Duck Soup (Leo McCarey, 1933)

09Jan11

Groucho Marx (Rufus T. Firefly), Harpo Marx (Pinky), Chico Marx (Chicolini). Screenplay by Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby. Directed by Leo McCarey. Rating: U. Running time: 68 minutes.

Proclaimed as the ultimate Marx brothers film and for good reason, Duck Soup is a ferocious 60 minutes of non-stop gags of the visual and audible variety. It’s hard to write about a film so synonymous with their name as to merit application of the words ‘legendary’ and ‘iconic’ like no other. This is absolutely outrageous, free flowing, crazy spontaneous and hugely humorous stuff. Groucho plays Rufus T. Firefly, governor of the land of Freedonia and joker hellbent on bashing out as many one liners as possible in the space of the hour of screen time he has. Add in Harpo and Zeppo as two spies from a foreign land, and you also get the infamous mirror scene, a hat-stealing sequence intent on winding a stranger up and enough musical moments to provide a lifetime’s quantity of joy. I always remember Woody Allen’s use of Duck Soup in Hannah and her Sisters as the film that reminds his character that life is worth living regardless of whether it is meaningful. It’s certainly a rocket up the ass for any manic depressives out there that want reminding that sometimes you just need to chill the hell out and smile – and what better reason than that did they need to make this film, and do you need to at some point watch it? Duck Soup is to the Marx Brothers as City Lights is to Chaplin and Sgt. Pepper to The Beatles – quite simply, their magnus opus.

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