Happy Birthday to Classic Movie Legend, Margaret Dumont, born on October 20, 1882!
I must say that Margaret Dumont is one of my favorite Character Actresses of all time! And, although she has appeared in over 55 films, I just can’t help but associate her with the Marx Brothers, so much so, in fact, that I almost think of her as one of the Marx Brothers — and I’m not alone in that, because in the words of the legendary Groucho Marx — Dumont was “practically the fifth Marx brother.”
That said, I can’t count the number of times I’ve laughed out loud from the inimitable repartee between Groucho and Dumont — they are just so darn good together! I can almost see them now… Dumont playing the slightly-confused yet very sophisticated socialite decked out in her gown and jewels, while the absurdly carefree gold-digging Groucho alternately romances and insults her in his efforts to get hold of her money.
So, whether it’s Dumont as Mrs. Potter in The Cocoanuts, Mrs. Rittenhouse in Animal Crackers, Mrs. Teasdale in Duck Soup, Mrs. Claypool in A Night at the Opera, Mrs. Upjohn in A Day at the Races, Mrs. Dukesbury in At the Circus or Martha Phelps in The Big Store — she is just the perfect ‘straight woman’ and comic foil to Groucho!
Otis B Driftwood (Groucho): That woman? Do you know why I sat with her? Because she reminded me of you.
Mrs. Claypool (Margaret Dumont): Really?
Otis B Driftwood (Groucho): Of course, that’s why I’m sitting here with you. Because you remind me of you. Your eyes, your throat, your lips! Everything about you reminds me of you.
-Dumont and Groucho in A Night at the Opera
Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho): Not that I care, but where is your husband?
Mrs. Teasdale (Margaret Dumont): Why, he’s dead.
Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho): I bet he’s just using that as an excuse.
Mrs. Teasdale (Margaret Dumont): I was with him to the very end.
Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho): No wonder he passed away.
Mrs. Teasdale (Margaret Dumont): I held him in my arms and kissed him.
Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho): Oh, I see, then it was murder. Will you marry me? Did he leave you any money? Answer the second question first.
–Dumont and Groucho in Duck Soup
Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub