Friday, August 30, 2019


"Take two turkeys, one goose, four cabbages, but no duck, and mix them together. After one taste, you'll duck soup the rest of your life."
- Groucho Marx

Groucho, Gummo, Minnie, Zeppo, Sam, Chico, Harpo

Minnie's boys were born for the stage. Minnie Schoenberg (1865-1929) and her parents were German entertainers who immigrated to NYC where Minnie married a tailor from France, Sam (Simon) Marx and raised her family of troupers.

The musically talented brothers hit the Vaudeville circuit at various ages and in various groupings following the lead of their uncle Albert, renowned as Al Shean of Gallagher and Shean. Evolution and experience found music taking a step behind comedy in the act and it was their wit and physicality which took The Marx Brothers to success on Broadway. As is the way of the world, Broadway success led to the high sign from Hollywood where Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Zeppo signed a five-picture deal with Paramount.

Duck Soup, 1933 was the fifth movie starring The Four Marx Brothers and the last movie starring The Four Marx Brothers. Zeppo became fed up with being a straight man to his zany older brothers and joined their brother Milton aka Gummo as an agent, as well as becoming an inventor.

Margaret Dumont, Groucho

Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho) has, despite all apparent efforts to the contrary, charmed the wealthy widow Mrs. Teasdale (Margaret Dumont) to the point where she will only assist the country of Freedonia financially if said Firefly is placed in the exalted position of leader of the country. Ambassador Trentino (Louis Calhern) of neighbouring Sylvania is also interested in Mrs. Teasdale's bank account and sets about sabotaging Firefly with a couple of inept spies, Chicolini (Chico) and Pinky (Harpo).

Chico, Zeppo, Groucho, Harpo

Comic complications abound thanks to Firefly's secretary Roland (Zeppo), the exotic Vera (Raquel Torres), and a lemonade vendor (Edgar Kennedy). To be entirely truthful, comic complications abound because nobody knows what they're doing! Not the spies, not the various cabinet members, not Mrs. Teasdale, and not Rufus T. Firefly. With money and patriotic pride at stake, of course, you know this means war.

Harry Ruby, Bert Kalmar

Songwriters Harry Ruby and Bert Kalmar (Three Little Words) wrote the story and the songs for Duck Soup. Such songs as His Excellency is Due, These Are the Laws of My Administration, and The Country's Going to War. Toe-tappers if ever there were!

Duck Soup is 1 hour and 8 minutes of wit and mayhem involving mirrors, bathtubs, production numbers, and bombs. Benito Mussolini hated it, you'll love it!

Leo McCarey, Chico, Harpo

"The most surprising thing about this film is that I succeeded in not going crazy, for I really did not want to work with them: they were completely mad."
- Leo McCarey, director

TCM is treating Duck Soup as an insomniac's delight by screening it on Saturday, September 14th at 2:00 a.m. EST. If you have seen the movie a gazillion times, take the opportunity to share it with a newbie and photograph the reaction. Here is my daughter Janet watching the end credits when I shared Duck Soup with her last year. 

"What did I just watch?!?"


  1. LOL Janet looks like her brain just exploded.

    The editing in this film is really sharp. It has to keep up with the madcap pace of the jokes and the songs and I think it’s fair to say it makes the movie look ahead of its time.

  2. Yep. Janet's brain - boom!

    Truly, Duck Soup has a timeless quality. The editing is superb. All of the crazy people involved really knew what they were doing.

  3. Believe it or not, I just recently discovered the Marx Brothers and have been asking myself ever since: Where have they been all my life? I felt exactly like your daughter the first time I watched them. Then I watched more.
    Groucho's funny one, two and three-liners are so quotable.

    1. The quotability will be your downfall. Trust me. You'll be out in public and in your head you will hear Groucho with something entirely appropriate to your current circumstances and you start to laugh out loud. You do that too often and people will start to have suspicions about your mental stability.

  4. I remember HARPO MARX from a rerun of I LOVE LUCY. That scene with HARPO and LUCY doing the mirror bit was great! I read that LUCILLE BALL had been in a MARX BROTHERS movie-I think it was ROOM SERVICE in the late 30s. This was before Lucy was a redhead. Also DORIS SINGLETON was great as CAROLYN APPLEBY on I LOVE LUCY.

    1. Lucy's regulars, like Doris Singleton were so talented at comedy and added so much to her programs.

      Room Service is fun and showed Lucy's wit quite well. The mirror scene that Lucy and Harpo did so well was based on a very funny scene in Duck Soup. Harpo's autobiography "Harpo Speaks" is well worth seeking out if you are a fan.

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