Poster by Al Hirschfeld
|Directed by||Norman Z. McLeod|
|Produced by||Herman J. Mankiewicz (uncredited)|
|Written by|| S. J. Perelman |
Will B. Johnstone
|Starring|| Groucho Marx |
|Music by||John Leipold|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
Horse Feathers is a 1932 pre-Code comedy film starring the Marx Brothers.It stars the Marx Brothers (Groucho, Chico, Harpo, and Zeppo), Thelma Todd and David Landau. It was written by Bert Kalmar, Harry Ruby, S. J. Perelman, and Will B. Johnstone. Kalmar and Ruby also wrote the original songs 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 Marx portrays Professor Quincy Adams Wagstaff, the new president of Huxley College, while Zeppo Marx plays his son Frank, a student at the school who convinces his father to recruit professional football players to help Huxley's losing football team. There are also many references to Prohibition. Baravelli, played by Chico Marx, is an "iceman", who delivers ice and bootleg liquor from a local speakeasy. Pinky, played by Harpo Marx, is also an "iceman", and a part-time dogcatcher. Through a series of misunderstandings, Baravelli and Pinky are accidentally recruited to play for Huxley instead of the actual professional players. This requires them to enroll as students, 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 successfully performing a version of the hidden ball trick and then scoring the winning touchdown 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.
The film prominently features the song "Everyone Says I Love You", by Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby. (This song was later the title song of a 1996 Woody Allen movie). All four brothers perform the song, almost every time as a serenade to Connie Bailey. Zeppo leads with a "straight" verse:
Everyone says I love you
The cop on the corner and the burglar too
The preacher in the pulpit and the man in the pew
Says I love you.
Harpo whistles it once to his horse, and later plays it on the harp to serenade Miss Bailey. Chico sings a comic verse, with his standard fake Italian accent, while playing piano:
Everyone says I love you
The great big mosquito when-a he sting you
The fly when he gets stuck on the flypaper too
Says I love you.
Groucho sings a sarcastic verse, sitting in a canoe strumming a guitar as Miss Bailey paddles. This is in line with his suspicions about the college widow's intentions throughout the film.
Everyone says I love you
But just what they say it for I never knew
It's just inviting trouble for the poor sucker who
Says I love you.
In the opening number Wagstaff and a group of college professors sing and dance in full academic robes and mortarboard hats:
I don't know what they have to say
It makes no difference anyway;
Whatever it is, I'm against it!
A later scene features Baravelli guarding the speakeasy and Wagstaff trying to get in. The password for entry is "Swordfish". This sequence degenerates into a series of puns:
Wagstaff: I got it! Haddock.
Baravelli: 'At's a-funny, I got a haddock too.
Wagstaff: What do you take for a haddock?
Baravelli: Well, Sometimes I take an aspirin, sometimes I take a calomel.
Wagstaff: Say, I'd walk a mile for a calomel.
Baravelli: You mean chocolate calomel? I like-a that too, but you no guess it.
At the door, Pinky is also asked the password. He responds by pulling a fish from his coat and sticking a small sword down its throat.
Later Wagstaff and Baravelli debate the cost of ice. Wagstaff argues that his bill should be much smaller than it is:
Baravelli: I make you proposition. You owe us $200, we take 2000 and we call it square.
Wagstaff: That's not a bad idea. I tell you what ... I'll consult my lawyer. And if he advises me to do it, I'll get a new lawyer.
And on another subject:
Baravelli: Last week, for eighteen dollars, I gotta co-ed with two pair of pants.
Wagstaff: Since when has a co-ed got two pair of pants?
Baravelli: Since I joined the college.
A notable scene taken from the earlier revue Fun in Hi Skule consists of the brothers disrupting an anatomy class.The professor asks for a student to explain the symptoms of cirrhosis. Baravelli obliges:
So roses are red
So violets are blue
So sugar is sweet
So so are you.
The professor protests that his facts are in order: Baravelli and Pinky bear him out. Wagstaff takes over the class and continues the lecture.
A little later, Wagstaff advises Pinky that he can't burn the candle at both ends. Pinky then reaches into his trenchcoat, and produces a candle burning at both ends.
Foreshadowing the "stateroom" scene from the 1935 film A Night at the Opera , all four Marx brothers and the main antagonist take turns going in and out of Connie Bailey's room, and eventually their movements pile up on each other, resulting in a crowded, bustling scene, notable both by Groucho's breaking of the fourth wall during Chico's piano solo, and his constant opening of his umbrella and removing his overshoes upon entering the room. The overshoes were commonly known as 'rubbers', a reference to contraceptives, a visual gag about Groucho's intentions towards Connie.
