#202 (tie) – Duck Soup (1933), dir. Leo McCarey


Hail, hail, Freedonia! The Marx Brothers — (from the left) Zeppo, Chico, Harpo, and Groucho — declare war with a bang and a song in the anarchic musical comedy Duck Soup.

The Marx Brothers come racing into the Sight & Sound mix with Duck Soup (1933), their funniest and most unhinged film. Veterans of vaudeville and the Broadway stage, the four Marxes — insulting motormouth Groucho, Italian stereotype Chico, silent lunatic Harpo, and Zeppo — first came to the big screen in 1929, bringing with them an anarchic sense of humor that didn’t run against propriety so much as throw a grenade at it. But even though the Brothers (who were actual siblings) tore through their movies like a tornado, their earliest films were typically dragged back to earth by needless romantic subplots and anodyne musical numbers. Not so in Duck Soup, which sees Groucho as the gloriously named Rufus T. Firefly, petty dictator of Freedonia, and Chico and Harpo as a pair of colossally incompetent spies from rival nation Sylvania — oh, and Zeppo is there too. Now in charge of an entire country, the Marxes are allowed to run completely wild, creating a frantic satire of politics and war — and movie musicals. Audiences in 1933 didn’t warm to Duck Soup like they did the Brothers’ earlier pictures, but it has since come to be recognized as their finest film and, with its blatant disregard for even basic matters like continuity and plot, it may be the zaniest Hollywood comedy ever made. (68 min.) Continue reading