Duck Soup (1933)
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Directed by: Leo McCarey
Starring: Groucho, Harpo, Chico, Zeppo Marx, Margaret Dumont, Louis Calhern
Duck Soup ranked # 85 on the American Film Institute's Top 100 American Films list.
Duck Soup is a 1933 Marx Brothers' anarchic comedy film written by Bert Kalmar, Harry Ruby, Arthur Sheekman, and Nat Perrin and directed by Leo McCarey.
It starred what were then billed as the "Four Marx Brothers" (Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Zeppo) and also featured Margaret Dumont, Raquel Torres, and Louis Calhern. It was the last Marx Brothers film to feature Zeppo.
In the film Groucho plays Rufus T. Firefly, the governor of the small country of Freedonia, who finds himself on the verge of war with the neighboring country of Sylvania.
Duck soup is a slang phrase meaning "a piece of cake", or something easy to do. The expression was in keeping with the "animal" theme of the brothers' previous three titles, Animal Crackers, Monkey Business and Horse Feathers.
McCarey came up with the title for the film. When Groucho was asked for an explanation, he 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."
Popular belief holds that Duck Soup was a box office failure, but this is not true. Even though it did not do as well as Horse Feathers, it was the sixth-highest grossing film of 1933, according to Glenn Mitchell in The Marx Brothers Encyclopedia and Simon Louvish in his biography of the Marx Brothers, Monkey Business.
The musical introduction to Groucho's character is similar to the ones in Animal Crackers and Horse Feathers, and audiences at the time may have seen it as a rehash, though modern audiences do not necessarily make this association.
A possible reason for the film's bad reception might be because of the time frame in which it was released: in the midst of the Great Depression of 1929-1939. Audiences were taken aback by such preposterous political disregard, buffoonery and cynicism at a time of political crisis. (This film quote, spoken by Groucho, was reportedly especially detested: "And remember, while you're out there risking life and limb through shot and shell, we'll be in here thinking what a sucker you are!")
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