Room Service (1938)

76 or 78 mins | Comedy | 30 September 1938

Director:

William A. Seiter

Writer:

Morrie Ryskind

Cinematographer:

J. Roy Hunt

Editor:

George Crone

Production Designer:

Van Nest Polglase

Production Company:

RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Full page view
HISTORY

The opening title card reads: "RKO Radio Pictures, Inc. presents the Marx Brothers in Room Service ." According to a Jun 1937 HR 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 Jun 1938 HR 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 HR 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 Jul 1938 HR news item states that Fritz Feld left the cast of Room Service to appear in Paramount's ... More Less

The opening title card reads: "RKO Radio Pictures, Inc. presents the Marx Brothers in Room Service ." According to a Jun 1937 HR 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 Jun 1938 HR 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 HR 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 Jul 1938 HR 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 Jun 1938 and that the script was not finished until 25 Jul 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. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
6 Sep 38
p. 3.
Film Daily
14 Sep 38
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Jun 37
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
4 May 38
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
31 May 38
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Jun 38
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Jun 38
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Jul 38
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Aug 38
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Sep 38
p. 3.
Motion Picture Daily
8 Sep 38
p. 5.
Motion Picture Herald
13 Aug 38
p. 65.
Motion Picture Herald
10 Sep 38
p. 58.
New York Times
22 Sep 38
p. 27.
Variety
14 Sep 38
p. 15.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
Pandro S. Berman in charge of production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst to the dir
WRITERS
Contr wrt
Contr wrt
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir assoc
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATOR
Set dresser
COSTUMES
Gowns
MUSIC
Mus dir
SOUND
MAKEUP
STAND INS
Stand-in
Stand-in
Stand-in
Stand-in
Stand-in
Stand-in
Stand-in
Stand-in
Stand-in
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play Room Service by John Murray and Allen Boretz, as produced by George Abbott (New York, 19 May 1937).
DETAILS
Release Date:
30 September 1938
Production Date:
27 Jun--3 Aug 1938
Copyright Claimant:
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
23 September 1938
Copyright Number:
LP8346
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Victor System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
76 or 78
Country:
United States
PCA No:
4455
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Gordon Miller, a penniless theatrical producer, is told by brother-in-law Joseph Gribble, the manager of the White Way Hotel, that he and his cast of twenty-two actors, who have run up a bill of $1,200, have to leave the hotel immediately or face the wrath of supervising director Gregory Wagner. As Gordon and his faithful but broke friend Binelli prepare to slip out of the hotel wearing Gordon's entire wardrobe, Christine Marlowe, a secretary and aspiring actress, telephones to say that she has found a backer for Gordon's show, Hail and Farewell . Immediately after receiving this good news, Gordon, Binelli and Faker Englund, another faithful friend, are joined by Leo Davis, the near penniless author of Hail and Farewell . Soon after, Wagner, who is furious at Gribble for apparently allowing Gordon to escape without paying, inspects Gordon's room and discovers that the producer and Binelli are still there. In spite of Gordon's promises that money is on the way, Wagner orders the duo to pay their bill or be arrested. While Wagner is alerting the hotel bouncers, Simon Jenkins, the investing agent of an unnamed wealthy man, comes to the room and tells Gordon that his employer will invest $15,000 in Hail and Farewell if a certain young woman is cast in a role. Gordon eagerly agrees to the terms, and Jenkins promises to return with a contract the next morning. Determined to stay in their room for another night, Gordon, Binelli and Faker convince Davis, who has since fallen in love with hotel employee Hilda Manny, to fake an attack of measles. Although Davis' iodine measles fool Wagner ... +


Gordon Miller, a penniless theatrical producer, is told by brother-in-law Joseph Gribble, the manager of the White Way Hotel, that he and his cast of twenty-two actors, who have run up a bill of $1,200, have to leave the hotel immediately or face the wrath of supervising director Gregory Wagner. As Gordon and his faithful but broke friend Binelli prepare to slip out of the hotel wearing Gordon's entire wardrobe, Christine Marlowe, a secretary and aspiring actress, telephones to say that she has found a backer for Gordon's show, Hail and Farewell . Immediately after receiving this good news, Gordon, Binelli and Faker Englund, another faithful friend, are joined by Leo Davis, the near penniless author of Hail and Farewell . Soon after, Wagner, who is furious at Gribble for apparently allowing Gordon to escape without paying, inspects Gordon's room and discovers that the producer and Binelli are still there. In spite of Gordon's promises that money is on the way, Wagner orders the duo to pay their bill or be arrested. While Wagner is alerting the hotel bouncers, Simon Jenkins, the investing agent of an unnamed wealthy man, comes to the room and tells Gordon that his employer will invest $15,000 in Hail and Farewell if a certain young woman is cast in a role. Gordon eagerly agrees to the terms, and Jenkins promises to return with a contract the next morning. Determined to stay in their room for another night, Gordon, Binelli and Faker convince Davis, who has since fallen in love with hotel employee Hilda Manny, to fake an attack of measles. Although Davis' iodine measles fool Wagner into postponing the group's eviction, the four men are soon overcome by hunger. While Faker goes out to hunt turkeys, Russian emigre Sasha Smirnoff, a waiter in the hotel grill, agrees to steal the quartet some food if they cast him in the show. Before the food arrives, however, Timothy Hogarth, an employee of the We Never Sleep Collection Agency, shows up at the door looking for Davis, whose typewriter the agency wants to repossess. Gordon and Binelli convince Hogarth that Davis, who is hiding in the bed, lost his mind and took the typewriter with him to an insane asylum. After Hogarth leaves, Faker returns with a live turkey, which quickly flies out of the window, and Sasha shows up with the pilfered hotel food. His stomach now full, Davis leaves the room to meet Hilda, forcing Faker to impersonate him when Wagner and Gribble arrive with the hotel physician, Dr. Glass. After an unsuccessful try at examining Faker, Dr. Glass threatens to expose the group but is tied up and locked in the bathroom before Jenkins shows up with the contract. As Jenkins is about to sign over his employer's check to Gordon, Wagner bursts into the room and screams threats at the producer. Upset by the ensuing commotion, Jenkins, who has revealed that the backer is California millionaire Zachary Fiske, refuses to sign the check and, in his haste to leave, accidentally opens the bathroom door. Having overheard Jenkins while in the bathroom, Dr. Glass tells Wagner that Fiske is backing Gordon's show, and Wagner quickly assures a still stunned Jenkins that Gordon is indeed reliable. After Jenkins signs the check and leaves, Wagner insists that Gordon deposit the money in the hotel bank. The group's joy at solvency is soon squashed, however, when Davis returns and announces that Jenkins is going to stop payment on the check. Knowing that the check will take a week to clear at the bank, Gordon suggests that they cash it at the hotel and mount the play within the week. Moments before the show is to open, Wagner learns about the bounced check and prepares to have Gordon and his friends arrested and the play stopped. As a stall, both Faker and Davis stage suicides, distracting Wagner long enough for the play to prove itself a hit. While Wagner, Gordon, Faker and Binelli celebrate their impending financial success, Davis and Hilda celebrate their impending marriage. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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