Book Blog: Giraffes on Horseback Salad: Salvador Dali, the Marx Brothers, and the Strangest Movie Never Made by Josh Frank, et al

Posted by on Aug 16, 2019 in Blog, book blog | 0 comments

I review everything I read and post reviews on Goodreads and LibraryThing. That’s not enough. Good books are meant to be shared. Therefore, I’m spotlighting some of my favorite reads here on my site.

Giraffes on Horseback Salad: Salvador Dali, the Marx Brothers, and the Strangest Movie Never Made
by Josh Frank, Tim Heidecker, & Manuela Pertega

out now; Indiebound, B&N, and Amazon

 

 

I don’t usually go for weird fiction or art, but I adore the Marx Brothers, and the almost preposterous nature of this graphic novel piqued my curiosity. I tried to win a galley from the publisher, and didn’t luck out. Then I was on a dream-come-true trip to Edinburgh, Scotland, of all places, and in the Transreal Bookstore. Lo and behold, there was the book. I had to buy it as a special souvenir.

Even having read the book, I can’t help but shake my head in awe of the incredible story behind its making: Salvador Dali struck up a friendship with Harpo Marx and decided to write a Marx Brothers screenplay. He wrote up a film treatment, and with Harpo, he pitched it to Louis B. Mayer in Hollywood. The idea was shot down. It was the kind of thing that earned mention in Dali and Marx interviews over later decades, but no one living person seemed to know much about the project.

Author Josh Frank set out to change that, doing some heavy-duty research–hiring a translator, meeting Harpo’s son Bill Marx–and pieced together bits and pieces of Dali’s surreal movie concept. He made it into a graphic novel, lavishly illustrated by Manuel Pertega.

Again, I don’t typically go for surreal stuff, but this book is incredible. I found it even more so when I reached the end to find pictures of Dali’s original treatment. Pertega did an admirable job of translating Dali’s vision–dripping roast chickens strapped to musicians’ heads and all. To my utter delight, they really researched their Marx Brothers, too. The banter between Groucho and Chico feels genuine and is laugh-out-loud funny, though a bit anachronistic at times. The story follows a wealthy, ambitious young man, Jimmy, who scorns his controlling fiance as he falls in love with Surrealist Woman–a woman whose fantastical imaginings become real. In true 1930s style, there are even songs written into the book!

The book is totally bonkers, but that’s totally true to concept. I found it to be a joy to read, and I’m so grateful that the author and team took a weird historical footnote and gave it life at long last.

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