In 1937, Surrealist artist Salvador Dalí, in collaboration with his friend and admirer, comedian Harpo Marx, came up with an idea for a film that would merge Dalí’s imaginative art with the fast-paced comedy of the Marx Brothers. Rejected by MGM, the film never made it to the silver screen.
Rediscovered and reimagined by pop culture historian Josh Frank and comedy auteur Tim Heidecker, Giraffes on Horseback Salad (Quirk Books) brings the never-made movie to the printed page as a fully realized, dazzlingly illustrated graphic novel, based on Dalí’s own notes and sketches.
A comment on the Surrealists’ desire to challenge the mundane woes of everyday life, Giraffes on Horseback Salad follows Jimmy, a businessman whose life is turned upside down when he encounters the Surrealist Woman, a magical shape-shifting beauty who is turning his upper-class social scene on its head. Jimmy is instantly smitten with the mysterious woman, and as their relationship deepens, the powers of the Surrealist Woman begin to distort the world around them.
From eye-popping parties to otherworldly scenes packed with signature Marx Brothers gags, Giraffes on Horseback Salad highlights the best of the two iconic creative forces behind its conception.
An informative introduction, prologue, and epilogue tell the equally fascinating story of how this new version of the forgotten film was brought to life, the history of Dalí’s journey to America, and the unlikely friendship of Dalí and Harpo Marx. A collection of images and excerpts from both the Dalí and the Marx family estates closes the book on this remarkable reinvention.
Frank explains how he tracked down this unmade movie: “This once-lost-to-history film has generated a lot of internet speculation, but it was supported by zero source material. I began my research with the internet, and even though it is a vast and unending archive, my search resulted in only a single short paragraph describing the movie.
“So I went to the closest source, the Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation, and though they didn’t have the film treatment, they knew who did: the Centre Pompidou in Paris. The Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation told me there wasn’t much available on this part of Dalí’s career, but it turned out that the Centre Pompidou had the actual handwritten screenplay. When I started my quest, I never anticipated unearthing 100 pages of material. The whole experience felt like a modern-age Indiana Jones adventure.
The project was enlightening to Frank in many ways, first about Dalí. “Through the process of bringing this movie to life, I was able to better understand Dalí’s motivations for wanting to make this movie. The movie itself is very much about Dalí, and it reveals an important moment in his life, an intimate struggle that makes him so much more human and vulnerable than he is usually portrayed.”
“With Dalí, to discover that even an artist of his fame and magnitude struggled with insecurities and fears, like the rest of us do, made me feel so much more passion for his work and his life.”
Frank also was able to learn about Harpo: “Discovering that Harpo painted was an epiphany and breathtaking. To have loved him my whole life and not to have known how important a whole other art form was to him was incredible.”
Giraffes on Horseback Salad is now available.
About Josh Frank
Josh Frank is a writer, producer, director and composer. He’s the author of Fool the World: The Oral History of a Band Called Pixies; In Heaven Everything Is Fine; and co-author of the illustrated novel The Good Inn. He built, owns, and operates the Blue Starlite Mini-Urban Drive-In Movie Theatre in Austin, Texas.