(1933) director Leo McCrary
I think I got into eating duck soup at Thai restaurants because I liked to be able to answer the question, “What did you have for lunch?” with “Duck Soup.”
Duck Soup is considered to be the best of the Marx Brothers’ films, the final one from Paramount, the final one featuring Zeppo. It is also, of their films, the one that has the most notable director at the helm in Leo McCrary, who would go on to direct The Awful Truth (1937), The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945), and An Affair to Remember (1957), among many others. The camera work and the direction really do stand out in contrast to the earlier films, which I watched in quick succession on this New Year’s Eve.
In this film, Groucho is appointed leader of Freedonia, a small, bankrupt European country. Zeppo, typically, is his secretary, while Harpo and Chico are spies hired by neighboring Sylvania. Chaos and hijinks, including a much-noted, much-copied “mirror” sequence in which Harpo, dressed as Groucho, mimes his actions, play-acting that what he’s seeing is a mirror. Eventually it leads to war.
The battle sequence is perhaps the film’s strangest and most absurd, in which almost every cut back to the bunker/fortress in which they are holed up, sees the brothers in constantly changing period uniforms, from the Civil War to a Boy Scout uniform, eventually in a Davy Crockett coonskin cap. It’s typical rapid-fire one liners, puns, sight-gags, and never-ending chaos.
All told, it made for a great way to see out the old year, watching the Marx Brothers. Though it’s a great way to pass any evening, really, any time.