: The Blawgraphy
Life of a Law Student, University of Houston Law Center

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Letter from Groucho Marx to Warner Brothers

By: Luke Gilman | Other Posts by
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From Barry Barnett’s Blawgletter, comes the rather entertaining letter sent by Groucho Marx to Warner Brothers threatened suit over the impending release of A Night in Casablanca (1946), which bore a less than vague resemblance to another Warner Bros. property, Casablanca (1942). It concludes with this classic tirade against lawyers:

I have a hunch that his 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 the 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.

Read the rest of it at ChillingEffects

Unamused, Warner Bros. requested that the Marx Brothers at least outline the premise of their film. Groucho responded with an utterly ridiculous storyline, and, sure enough, received another stern letter requesting clarification. He obliged and went on to describe a plot even more preposterous than the first, claiming that he, Groucho, would be playing “Bordello, the sweetheart of Humphrey Bogart.” No doubt exasperated, Warner Bros. did not respond. A Night in Casablanca was released in 1946.

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Category: intellectual property law


One Response

  1. Ray Ward says:

    This reminds me of the letter Groucho dictated in “Animal Crackers,” addressed to Honorable Charles D. Hungerdunger of Hungerdunger, Hungerdunger & McCormick:

    In re yours of the 5th inst. yours to hand and in reply, I wish to state that the judiciary expenditures of this year, i.e., has not exceeded the fiscal year–brackets–this procedure is problematic and with nullification will give us a subsidiary indictment and priority. Quotes and unquotes and quotes. Hoping this finds you, I beg to remain as of June 9th, Cordially, Respectfully, Regards.

    Hat tip to Ronald L. Goldfarb and James C. Raymond, “Clear Understandings” 133 (1982).

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