A Hint of Humor, a Dash of Cinnamon... in the Legal Conflict between Warner Brothers Studios and the Marx Brothers

Decent Essays

In the year 1947, legal conflict arose between Warner Brothers Studio and the Marx Brothers. It began when the Marx Brothers released the name of one of their upcoming films, A Night in Casablanca. When Warner Brothers claimed exclusive rights to the name “Casablanca,” Groucho Marx sent a letter to Warner Brothers in response. In spite of a few ambiguities, Marx employs a brilliant and clever combination of humor and logic to effectively refute Warner Brothers’s assertion. Throughout his letter, Marx uses his ever-present wit to dissolve any actual or imagined hostility in his addressee. For example, in one section, he says “I am sure that the average movie fan could learn tin time to distinguish between Ingrid Birdman [the female star of …show more content…

Marx’s argument here simply makes sense. Rather than befuddling legal jargon, he shows that the idea of owning “Casablanca” is absurd in the same way that owning the word “brothers” is absurd. His logic pierces through any uncertainty and effectively explains his point. He later arrives at the conclusion that “this attempt to prevent us from using the title is the brainchild of some ferret-faced shyster, serving a brief apprenticeship in your legal department” (Marx 2). Marx sees this inference as valid, logical reason for Warner Brothers’s interference. As such, he attempts to show the irrationality of any hindrance to the Marx Brothers’ planned film title. While Groucho Marx does have a number of potent and valid arguments, some poorly planned passages slightly diminish the overall effectiveness of his letter. A recurring issue, Marx’s tendency for rambling distracts the reader from his main goal. His references to Burbank Studio, “Old Man Burbank,” and Harry Appelbaum seem to have no pertinence to the intended subject. However, these are not major issues and can be ignored in order to find Marx’s true purpose. Even more powerful than either comedy or logic alone are instances in which both of these elements are used together in harmony with each other. To start off his letter, Marx makes this comment: “Apparently, there is more than one way of conquering a city and holding it as your own. For example, up to the

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