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Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho Marx) is named supreme leader over the fictional land of Freedonia at the behest of heiress duck soup posterMrs. Teasdale (Margaret Dumont) over whose honor he declares war on adjoining Sylvania. In the meantime, the head of this rival nation has hired two bumbling spies (Chico and Harpo Marx) to keep tabs on their enemy's new leader. The Marx Brothers' classic melange is not so much a movie as a nonstop assault of gags, one-liners, one-upmanship, and putdowns. In short, hilarious irreverence. Directed by Leo McCarey, best known for more respectable fare (Going My Way, An Affair to Remember), it features memorable sequence after memorable sequence (the mirror gag seemingly stands out for most) with each brother in top form.

Directed by: Leo McCarey

Cast:

Groucho Marx

Rufus T. Firefly

Harpo Marx

Pinky

Chico Marx

Chicolini

Zeppo Marx

Bob Roland

Margaret Dumont

Mrs. Gloria Teasdale

RunTime:  68min
Genre: Comedy
Language: English

Review

Reviewed by Byron Potau

Hailed by many as the Marx Bros. undisputed masterpiece, Duck Soup could actually be their third or fourth best film they made for Paramount, such was the quality of duck souptheir work for that studio. It does boast the best production values of their Paramount films and lacked some of the musical segments that were typically thought to slow their other films. Still, it does not have a memorable song like Everyone Says I Love You or Hooray for Captain Spaulding that made the other films that much more delightful. Where I think everyone can agree is that it is one of the funniest films of all time with some of their most hilarious moments performed to perfection.

The country of Freedonia is in trouble and they call again upon the wealthy widow Mrs. Teasdale (Margaret Dumont) to lend them money which she does on the condition that Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho Marx) be named the new leader. The neighboring country of Sylvania has plans to take over Freedonia. Sylvanian Ambassador Trentino’s (Louis Calhern) plans include diverting Mrs. Teasdale’s affections away from Firefly, starting a revolution in Freedonia, and digging up dirt on Firefly using his two spies, Chicolini (Chico Marx) and Pinky (Harpo Marx).

The brothers are in top form with Zeppo along for the ride as Firefly’s assistant in what would be his last film appearance. Groucho has his usual impeccable timing with his razor sharp barbs directed at anyone near him. Chico and Harpo also get their share of laughs as the bickering spies who seem to infuriate and exasperate everyone around them.

duck soupPerhaps, the highlight of the film is the Marx Bros. rendition of the mirror gag previously seen in Charlie Chaplin’s The Floorwalker and Max Linder’s Seven Years Bad Luck. However, the brothers make it their own and, arguably, do it better than anyone has before or since.

Margaret Dumont bravely continues to be a willing target for many of Groucho’s insults and Louis Calhern adds a bit more professionalism to what is often a throwaway role in a Marx Bros. film.

Besides the Freedonian anthem, Groucho’s average Just Wait til I Get Through with It/ with Pop Goes the Weasel mixed in, and the fast forward worthy This Country’s Going to War, Harpo and Chico forego their usual musical interludes which some may prefer, however, I always enjoyed their musical talents as long as they had good material to work with, case in point in Animal Crackers and Horse Feathers.

What really amazes is how fresh the jokes are. The Marx Bros. films have aged incredibly well and this is no exception. Some younger audiences may tend to scoff at the comedians of old, but once they get over the prejudices of the film being in black and white, and being older than their parents they’ll be amazed how much and how hard they laugh. This isn’t funny for 1933. It’s just simply funny. By the way, don’t bother trying to find meaning in it as some critics have. Sometimes, you’re just supposed to laugh.

 

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