The Marx Brothers
Duck Soup (1933)

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Duck Soup

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This picture marks the return of Margaret Dumont to the fold for perhaps the most bizarre Marx Brothers film ever made. The action takes place in the mythical country of Freedonia. Mrs. Gloria Teasdale (Margaret Dumont) is unwilling to continue to finance the country's treasury unless Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho) is appointed leader. Trentino, the ambassador from neighboring Sylvania, plans to take over Freedonia. Having failed at revolution, he decides to do so by marrying Mrs. Teasdale. To aid him, he hires Chicolini (Chico) and Pinky (Harpo) to keep an eye on Firefly and report on his doings. Edgar Kennedy adds to several hilarious sight-gag scenes played out with Chico and Harpo.

As Firefly's secretary, Bob Roland, Zeppo has even less to do in this picture than in the previous four, so it isn't surprising that this would be his last film. There was no love lost between Groucho and Zeppo; Zeppo was tired of being second banana and Groucho simply wanted him to stick to his traditional role as "the juvenile lead." Deprived even of this status in Duck Soup, Zeppo finally walked.

This film is usually billed as a "political satire," but "political farce" is more accurate. The war scenes at the end of the film are incredibly surreal for the time. This film also contains the famous mirror sequence.

Although this film is now a classic, considered by many to be the Marx Brothers' best, it was a flop at the box office, and caused Paramount to drop the Marx Brothers. They would return to film making two years later at MGM — billed no longer as "The Four Marx Brothers," but simply as "The Marx Brothers."

If you'd like to read transcriptions of dialog from the film, try these links: His Excellency Is Due! (a reception is given in honor of Firefly), Secretary Of War (Firefly offers Chicolini a job in his cabinet), and The Trial (No, not the Kafka one with Tony this trial, Chicolini is charged with high treason).

FIREFLY: To my dentist. Er .. 'Dear Dentist: Enclosed find cheque for five hundred dollars. Yours very truly.' Send that off immediately.
BOB:I'll ... er I'll have to enclose the cheque first.
FIREFLY: You do and I'll fire you.

In "Harpo speaks" one of the pictures is captioned, "Innocent Bystander watches Edgar Kennedy and small friend exchange slow burns, in 'Monkey Business'." The "small friend" is Billy Barty. The scene with Barty was cut before the film was released.

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Groucho Marx   Rufus T. Firefly
Harpo Marx   Pinky
Chico Marx   Chicolini
Zeppo Marx   Bob Roland
Margaret Dumont   Mrs. Gloria Teasdale
Louis Calhern   Ambassador Trentino
Raquel Torres   Vera Marcal
Edgar Kennedy   Lemonade Dealer
Edmund Breese   Zander
William Worthington   First Minister of Finance
Edwin Maxwell   Secretary of War
Leonid Kinskey   Agitator
Verna Hillie   Secretary
George MacQuarrie   First Judge
Fred Sullivan   Second Judge
Davison Clark   Second Minister of Finance
Charles B. Middleton   Prosecutor
Eric Mayne   Third Judge
Dale van Sickel   A Palace Guard
Blanca   Pinky's Horse
Dennis O'Keefe   extra
E.H. Calvert  

Director  Leo McCarey
Written by  Bert Kalmar
  Harry Ruby
  Nat Perrin (additional dialogue)
  Arthur Sheekman (additional dialogue)
Music  Bert Kalmar
  Harry Ruby
Cinematography  Henry Sharp
Editor  LeRoy Stone
Art director  Hans Dreier
  Wiard B. Ihnen
Musical advisor  Arthur Johnston
Chief sound mixer  H.M. Lindgren
Producer  Herman J. Mankiewicz
Production company / Distribution  Paramount Productions / Paramount Distributing (A Paramount Picture)
Runtime  70 min.
New York Premiere  22 Nov 1933
Release date  24 Nov 1933
Featured in  Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)
  Veillees d'armes (1994)
Spanish title  Sopa De Ganso
French title  La Soupe au canard
German title  Die Marx Brothers im Krieg
Swedish title  4 Fula Fiskar
Italian title  La guerra lampo dei fratelli Marx
Finnish title  Neljä naurettavaa naapuria
Extracts published on Super 8 titled  This is War

Posters and Lobby Cards for this movie. Click to enlarge.
Poster Poster Poster Poster Poster Poster Poster Poster Poster

Musical numbers

Performed byComments
 Main Title 
Music and lyrics by: Bert Kalmar, Harry Ruby
 His Excellency Is Due 
Music and lyrics by: Bert Kalmar, Harry Ruby
 Hymn to Freedonia 
Music and lyrics by: Bert Kalmar, Harry Ruby
 Freedonia Is Going To War 
Music and lyrics by: Bert Kalmar, Harry Ruby
 End Title 
Music and lyrics by: Bert Kalmar, Harry Ruby

This site uses material originally created by Frank Bland for his website Why A Duck?. Frank did kindly give me permission to use this material.

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