The Marx Brothers’ “Everyone Says ‘I Love You’” and Popular Music

Synopsis: Erin Elisavet Kozak, “The Marx Brothers’ ‘Everyone Says “I Love You’” in Film and Popular Music.” Published in The Discographer Magazine, vol. 3, no. 5 (April 2016): pp. 3-12.

When Peter Bogdanovich spoke with director Leo McCarey in the late 1960s about McCarey’s film Duck Soup (1933), Bogdanovich remarked: “A lot of people think it’s [the Marx Brothers’] best picture: there’s no harp or piano playing, no interludes, no love interest—those things slowed up their other comedies terribly…” The earlier Marx Brothers picture Horse Feathers (1932) contains all of the elements that Bogdanovich singles out as weaknesses, in particular musical interludes; but while many people might consider Duck Soup to be the Marx Brothers’ greatest cinematic achievement, the musical sequences in Horse Feathers, featuring Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby’s “Everyone Says ‘I Love You,’” boast some of their most memorable material.

In the first half of this article, I argue that the musical interludes of Horse Feathers, far from being superfluous distractions, convey statements about the universality of love that are incidentally not to be found elsewhere in the picture.  The interludes also play an integral part in developing our understanding of the four Marx Brothers, with their commitment to mayhem and their tendency to undermine serious statements, characters, and plot points.  The song “Everyone Says ‘I Love You’” is strongly associated with their characteristic brand of comedy, and yet interestingly it had a successful concurrent and independent life in recorded music in the hands of other artists.  In the second half of the article, I explore the particular challenges of transforming Kalmar and Ruby’s song into popular recordings; I focus on arrangements by Isham Jones (v. Eddie Stone, 1932), Henry Hall (v. Les Allen, 1932), Jay Wilbur (v. Louis Spiro, 1933), Anson Weeks (v. the Moreing Sisters, 1932), and Phil Harris (instrumental version, 1932).

For the full article, please see the April 2016 edition of The Discographer Magazine.