- The Marx Brothers: Duck Soup review by Steve
When comic acts from the stage got to make Hollywood films they were usually stiffed with B directors and budgets. The Marx Brothers fared better than most and here rated multiple Oscar winner Leo McCarey. Harpo, Groucho and Chico (and Zeppo in his last film) worked their act for years, and finessed their strong visual image and contrasting comic styles.
There's Groucho's fast talking wordplay, Chico's garbled malapropisms, and Harpo's destructive, primal mime. Groucho takes over the corrupt oligarchy of Freedonia which is slipping into war with neighbours Sylvania for whom Harpo and Chico are operating as spies. With populist governments emerging in 1930s Europe probably this was intended as satire.
But it's mainly an opportunity for the trio to unleash their trademark anti-establishment anarchy. There's a great visual joke with Groucho playing both sides of a mirror. Margaret Dupont again scores as their uncomprehending straight woman. I like Marx Brothers films when Groucho is reeling off sardonic, convoluted, rapid-fire gags and not so much for the musical interludes of the other two.
Which makes Duck Soup their best film, dense with immaculate Grouchoisms. It's the pick of their early Paramount films and it bombed, badly. The remaining three brothers left Paramount for MGM thinking that they were finished. But over the years Duck Soup has become an influential comedy (there's plenty of Monty Python here) and rated their masterpiece.
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