23 April 2010

Omer 24: Brothers Under the Skin

Omer Day Twenty-Four

The continuation of the laughable tale about the Park Slope Food Co-Op contemplating taking legal action with Barney's Coop over the use of the term "coop" brings to mind a classic exchange, long forgotten, no doubt in this age of people's faces stuck to screens for laughter and entertainment, when Groucho Marx and Warner Brothers were embroiled in conflict over use of the title, "A Night in Casablanca," a title which Warner Brothers infamously opined would violate its rights with regard to the Bogart-Bergman classic "Casablanca."

To celebrate comic genius and literacy, here are some gems from that exchange--all in Groucho's voice.
I just don't understand your attitude. Even if you plan on re-releasing your picture, I am sure that the average movie fan could learn in time to distinguish between Ingrid Bergman and Harpo. I don't know whether I could, but I certainly would like to try.

He then writes:
You claim you own Casablanca and that no one else can use that name without your permission. What about "Warner Brothers?" Do you own that, too? You probably have the right to use the name Warner, but what about Brothers? Professionally, we were brothers long before you were. We were touring the sticks as The Marx Brothers when Vitaphone was still a gleam in the inventor's eye, and even before us there had been older brothers--the Smith Brothers; the Brothers Karamazov; Dan Brothers, an outfielder with Detroit; and "Brother Can You Spare a Dime?" (This was originally "Brothers Can You Spare a Dime?" but this was spreading dime pretty thin, so they threw out one brother, gave all the money to other one and whittled it down to "Brother Can You Spare a Dime?")

Now Jack, how about you? Do you maintain that yours is an original name? Well, it's not. It was used long before you were born. Offhand, I can think of two Jacks--there was Jack of "Jack and the Beanstalk" and Jack the Ripper, who cut quite a figure in his day.

and toward the end, Groucho concludes
I have a hunch 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. I know the type well--hot out of law school, hungry for success and too ambitious to follow the natural laws of promotion. This bar sinister probably needled your attorneys, most of whom are fine fellows with curly black hair, double-breasted suits, etc., into attempting to enjoin us. Well, he won't get away with it! We'll fight him to highest court! No pasty-faced legal adventurer is going to cause bad blood between the Warners and the Marxes. We are all brothers under the skin and we'll remain friends till the last reel of "A Night in Casablanca" goes tumbling over the spool.

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