Thursday, December 27, 2012

Movies 101 –Duck Soup

Duck Soup – 68min – N/A

The country of Fredonia is in financial ruin Mrs. Teasdale (Margaret Dumont) is the wealthiest woman in the country and is supporting the government. She refuses to give any more money unless Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho Marx) is appointed as the new leader. Rufus and his secretary, Bob Roland (Zeppo Marx) proceed to run the country into the ground in the mad cap hijinks made famous by the Marx brothers. The neighboring country of Sylvania is eyeing Fredonia for takeover. The Ambassador from Sylvania, Trentino (Louis Calhern), is working to try any way he can to take over the country. He hires two spies Pinky (Harpo Marx), and Chicolini (Chico Marx) to dig up some dirt on Rufus. He even employs the vixen Vera Marcal (Raquel Torres) as a fem fetal to try and manipulate Rufus. Things escalate to a full on war between the two countries. In true vaudevillian style it’s a mixture of sight gags and song numbers. This is not my favorite Marx Brother film but it is one of the better ones in my opinion.

Some of the most memorable scenes were in this movie; the mirror gag is one of my favorites because I first saw this on I Love Lucy between Harpo Marx and Lucy. In the film Harpo is dressed up like Groucho and he is hiding on the other side of what used to be a mirror. They move in unison and even when Groucho thinks that he has Harpo caught, Harpo pulls a switcheroo and mirrors Groucho movie for move. The other scene that stands out is the mini war with the Street vendor. It starts out as a small matter of Chico and Harpo bumping into one of the Lemonade venders (Edgar Kennedy) customers. Then it escalates to knee holding and hat switching and then the burning of a hat it is extremely funny. One of the best fast paced exchanges between three people it’s so well performed that you have to watch it twice to see all the choreography. The second interaction between this trio is extremely funny as well. The Lemonade vender comes back at Harpo and takes some of the Peanuts that Chico is selling and ends up getting his new hat burned. The lemonade vender tips over the Peanut cart and then walks back to his cart to serve the line of customers that have gathered. Harpo begins to help mix the lemonade with his feet.

During this production the relationship between Paramount Studios and the Marx Brothers soured. This is one of the five films that were a part of the Marx brothers and Paramount contract, they separated after this production. This movie originally bombed at the box office and that made the separation a lot easier from paramount’s stand point. As I understand Zeppo also stepped away and started a talent agency with his brother because he was tired of getting bit parts. I would like to do more research on who the relationship fell through.

My Take Away: The Marx Brothers have a very fast and sometimes hard to follow brand of humor. People today don’t often appreciate that the contribution these people made for the genera of comedy. Without the Marx brothers we don’t get to Blazing Saddles or Airplane. I'm going to get you Sucka has that same feel only with a more modern pacing and direction of humor. I guess any spoof film has its roots in these films that came before. Leo McCarey directed this and he is better known for directing An Affare to Remeber. You can view this film on NetFlix watch it now.

No comments:

Post a Comment