Groucho Marx, King of the Jungle
Sixth in Goulart’s enjoyable mystery series featuring screenwriter Frank Denby and the legendary Groucho Marx, this outing, set in 1940, finds the pair embroiled in a murder on the set of the screenwriter’s latest film, a Tarzan rip-off. Although Denby had sworn off amateur sleuthing at the request of his pregnant wife, he and Groucho put on their deerstalkers to clear the name of a movie stuntwoman, girlfriend of an actor friend and ex-girlfriend of the dead actor. Familiar Hollywood types—directors, producers, starlets—populate the rest of the tale.
Although the real life-actor-author-whoever as sleuth is a conceit that is often forced, Goulart continues to make it work. Groucho’s quips come fast and furious yet are not self-conscious. They could be coming from the real Groucho himself. Denby and his wife Jane are both good foils and good friends to him, and the dialog crackles with the patter of 1940s movies. The mystery is almost negligible, just a device to feature that incessant wit, but it’s enough to bring me back for the seventh in the series.