There are a lot of music which have this joke:

The actor moves through a scene with background music playing, when the actor acknowledges the musicians in the scene for comical effect. I think by now you could call this a trope. The latest scene where I've seen this is this scene from Blazing Saddles.

But I wonder which was the first movie to come up with this trope?

  • 2
    Reminds me of this scene from Bananas, but I'm sure there are earlier examples. Does it have to be humorous\ironic, BTW?
    – Walt
    Nov 24, 2016 at 15:06
  • Yes, I can't really imagine such a scene not being humorous. The "reveal" of the musician is what really makes out these scenes for me.
    – hgiesel
    Nov 24, 2016 at 15:28
  • 4
    There are non-comedic examples, I'm certain... and there are also examples where the music turns out to be on the radio, for instance, not played by "live" musicians. They do this often with intro credit sequences.
    – Catija
    Nov 24, 2016 at 16:10
  • 2
    re: non-comedic - There's a beautiful one at the beginning of the 1981 French film 'Diva' which is not only an actual surprise [well, not now I've told you] but is also central to the entire movie plot itself.
    – Tetsujin
    Nov 24, 2016 at 16:48
  • 1
    I cannot say which film was first to use this trope, but TV Tropes list this one as "Left The Background Music On". tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/LeftTheBackgroundMusicOn
    – MichaelK
    Nov 25, 2016 at 9:13

1 Answer 1


This can be seen in the 1929 movie The Cocoanuts by the Marx Brothers. The full movie can be seen on this site (The youtube version I found did not feature the full credits). In the initial scenes following the credits, there are several different beach scenes, and briefly at 3:12 into the video, you can see that it is an orchestra providing the music.

While it is not acknowledged by the characters as the other examples, the book "After the Silents: Hollywood Music in the Early Sound Era 1926-1934" does consider this to be an example of diogenic music.

After several such shots, the image briefly reveals an unobtrusive conductor and small orchestra buried in the top left corner of the frame apparently providing music to the couples nearby.

It also details a second scene (Song "Where my Dreams Come True" ) in which this occurs, and concludes:

In both cases the filmmakers display little interest in tying music to onscreen sources. Instead, the music seems to be channeled from the filmmakers directly to the film audience.

Further reading on the page attributes it to the Marx Brothers' vaudeville background, which regularly engaged the audience in the act.

  • Although, to be fair, I don't know if this example is specifically comedic, although there are a few examples in the movie where it plays to the audience rather than being an integral part of the movie, such as a dance number that plays to really nobody in the hotel.
    – JohnP
    Sep 20, 2019 at 15:56

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