Eventually, Pinky and Baravelli are sent to kidnap two of the rival college's star players to prevent them from playing in the big game. The intended victims (who are much larger men than Pinky and Baravelli) manage to kidnap the pair instead, removing their outer clothing and locking them in a room. Pinky and Baravelli make their escape by sawing their way out through the floor. The saws came from a tool bag Pinky carried with them that held their kidnappers' tools, which included, among other things, rope, chisels, hammers and at one point, a small pig. This is an example of the surreal edge of Marx Brothers humor.
One direct example of that influence occurs in the speakeasy scene. Two men are playing cards, and one says to the other, "cut the cards". Pinky happens to walk by at that moment, pulls a hatchet out of his trenchcoat and chops the deck in half. This none-too-subtle gag, recycled from the brothers' first Broadway show, I'll Say She Is (1924), was repeated by Curly Howard against Moe Howard in The Three Stooges' short Ants in the Pantry (1936), and by Bugs Bunny in Bugs Bunny Rides Again (1948).
Mordaunt Hall of The New York Times wrote that the film "aroused riotous laughter from those who packed the theatre" on opening night. "Some of the fun is even more reprehensible than the doings of these clowns in previous films," Hall wrote, "but there is no denying that their antics and their patter are helped along by originality and ready wit.""Laffs galore, swell entertainment," wrote Variety , while Film Daily reported, "Full of laughs that will rock any house." John Mosher of The New Yorker called the film "a rather more slight and trivial affair than the other Marx offerings," but still acknowledged the Marxes as "very special; there is no one else like Groucho or Harpo on stage or screen, and probably never will be. So familiar now is the sense of humor they arouse that the mere idea of their presence starts a laugh."
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:
The caricatures of the four brothers that are briefly flashed during the credits are taken from a promotional poster from their previous film, Monkey Business . Production of the film was hindered when Chico was severely injured in a car accident, suffering a shattered knee and multiple broken ribs. [ citation needed ]This delayed production by more than two months and limited Chico's participation in filming.
As a result, the movie was filmed so that Chico was sitting down in the majority of scenes he was in. It required a body double to be used in some of the football scenes, most notably during the shot where the Four Marx Brothers chase a horse-drawn garbage wagon, climb in and head off in the opposite direction; Chico's double is taller than the other brothers by several inches.[ citation needed ]
A term that occurs often in Horse Feathers, but may not be familiar to modern viewers, is college widow (see also The College Widow , a 1904 play). The somewhat derogatory term referred to a young woman who remains near a college year after year to associate with male students.It is used to describe Connie Bailey. Such women were considered "easy". Miss Bailey is shown to be involved with each of the characters played by the Brothers, as well as the principal antagonist Jennings.
At one point during the climactic football game, Wagstaff exclaims, "Jumping anaconda!" This is a ‘minced oath’, an expression used in sports stories of the time to show the colourful language used by coaches, without using actual samples, not then considered fit to print. This particular one also alludes to the notorious stock market performance of Anaconda Copper immediately preceding the Great Depression.All of the Marx Brothers had experienced severe losses in the Wall Street Crash of 1929. Groucho had delivered other jokes related to the stock market in the Brothers' preceding films (for example, "The stockholder of yesteryear is the stowaway of today" in Monkey Business ), and used Anaconda itself in a Eugene O’Neill parody in 1930's Animal Crackers.
The only existing prints of this film are missing several minutes, owing to censorship and damage. The damage is most noticeable in jump cuts during the scene in which Groucho, Chico and Harpo visit Connie Bailey's apartment.
Several sequences were cut from the film, including an extended ending to the apartment scene, additional scenes with Pinky as a dogcatcher, and a sequence in which the brothers play poker as the college burns down. (A description of the latter scene still exists in a pressbook from the year of the film's release, along with a still photograph.)The August 15, 1932 Time magazine review of the film says of Harpo in the speakeasy scene, "He bowls grapefruit at bottles on the bar." This joke is also missing from the current print.
Julius Henry "Groucho" Marx was an American comedian, actor, writer, stage, film, radio, and television star. He is generally considered to have been a master of quick wit and one of America's greatest comedians.
The Marx Brothers were an American family comedy act that was successful in vaudeville, on Broadway, and in motion pictures from 1905 to 1949. Five of the Marx Brothers' thirteen feature films were selected by the American Film Institute (AFI) as among the top 100 comedy films, with two of them, Duck Soup (1933) and A Night at the Opera (1935), in the top fifteen. They are widely considered by critics, scholars and fans to be among the greatest and most influential comedians of the 20th century. The brothers were included in AFI's 100 Years... 100 Stars list of the 25 greatest male stars of Classical Hollywood cinema, the only performers to be inducted collectively.
