to receive even greater interest and sometimes near reverence, which continues today. Gehring notes four areas of comedy in which they are most influential: they demonstrate "the potential comic artistry of sound films" (118); they present the "complex, multifaceted nature" of twentiethcentury comedy (117); they serve as icons of so-called pure comedy and the antiestablishment spirit (110); and they are key figures in the antiheroic school of comedy and black comedy. Eugène Ionesco claimed that the brothers were the single greatest influence on his work.
Neither innovative formal culture nor fashionable popular culture has the powerful effect of the Marx Brothers. Their artistry merged formal and popular culture so that both the permanence of aesthetic design and the uniqueness of artistic implementation were immeasurably strengthened by one another.
See Gehring for complete filmography.
Animal Crackers. Dir. Victor Heerman. Paramount, 1930.
The Cocoanuts. Dir. Robert Florey and Joseph Santley. Paramount, 1929.
A Day at the Races. Dir. Sam Wood. MGM, 1937.
Duck Soup. Dir. Leo McCarey. Paramount, 1933.