Laughter at the Movies

Damon Runyon


October 21.

DEAR SIR the other night my wife Ethel ses to me Joe do you know what a terrible thing Mussolini has done to poor old Missus Angelo?

I ses do you mean old Missus Angelo whose husband Johnny runs the Italian grocery? Ethel ses yes that is the one I mean. She is one of the nicest old things in this neighborhood. I ses yes and old Johnny is all right too when he does not get full of that Red wine and tries to sing. I ses what do you mean Mussolini has done a terrible thing to her?

Ethel ses why he ses she cannot laugh any more at the Ritzes and the Marxes. I ses do you mean those fellows in the movies? Ethel ses yes they are the ones. I ses what has Mussolini got to do with old Missus Angelo laughing at them? I ses I bet Mussy never even heard of Missus Angelo or old Johnny either although John is always boosting him to me. I ses see here Ethel where did you get such an idea anyway?

She ses why, it was in the papers that Mussolini made a rule that Italians cannot laugh at the Ritzes or the Marxes or even at Charley Chaplin. Just how would you like it if President Roosevelt made a rule that you could not laugh at somebody in the movies? I ses for instance who? I ses Ethel President Roosevelt would not have to make a rule to keep me from laughing at some of those guys.

She ses yes but what about the Ritzes and the Marxes? I ses well I tell you Ethel. I guess I would be plenty sore if President Roosevelt told me I could not laugh at the one in the middle of the Ritzes or at Groucho Marx and his moustache. She ses well suppose President Roosevelt made a rule that you could not laugh at W. C. Fields?

I ses Ethel then I would start a revolution. I ses nobody is going to keep me from laughing at W. C. Fields. I ses I am strictly a Fields man and Ethel ses well you can see now what Mussolini has done to old Missus Angelo.

I ses Ethel I still do not get the point and she ses why Joe the only pleasure old Missus Angelo has in life is to go to the movies and laugh at the Ritzes and the Marxes. Joe she almost dies at them. You can hear her all over the house when the Ritzes put on funny clothes or Harpo chases a lady. Joe she goes ah ha ah ha ah ha like that when she laughs.

I ses never mind showing me how she laughs Ethel. I ses the neighbors may think I am choking you. I ses how does old Missus Angelo stand on W. C. Fields? Ethel ses well I do not know about that but she thinks the Ritzes and the Marxes are the funniest things in the whole world. I ses well Mussolini does not have to tell old Johnny not to laugh at anybody. I ses every time I see him in the movies he is sound asleep.

Ethel ses yes and his breath makes his moustache go up and down. I ses Ethel baby if your breath was as strong as old Johnny’s when he had his load of garlic it would make your hat go up and down. I ses you try and set near him sometime and Ethel ses well anyway Johnny does not have a sense of humor like Missus Angelo. Joe it is a pleasure to hear her laugh. Everybody in the theatre looks at her and laughs with her. She is awfully cute.

I ses O is that so? I ses well you did not think it was so cute the night I laughed so hard at W. C. Fields that the manager come down to me and ses I would have to stop that noise or get out of there. Ethel ses well he thought you was clowning when you laughed that way. Another thing you called him a big chowderhead and that made people notice us. I was so ashamed.

I ses well he was a big chowderhead Ethel. I ses if you had not been with me I would have taken him outside and punched his nose for him and Ethel ses yes that is what he ses he would have done for you if I had not been with you. I ses when did he tell you that? Ethel ses O he has told me that a lot of times since. I ses where did you see him? She ses why Joe I see him every time I go to that theatre in the afternoons when it has a good picture and he is always standing around. I apologized to him for you long ago Joe.

I ses Ethel I will thank you to let me make my own apologies when I think they are necessary and she ses but Joe you never think they are necessary. I always have to make them for you. That manager accepted my apology for you as nice as you please but he ses he never wants to see you around his theatre again. I ses well he need not worry because I am never going there again and Ethel ses I think that is the best idea Joe. He looks awfully strong.

I ses well he did not make me stop laughing did he? I ses nobody is going to make me stop laughing when I feel like it not even President Roosevelt. I ses the only way they could make me stop laughing would be to tell me to laugh. Ethel ses what at Joe? I ses what at what? She ses what would they tell you to laugh at to make you stop laughing? I ses Ethel lets drop this and I went to bed but I was not asleep before she came in and ses Joe I just finished reading about that order that Mussolini made and it does not go for Italians in this country but only in Italy.

I ses thats fine. I ses Missus Angelo is all right then is she? Ethel ses yes and I am going to take her to see that new Marxes picture tomorrow night so she can laugh all she wants. I ses I would like to see that picture myself Ethel and I will go with you. I ses where is it playing? Ethel ses I guess you better not go Joe. It is playing at that theatre where the manager ses he never wants to see you again.