Many Marx Brothers film consider Love Happy their worst, but Harpo has always been my favorite brother, and as this film mainly centers around him, it is not really possible for me to hate it. There is of course the famous appearance by Marilyn Monroe, who leaves an impression despite being on screen less than one minute. (Marilyn: “Some men are following me.” Groucho: “I can’t see why.”) Her involvement in the film makes it a link between the world of ‘30s Hollywood, the world of Duck Soup and A Night at the Opera, and of the ‘50s, the era of The Seven Year Itch and Some Like it Hot.
Love Happy was originally conceived as a solo vehicle for Harpo, with the early story drawn up by Harpo’s pal, screenwriter Ben Hecht. Chico came on board because he wanted to keep working, and, as usual, needed money to pay of gambling debts. Groucho took a role as a private detective who also narrates the story, but doesn’t have any scenes with his brothers. It is unclear at what stage exactly Chico and Groucho were included, but their addition essentially ruined the film. Since the beginning, the Marx Brothers essentially played the same characters in every play and movie they made, with minor adjustments to suit the story at hand. Love Happy is mainly all about Harpo, which is not a bad thing, but Groucho and Chico are left with very little to do.
The rather tired plot has to do with a penniless but spirited theatrical troupe trying to put on a show, and one Madame Egilichi, who is searching for some priceless diamonds that were smuggled into the country in a can of sardines that Harpo shoplifts and gives to the actors for lunch. Raymond Burr, in an early film appearance, plays one of her thugs.
Other than Monroe’s fleeting appearance, there are no stand-out scenes, but there is plenty of Harpo’s pantomime, which can’t be a bad thing.