Arguably, the most renowned comedians to emerge into show business came from the ranks of vaudeville were the entertainers continuously poke and prod at the collective funny bones of their audiences, laughter literally became infectious. There are so many household names to emerge from the era like The Three Stooges, Laurel & Hardy, Lucille Ball, W.C. Fields, Buster Keaton, and The Marx Brothers. What's shocking is how few of their real-life stories are dramatized to see the people behind the comedy at work. So in the interest of hypotheticals, let's see why we're due for at least a Groucho Marx biopic and why actor-comedian Sacha Baron Cohen would be perfect for him. First, let's look at what's already been done with the aforementioned talents.
Groucho Marx: True Biopic or Original Performance
For the Three Stooges, there was made-for-television movie produced in 2000 by Mel Gibson and a theatrical evocation of the trio from the Farrellys with Sean Hayes, Chris Diamantopoulos and Will Sasso in the roles of Larry Fine, Moe, and Curly Howard in the 2012 film The Three Stooges. During the film's initial release, there was doubt how the film would turn out since it's three completely different actors playing the roles of the real-life trio, who played a fictionalized version of themselves in an original story. Confused? Hayes, Diamantopoulos, and Sasso evoked Larry, Moe, and Curly as actors playing other actors who play fictionalized versions of themselves. The Farrelly brothers and 20th Century Studios banked on the trio doing impressions of the Stooges in an original non-biographical film.
As much as there was interest in creating new original content with beloved figures, it might just be best to stick to animation. After all, Warner Bros decided to reboot Looney Tunes without the original actors and creative minds that made the franchise as popular as they had for decades. The story of comedians Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy was recently made into a biopic with Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly playing the duo, respectively, in Stan & Ollie in 2018. With any biopic, some creative liberties are often added or changed to build dramatic tension. While Stan & Ollie was designed more to be a straight biopic, the film was a hit critically and its limited release making more than doubling its budget.
Ball was one of the funniest comediennes of all time best known for her TV work on her various sitcoms, most famously I Love Lucy with husband, Desi Arnaz. Her story is not only interesting for her long career in Hollywood empowering women in the industry like never before, but her role as producer co-owning Desilu with Arnaz also made her a creative force to be reckoned with. Without Ball, there is NO Star Trek. Ball's biopic is slated to be dramatized into the film from Aaron Sorkin with Cate Blanchet attached to star…as of 2015. There hasn't been any news since of the working title Lucy and Desi. There was a W.C. Fields biopic that focused on the last 14 years of the comedian's life called W.C. Fields and Me (1976) with Rob Steiger in the title role. The film hasn't been released for home video due to Fields' grandson and his status as a Californian judge. For Keaton, the closest to a biopic is the 2018 documentary The Great Buster, which chronicled the actor's success through the silent era.
Why is the time right for Cohen to play Groucho? From Marx's perspective, you seldom find another actor who thinks as quickly on his feet. I can only imagine what the actor-comedian faced in both World Wars, feel an obligation to carry his brothers in their films. One can also argue Ryan Reynolds to play Groucho, but if you take a side-by-side comparison, it's hard to deny the resemblance. If not Cohen, then who would you suggest? Who would you suggest to play his brothers?
This post is part of a multi-part series: Where's My Biopic.