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Flywheel, Shyster and Flywheel (1932-1933)

Flywheel, Shyster and Flywheel



Cast: Groucho Marx played Waldorf T. Flywheel and Chico Marx played Emmanuel Ravelli

Sponsored by Standard Oil of New Jersey

Flywheel, Shyster and Flywheel was an American radio situation comedy show starring Groucho and Chico Marx from the Marx brothers.  Flywheel, Shyster and Flywheel was broadcast as the Monday night segment of Five Star Theater.  Five Star Theater was a variety show that had a different theme each weeknight.

Flywheel, Shyster and Flywheel was originally named Beagle, Shyster and Beagle, but the name was changed after the fourth episode, when an attorney from New York named Beagle heard about the show and threatened to sue for $300 ,000 for damages.  He claimed that people were making prank phone calls to his office prompted by the show .  The studio executives and sponsors quickly changed the name to Flywheel, Shyster and Flywheel.

Flywheel, Shyster and Flywheel focuses on the misadventure of one partner of a law firm, Waldorf T. Flywheel, played by Groucho Marx, and his assistant, Emmanuel Ravelli, played by Chico Marx.  Because the Marx Brothers were living in Hollywood to film their movies, and the show was being broadcast from WJZ in New York, the Marx Brothers had to take a 3-day train ride from Pasadena to New York for one day to record the show , and then take a 3-day train ride back.  This occurred for the first seven episodes, until the Marx Brothers, along with Nat Perrin and Arthur Sheekman, who were the writers and directors of the show , decided to shoot from Los Angeles.  NBC did not have a West Coast studio at the time, so Flywheel, Shyster and Flywheel was broadcast out of an empty soundstage borrowed from RKO studios.

Many of the stories for episodes of Flywheel, Shyster and Flywheel came directly out of the Marx Brothers movies.  For example, episode 17 uses the stolen painting story almost exactly as it is shown in the Marx Brothers movie Animal Crackers .  Flywheel, Shyster and Flywheel received a lukewarm response from the critics, but later comedians applauded the Marx Brothers’ work.

Flywheel, Shyster and Flywheel was thought to have been lost because it was believed that the original recordings were not preserved.  However, in 1988, a worker in the Library of Congress discovered the scripts for 25 of the 26 episodes in storage.  The scripts had fallen into the public domain because the copyrights had never been renewed.  The 25 scripts for Flywheel, Shyster and Flywheel were released that same year as a book by Pantheon Publishing under the name Flywheel, Shyster and Flywheel: The Marx Brothers' Lost Radio Show.  In October of 1988, National Public Radio used one of the scripts to air an 18-minute long recreation of the show .  Eventually several recordings of the original episodes were discovered.  In 1990, the BBC attempted a similar recreation on a larger scale using the original scripts.  Michael Roberts and Frank Lazarus performed the Marx Brothers' roles, with Lorelei King, Spike Milligan and Dick Vossburg acting as other characters.  The BBC recreation was recorded in front of a live studio audience at the Paris Theatre.

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