24 April 2006

Marx (1933)

1933 - Duck Soup - I was glad to see Margaret Dumont return for this one. As the "fifth Marx brother," she plays the perpetually bemused/offended straight-woman to perfection. The reactions on her face to what Groucho says to her was, alone, enough to elicit some laughs.

Also honed to perfection was Chico and Harpo's schtick. The scene with the lemonade vendor is, by far, my favorite scene from the Bros. in the five Paramount pictures. Harpo enters a new level of insanity in this film when he arms himself with scissors. No feathers, cigars, hankies, hats or coats can possibly be safe.

I did have to stop the film about halfway to jump on the Internet and verify that Groucho did indeed spew a racial epitaph as the punch line of a joke. It turns out that the joke is a pop culture reference to a then-famous song. I found this blog post, which explains the complex back-story. Still, it's not something I wanted to hear Groucho say and it dampened the rest of the film for me somewhat. I spent the remainder worried the fun was going to be further diminished by thirties-style racism.

With this film, we say goodbye to Zeppo… not that it'll be noticeable when he's gone. I will say it was nice to see all four of the Bros. performing with each other, especially during the war song. But, I don't think Groucho's quips will be harmed much with the loss of his straight-man brother. Whether harm will come from the change in studios, I supposed I will find out. (8/10)

d. Leo McCarey