Director: Frank Telford
Screenwriter: George Panetta, William Whitman
Starring: Conrad Nagel, Chico Marx, Argentina Brunetti
Runtime: 30 Minutes
Rating: 3 Stars
Chaos erupts in the Romani apartment when Papa has a telephone installed. Superstitious Mama hates the idea because it means people will call with bad news of people dying. Neighbors invading to use the new device include a bookie; his illegal enterprise results in Papa being arrested. – From IMDB
Part of a collection of Public Domain, low budget TV dramas starring the Marx brothers, Papa Romani was both vaguely entertaining, and kind of underwhelming at the same time. As a rule I find the Marx Brothers brand of humour to be pretty funny. I love a lot of their feature length films, and watch them quite a lot. But the writing here doesn’t really give anyone involved enough of an opportunity to showcase their talents, and so while Chico Marx does his best to bring the character of Papa to life, and is easily the funniest thing on screen, I was disappointed in how little it actually made me laugh.
Rampant Italian stereotyping aside, and trust me, it is rampant, the main jokes revolve around the Italian family not understanding how the telephone works and constantly being asked to use it by their annoying neighbours. Margaret Hamilton who plays Papa’s upstairs neighbour was my favourite character of all, and probably the one who entertained me the most, being constantly waiting for a call from the hospital and promptly hanging up on anyone else who called even though it isn’t her phone. The bookie was interesting, but the joke kind of falls flat if you aren’t aware of the illegality of his actions, so that hasn’t aged all that well.
The finger gag, with Mama constantly getting her thumb stuck in the phone and literally thinking they were going to have to cut her arm off got old really really fast. The shrieking and yelling that accompanied it every time was unnecessary and tiresome.
For a quick little sketch it isn’t really that bad, but definitely not one I have bookmarked to watch again.
Watch below if you are interested: