Horse Feathers (1932) is a Pre-Code Marx Brothers film comedy. It stars the four Marx Brothers (Groucho, Chico, Harpo and Zeppo) and Thelma Todd. It was written by Bert Kalmar, Harry Ruby, S. J. Perelman, and Will B. Johnstone. Kalmar and Ruby also wrote some of the original music for the film. Several of the film's gags were taken from the Marx Brothers' stage comedy from the 1900s, Fun in Hi Skule. The term "horse feathers" was a colloquial American expression for "nonsense" in the 1920s and 1930s but is now archaic.
The film revolves around college football and a game between the fictional Darwin and Huxley Colleges. Many of the jokes about the amateur status of collegiate football players and how eligibility rules are stretched by collegiate athletic departments remain remarkably current. Groucho plays Quincy Adams Wagstaff, the new president of Huxley College, and Zeppo is his son Frank, who convinces his father to recruit professional football players to help Huxley's team. There are also many references to Prohibition. Baravelli (Chico) is an "iceman", who delivers ice and bootleg liquor from a local speakeasy. Pinky (Harpo) is also an "iceman", and a part-time dogcatcher. Through a series of misunderstandings, Baravelli and Pinky are recruited to play on Huxley's football team; this requires them to enroll as students at Huxley, which creates chaos throughout the school.
The climax of the film, which ESPN listed as first in its "top 11 scenes in football movie history," includes the four protagonists winning the football game by taking the ball into the end zone in a horse-drawn garbage wagon that Pinky rides like a chariot. A picture of the brothers in the "chariot" near the end of the film made the cover of Time magazine in 1932.
Duck Soup is a 1933 pre-Code Marx Brothers comedy film written by Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby, with additional dialogue by Arthur Sheekman and Nat Perrin, and directed by Leo McCarey. First released theatrically by Paramount Pictures on November 17, 1933, it starred what were then billed as the "Four Marx Brothers" (Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Zeppo) and also featured Margaret Dumont, Louis Calhern, Raquel Torres and Edgar Kennedy. It was the last Marx Brothers film to feature Zeppo, and the last of five Marx Brothers movies released by Paramount Pictures.
Compared to the Marx Brothers' previous Paramount films, Duck Soup was a box office disappointment, although it was not a "flop" as is sometimes reported. The film opened to mixed reviews, although this by itself did not end the group's business with Paramount. Bitter contract disputes, including a threatened walk-out by the Marxes, crippled relationships between them and Paramount just as Duck Soup went into production. After the film fulfilled their five-picture contract with the studio, the Marxes and Paramount agreed to part ways.
While contemporaneous critics of Duck Soup felt it did not quite meet the standards of its predecessors, critical opinion has evolved and the film has since achieved the status of a classic. Duck Soup is now widely considered among critics to be a masterpiece of comedy, and the Marx Brothers' finest film.
In 1990, the United States Library of Congress deemed Duck Soup "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry.
The wealthy Mrs. Teasdale (Margaret Dumont) insists that Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho) be appointed leader of the small, bankrupt country of Freedonia before she will continue to provide much-needed financial aid. Meanwhile, neighboring Sylvania is attempting to annex the country. Sylvanian ambassador Trentino (Louis Calhern) tries to foment a revolution and to woo Mrs. Teasdale, and he tries to dig up dirt on Firefly by sending in spies Chicolini (Chico) and Pinky (Harpo).
After failing to collect useful information against Firefly, Chicolini and Pinky are able to infiltrate the government when Chicolini is appointed Secretary of War after Firefly sees him selling peanuts outside his window. Meanwhile, Firefly's secretary, Bob Roland (Zeppo), suspects Trentino's motives, and advises Firefly to get rid of Trentino by insulting him. Firefly agrees to the plan, but after a series of personal insults exchanged between Firefly and Trentino, the plan backfires when Firefly slaps Trentino instead of being slapped by him. As a result, the two countries come to the brink of war. Adding to the international friction is the fact that Firefly is also courting Mrs. Teasdale, and, like Trentino, hoping to get his hands on her late husband's wealth.
