Cover of Duck Soup DVD

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Duck Soup

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. more...

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It starred what was then billed as the "Four Marx Brothers" (Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Zeppo) and also featured Margaret Dumont, Raquel Torres, and Louis Calhern. Groucho plays Rufus T. Firefly, the dictator 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," 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.

The film was a critical and box office failure, which caused Paramount Pictures to drop the Marx Brothers. The musical introduction to Groucho's character is similar to the one in Animal Crackers, and audiences at the time may have seen it as a rehash, though modern audiences do not need to make this association.

Years later, Arthur Marx, Groucho's son, described Irving Thalberg's assessment of the film's failure during a National Public Radio interview:

He said the trouble with Duck Soup is you've got funny gags in it, but there's no story and there's nothing to root for. You can't root for the Marx Brothers because they're a bunch of zany kooks. says, 'You gotta put a love story in your movie so there'll be something to root for, and you have to help the lovers get together.'

Over time, the movie's reputation has been rehabilitated, and it is now seen as a classic political farce. The film was #85 on American Film Institute's 100 Years, 100 Movies and #5 on its 100 Years, 100 Laughs, and has been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry. It is consistently on the Internet Movie Database's list of top 250 films. In 2000, readers of Total Film magazine voted Duck Soup the 29th greatest comedy film of all time.

Famous scenes

In the "mirror scene," Harpo, dressed as Groucho, pretends to be Groucho's reflection in a missing mirror, matching and mocking his every move. Eventually, Chico, also disguised as Groucho, collides with both of them. This scene has been duplicated in many different films and genres.

In another famous scene the Marx Brothers poke fun at the Hays Code by showing a woman's bedroom and then showing a woman's shoes on the floor, a man's shoes and horseshoes. Harpo is sleeping in the bed with a horse.

One production number ridicules war by comparing nationalism to a minstrel show.


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