DVD Review of Duck Soup, starring Groucho Marx, Chico Marx, Harpo Marx, Zeppo Marx, Margaret Dumont
Overview of Duck Soup, starring Groucho, Chico, Harpo, Zeppo
When asked to explain the movie title, Groucho said, “Take two turkeys, one goose, four cabbages, but no duck, and mix them together. After one taste, you’ll duck soup for the rest of your life.” Start with excellent production and direction. Add the Marx brothers (Groucho, Chico, Harpo and the long-suffering Zeppo), add the ultimate straight person (Margaret Dumont), stir well and you’ll be serving Duck Soup.
Yes, that’s a silly description, but it’s a silly movie. A wonderful, hilarious, utterly enjoyable silly movie. The plot (which is probably the least important part of a Marx Brothers movie) is that the tiny nation of Freedonia is in dire financial straights. Mrs. Teasdale (the wonderful, under appreciated Margaret Dumont) is willing to loan the government the money it needs, on the condition that it names Rufus T. Firefly(Groucho Marx at his finest, with his brother Zeppo as Groucho’s secretary) as immediate president. The leader of a neighboring nation sends spies (Chico and Harpo), and hilarious insanity ensues.
It’s a wonderful movie, spoofing pomp & circumstance (the “regal” introduction of Firefly must be seen to be appreciated), politics, war, and numerous other things. It includes some of the Marx brothers’ best-loved routines, including the famous “mirror” routine. A mirror breaks and Harpo imitates Groucho, move for move, to postpone the discovery of the broken mirror.
This movie is also available as part of The Marx Brothers Silver Screen Collection.
Editorial review of Duck Soup courtesy of Amazon.com:
For those who love the Marx Brothers (Animal Crackers, A Night at the Opera), that this movie is side-slappingly funny is a given. For those new to the Marx Brothers, this is the perfect introduction to Groucho, Chico, and Harpo (and even Zeppo), three of the funniest men to ever grace the screen. Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho) is the dictator of the small nation Freedonia. The country is a disaster, in financial disrepair, and the wealthy Mrs. Teasdale (Margaret Dumont) is its benefactor and the object of Firefly’s shrewd affection. When the leader of the neighboring Sylvania decides he’s in love with Mrs. Teasdale, Firefly declares war. The movie, from 1933, is tremendously satirical, a play on politics and war.
As Firefly says to a hapless young soldier, “You’re a brave man. Go and break through the lines. And remember, while you’re out there risking your life and limb through shot and shell, we’ll be in be in here thinking what a sucker you are”. Full of witty lines, great sight gags, and even some snazzy song numbers (“Freedonia’s Going to War” is the hilarious declaration of battle), this is surely one of the best–if not the best–the Marx Brothers have to offer. –Jenny Brown
Product description of Duck Soup
This political satire starring Groucho, Harpo, Chico and Zeppo Marx is often considered the Brothers’ funniest and most popular film. After being appointed dictator of Freedonia, Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho) proceeds to bring the mythical nation to a halt by showing up late and insulting everyone at his inauguration. Hoping to oust the unfit new leader, two spies (Harpo and Chico) are sent from the neighboring Sylvania. Soon enough, war is declared between the two nations with outrageous results. So funny it earned spot on AFI’s 100 Years…100 Laughs list.
Trivia about Duck Soup:
- Shortly before this film premiered, the city of Fredonia, New York, complained about the use of its name with an additional “e”. The Marx Brothers’ response was: “Change the name of your town, it’s hurting our picture.”
- The mirror trick was previously used in Charlie Chaplin‘s The Floorwalker (1916).
- During the battle scene, Groucho wore five different uniforms: A Union soldiers uniform, a Confederate general’s uniform, a boy scout troop leader’s uniform, a Revolutionary War-era British general’s uniform, and a Davy Crockett outfit.
- Edgar Kennedy delivers his famous “slow burn” in a minor role as a street vendor. In 1942 he played the lead in a short of his own also called “Duck Soup”.
- This film marks the last appearance of Zeppo in a Marx Brothers film. He opted to work behind the scenes from then on.
- Italian dictator Benito Mussolini banned the film from Italy because he thought it was a direct attack on him. When news of this reached the Marx Brothers, they were reportedly ecstatic.
- Despite the fact that this is considered the finest film the Marx Brothers ever made, it was a box office flop when first released and nearly ruined Paramount Pictures.
- This was Zeppo’s final film with the brothers; not due to lack of talent, but he simply couldn’t compete with the on-screen antics of his brothers. This is the same reason that Harpo doesn’t speak on screen; he can’t compete in the verbal jousting between Groucho and Chico.
- Chico is pronounced Chick-o, because he liked to chase the ladies (“chicks” in the slang of the time). It’s only because of a typo years before that Chico became his stage name.