Trentino learns that Freedonia's war plans are in Mrs. Teasdale's safe and orders Chicolini and Pinky to steal them. Chicolini is caught by Firefly and put on trial, during which war is officially declared, and everyone is overcome by war frenzy, breaking into song and dance. The trial put aside, Chicolini and Pinky join Firefly and Bob Roland in anarchic battle, resulting in general mayhem.
The end of the film finds Trentino caught in makeshift stocks, with the Brothers pelting him with fruit. Trentino surrenders, but Firefly tells him to wait until they run out of fruit. Mrs. Teasdale begins singing the Freedonia national anthem in her operatic voice and the Brothers begin hurling fruit at her instead.
A Night at the Opera is a 1935 American comedy film starring the Marx Brothers, and featuring Kitty Carlisle, Allan Jones, Margaret Dumont, Sig Ruman, and Walter Woolf King. It was the first film the Marx Brothers made for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer after their departure from Paramount Pictures, and the first after Zeppo left the act. The film was adapted by George S. Kaufman, Morrie Ryskind, and Al Boasberg (uncredited) from a story by James Kevin McGuinness. It was directed by Sam Wood.
A smash hit at the box office, A Night at the Opera was selected in 1993 for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". It is also included in the 2007 update of AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies, at number 85; and previously in AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs 2000 showing, at number 12.
In Milan, Otis B. Driftwood (Groucho), business manager for wealthy dowager Mrs. Claypool (Margaret Dumont), has stood her up and is having dinner with another woman in the very same restaurant. When she discovers him seated directly behind her, Driftwood joins Mrs. Claypool, and introduces her to Herman Gottlieb (Sig Ruman), director of the New York Opera Company, also dining at the restaurant. Driftwood has arranged for Mrs. Claypool to invest $200,000 in the opera company, allowing Gottlieb to engage Rodolfo Lassparri (Walter Woolf King), the "greatest tenor since Caruso".
Backstage at the opera house, chorister Ricardo Baroni (Allan Jones) hires his best friend Fiorello (Chico) to be his manager. Ricardo is in love with the soprano, Rosa Castaldi (Kitty Carlisle), who is also being courted by Lassparri. Driftwood arrives and finds Lassparri attacking Tomasso, his dresser (Harpo), who knocks Lassparri unconscious by hitting him over the head with a mallet. Fiorello appears and identifies himself as the manager of the "greatest tenor in the world". Driftwood, mistakenly thinking Fiorello is referring to Lassparri, signs Baroni to a contract.
After bidding farewell to Rosa at the pier, Ricardo, Fiorello, and Tomasso stow away on board the ocean liner to New York inside Driftwood's steamer trunk. After Driftwood discovers them, he tries to get the three of them to leave, as he is expecting a rendezvous with Mrs. Claypool. They refuse to go until they've eaten, and eventually Driftwood's tiny stateroom is crowded with an assortment of people. (see Stateroom scene below)
Lassparri later spots the stowaways among the immigrants on the ship, and they are caught and thrown into the brig. They escape with help from Driftwood and are able to sneak into the country by assuming the identities of three famous bearded aviators, who are traveling aboard the ship. After a welcoming reception in New York, the stowaways' true identities are discovered and they hide out in Driftwood's hotel room, pursued by police sergeant Henderson (Robert Emmett O'Connor).
Meanwhile, Ricardo is reunited with Rosa after climbing in the window of her hotel room. Ricardo has an altercation with Lassparri, which results in both Rosa and Driftwood being fired from the opera company by Gottlieb. The boys decide to seek revenge by sabotaging the opening night performance of Il trovatore ending with the abduction of Lassparri, forcing Gottlieb to substitute Ricardo and Rosa in his place. The audience clearly prefers Baroni over Lassparri and the latter is booed and pelted with fruit after he attempts to return to the stage. The film ends with Driftwood and Fiorello attempting to negotiate another contract, as Rosa and Ricardo sing an encore.