Wednesday, December 4, 2013


The Golden Age of Comedy
(Post 2 of 12)

Duck Soup & Animal Crackers

When I was in middle school, I had an assignment to work on a book report. Apparently there wasn't much in the way of guidelines, because I chose to do my report on a  book about The Marx Brothers called The Marx Brothers: Their World of Comedy by Allen Eyles that I had picked up at the local Walden Books. I can't remember what kind of grade that I received for this orignal book choice, but it did indicate I was a bit of a fan.

I was (and suppose still am) partial to the five Paramount movies featuring all four of the Marx Brothers.

Duck Soup

The Marx Brothers were:

The fast talking wordsmith Groucho, with his signature cigar and moustache

The mute, clownish harpist Harpo with his signature horn and top hat

The Italian Chico and his endless butchering of the English language

and Zeppo...I'm not really sure why Zeppo was there, but I kind of liked having him around anyway.

Of the Paramount Marx Brothers films, the only one to make the 1001 movie cut is Duck Soup.

It is one of the most famous comedies of all-time and certainly has as many funny gags as any of the Marxes movies. Highlights include the song Hail Fredonia, Harpo and Chico's constant confrontations with street vendor Edgar Kennedy, Groucho's many scenes with Margaret Dumont (a regular target of his barbs), the final gun battle scene with the Marxes representing the last stand for their country and the classic mirror scene with Chico and Harpo dressed up as Groucho.

No, you can't deny Duck Soup's place on the 1001 list.

But what about the others Paramount movies ?

These films include:

The Coconuts, the first Marx feature and based on their Broadway play.

Horse Feathers, the one set in a college with the football finale.

Monkey Business, the one where they are stowaways

These films have many great moments in their own rights, but none hit the target as consistently as Duck Soup.

However, one other of the Marx Paramount films would make my list.

That would be Animal Crackers.

Now I admit to having a sentimental attatchment to Animal Crackers.

For various reasons, the film had been out of circulation for many decades after it was released. After a restoration, it was re-released in 1974 and that is when I first viewed it. It was certainly the only Marx Brothers movie I went to see as if it were a new release!

The film itself has some of the Brothers best gags.

They include:

1. The party of the first part dictation from Groucho to Zeppo
2. Groucho (as Captain Spaulding) and his farfetched tales of African safaris
3. Groucho's songs "Hello, I Must Be Going," and "Hooray for Captain Spaulding."
4. Harpo and Chico's many scenes, including Chico looking for a flash and Harpo giving him everything but a flashlight.
5. The card playing scene featuring Harpo, Chico and Margaret Dumont.
6. Groucho's scenes with Margaret Dumont, of course
7. Chico's interminable piano rendering of Sugar Time.
8. The constant movement of the valuable Bogarde painting as if it were nothing more than a road map.
9. The overall comic writing of Bert Kalmar, Harry Ruby and George S. Kaufman.
10. And the finale, where Harpo knocks everyone out with his flit spray before spraying it on himself before passing out into the arms of a lovely blonde.

So Duck Soup and Animal Crackers remain my two favorites from the list, but I certainly enjoyed going back through all of them.

Animal Crackers


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