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DUCK SOUP (1933)
Through a gifted satirical point of view, "Duck Soup" tells the hilarious adventures of the president/dictator of penniless Freedonia, Rufus T. Firefly and company, who starts a war on neighboring Sylvania when he finds out that his rival, Ambassador Trentino of Sylvania wants his demise, the land of Freedonia and Mrs. Teasdale's government - saving money.
Screenplay by Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby, who also composed the original music.
Directed by Leo McCarey.
Firefly Quote: "You're a brave man. Go and break
through the lines. And remember,
while you're out
"We're fighting for this woman's honor, which is more than she ever did."
Because the government of Freedonia had gone through 20 million dollars of Mrs. Teasdale's money already, and came to ask her for more funds, Mrs. Teasdale (Margaret Dumont) will agree to give the government more money only if the sitting President will step down because of his incompetence. Instead, she wants Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho Marx) appointed as President, not only because she was sweet on him, but because she thinks Rufus is the only one that can successfully get the country financially back on its feet. The audience knows better of course.
However, the Ambassador Trentino (Louis Calhern) from neighboring Sylvania wants to annex Freedonia, and was planning to start a revolt among the people of Freedonia because of high taxes, but Mrs. Teasdale foils this plan by giving more money to the government of Freedonia and appointing a new president, Rufus, who is irreverent, rude and very politically incorrect, but still is "the hope of the nation."
So, the President of Sylvania tries to get a beautiful dancer, Vera Marcal (Raquel Torres) to tempt Rufus away from Mrs. Teasdale, so the Ambassador Trentino himself can woe Mrs. Teasdale & her money. But, that plan falls flat real fast, as Rufus is loyal to Mrs. Teasdale, because he knows what side his bread is buttered on. Frustrated, the President of Sylvania hires two men, Chicolini (Chico Marx) and Pinky (Harpo Marx), to spy on Rufus Firefly, trying to find some skeleton in Rufus's closet so the Ambassador can dishonor him in the eyes of the people of Freedonia. At the same time, Chicolini is hired by Rufus to be his Secretary of War. When Rufus gets wind to what the president of Sylvania is up to, through his loyal assistant, Bob Rolland (Zeppo), he finds a way to find cause to declare war on Sylvania, to save his job, his power and a great money supply in the person of Mrs. Teasdale. Politically, he claims to be upholding her honor and glorious Freedonia, of course, in his declaration of this war.
This witty, irreverent comedic screenplay that takes a satirical look at government and human nature, was the brainchild of Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby, both who also composed the musical score and songs, that poke fun at the musicals of the 1930's. Especially hilarious is the "We're Going to War" number. This talented duo teamed up together on many other films, writing the screenplays as well as the music for such films as "Animal Crackers," " Horse Feathers," "Kentucky Kernels," and " Check and Double Check." They teamed up to compose just the songs for such films as "Copacabana," "Cocoanut Grove," and the song in the 1934 film version of "Beauty and the Beast."
The fine direction was by the great Leo McCarey who was described as being the most inspired comedy film director in Hollywood with a talent for effectively telling a story. He worked with the greatest stars in comedy, including: Laurel and Hardy, W.C.Fields, the Marx Brothers, Eddie Cantor, Cary Grant, and Irene Dunne.
Groucho Marx has a lot of fun in his most insane part ever, portraying Rufus T. Firefly, the hilarious dictator with not much respect for protocol or his job description, and paints an unflattering portrait of politicians. The ensemble work between the various Marx brothers is perfect, with each using his individual talent to work toward the whole performance, which is hysterically funny. What a talented bunch of brothers!
The mirror scene is a well-loved classic. Chico is dressed in the same nighttime attire as Groucho, mirrors Groucho's every moment pretending to be the mirror image of Groucho. Groucho's movements, which get wilder and funnier as he tries to trip up Groucho. Woody Allen used this idea in his movie, "Sleeper."
The Antics of Chico and Harpo together are well-done and are timeless, comical scenes, depending on the talent of the participants, the perfect comic timing and execution of physical humor, and the gifted direction - without the gross-out humor or potty words typically found in some screenplays written today.
Besides showcasing the talents of the Marx Brothers, this film also has a fine supporting cast, that does a great job working together, giving strong support to the zany comedy bits of all the Marx Brothers, who were experts in the kind of humor they specialized in, that is timeless and always enjoyable.
Margaret Dumont is the perfect straight woman to Groucho's comical one-liners, and humorous antics. She was in many Marx Brothers' films, and always does a stellar job, usually playing upper class, dignified ladies, who react beautifully to Groucho Marx's various characters, completing the intended humorous situation.
Louis Calhern convincingly portrays Groucho's political rival, the Ambassador of Sylvania who has his eyes on not only the money of the lovely Mrs. Teasdale, but on the land of Freedonia as well, willing to try anything to get what he wants - land, power, money and rid of Rufus, who stands in his way. He plays his character straight as an arrow, being the perfect straight man for the comic foil of Groucho, Harpo, Zeppo and Chico.
Besides the mirror sequence of scenes, some favorite, famous sequences of scenes that are Marx Brothers' classics can be found in this film.
Edgar Kennedy and Harpo Marx - Be sure to watch the Lemonade sequence of scenes between Harpo and the Lemonade Vendor, Edgar Kennedy, a comedian known for being the master of the "slow burn" when antagonized by the likes of not only the Marx Brothers, but Laurel and Hardy, Our Gang kids, and others. Their feud escalates to hysterical proportions, ending with Harpo doing something pretty outrageous.
The last 20 minutes of the film is a satirical look at the typical, dramatic climatic battle scene, with the Marx Brothersâ at their zany best.
Not Rated but is suitable for all ages. It has something for everyone to laugh at. Both children and adults alike will love the classic scenes mentioned above.