Not all the Marx Brothers films in their heyday were well received, including their mapcap classic Duck Soup (1933). But over time with a better understanding of what the Marx Brothers were all about Duck Soup would grow to become one of the greatest comedies of all time.
Right from the opening credits with four ducks swimming in a huge pot of water, you know something special is cooking! In short, the film successfully sends up the foolishness of dictatorship and of war, where an inexperienced leader plunges the imaginary country of Freedonia into war. I believe Benito Mussolini even banned the movie in Italy, citing the films political message a little to close to his own deep-seated insecurities. Groucho Marx, of course, would have us believe “We were just four Jews trying to get a laugh.”
Nevertheless, Duck Soup was a film well ahead of its time, with its satire look at early 1930’s politics, its witty dialogue and physical gags. Importantly it is all of the non-stop puns that really drive this quintessence Marx Brothers picture. Make no mistake about it, with Groucho in charge of proceedings, you can’t escape, the pun after pun that flows from his mouth like verbal diarrhoea. But it isn’t always what comes out of Groucho’s mouth that is funny, it sometimes takes a team effort to truly dream up the most zany gags imaginable. That said, one of the films standout sequences finds Harpo pretending to be Groucho’s reflections in ‘the mirror scene’. With what seems like possible skill and timing, Groucho puts Harpo through an exhaustive test to prove Groucho is looking at his own reflection. When the brothers exchange places during the skit, you can’t help but marvel the lengths they go to make us laugh. Enjoy!