Animal Crackers is a 1930 American pre-Code Marx Brothers comedy film directed by Victor Heerman. The film stars the Marx Brothers, Groucho, Chico, Harpo, and Zeppo, with Lillian Roth and Margaret Dumont. It was based on their broadway musical of the same name, in which mayhem and zaniness ensue when a valuable painting goes missing during a party in honor of famed African explorer Captain Jeffrey T. Spaulding. A critical and commercial success upon its initial release, it was filmed at Paramount's Astoria Studios in Astoria, Queens; it was the second of two films the Brothers would make in New York City.
Duck Soup is a 1933 comedy film written by Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby, with additional dialogue by Arthur Sheekman and Nat Perrin, directed by Leo McCarey. Released theatrically by Paramount Pictures on November 17, 1933, it starred the Marx Brothers 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. Groucho plays the newly installed president of a fictional country, and Zeppo is his secretary, while Harpo and Chico are spies for a rival country's ambassador. Relations between Groucho and the foreign ambassador deteriorate during the film, and they go to war at the conclusion.
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 of five films the Marx Brothers made under contract for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer after their departure from Paramount Pictures, and the first after Zeppo left the act. The film was written by George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind from a story by James Kevin McGuinness, with additional uncredited dialogue by Al Boasberg. The film was directed by Sam Wood.
Arthur "Harpo" Marx was an American comedian, actor, mime artist, and musician, and the second-oldest of the Marx Brothers. In contrast to the mainly verbal comedy of his brothers Groucho Marx and Chico Marx, Harpo's comic style was visual, being an example of both clown and pantomime traditions. He wore a curly reddish blond wig and was silent in all his movie appearances, instead blowing a horn or whistling to communicate. Marx frequently employed props such as a horn cane, constructed from a lead pipe, tape, and a bulbhorn.
Leonard Joseph "Chico" Marx was an American comedian, musician, and actor. He was a member of the Marx Brothers. His persona in the act was that of a charming, uneducated but crafty con artist, seemingly of rural Italian origin, who wore shabby clothes and sported a curly-haired wig and Tyrolean hat. On screen, Chico is often in alliance with Harpo, usually as partners in crime, and is also frequently seen trying to con or outfox Groucho. Leonard was the oldest of the Marx Brothers to live past early childhood. In addition to his work as a performer, he played an important role in the management and development of the act in its early years.
Herbert Manfred "Zeppo" Marx was an American actor, comedian, theatrical agent, and engineer. He was the youngest and last survivor of the five Marx Brothers. He appeared in the first five Marx Brothers feature films, from 1929 to 1933, but then left the act to start his second career as an engineer and theatrical agent.
A Day at the Races (1937) is the seventh film starring the Marx Brothers, with Allan Jones, Maureen O'Sullivan and Margaret Dumont. Like their previous Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer feature A Night at the Opera, this film was a major hit.
At the Circus is a 1939 comedy film starring the Marx Brothers released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in which they help save a circus from bankruptcy. The film contains Groucho Marx's classic rendition of "Lydia the Tattooed Lady". The supporting cast includes Florence Rice, Kenny Baker, Margaret Dumont, and Eve Arden. The songs, including "Lydia the Tattooed Lady", "Two Blind Loves", and "Step Up and Take a Bow", were written by the team of Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg.
The Cocoanuts is a 1929 pre-Code musical comedy film starring the Marx Brothers. Produced for Paramount Pictures by Walter Wanger, who is not credited, the film also stars Mary Eaton, Oscar Shaw, Margaret Dumont and Kay Francis. It was the first sound film to credit more than one director, and was adapted to the screen by Morrie Ryskind from the George S. Kaufman Broadway musical play. Five of the film's tunes were composed by Irving Berlin, including "When My Dreams Come True", sung by Oscar Shaw and Mary Eaton.
Monkey Business is a 1931 American pre-Code comedy film. It is the third of the Marx Brothers' released movies, and the first with an original screenplay rather than an adaptation of one of their Broadway shows. The film also features Thelma Todd, Harry Woods and Ruth Hall. It is directed by Norman Z. McLeod with screenplay by S. J. Perelman and Will B. Johnstone. Much of the story takes place on an ocean liner crossing the Atlantic Ocean.
Love Happy is a 1949 American musical comedy film, released by United Artists, directed by David Miller and starring the Marx Brothers in their 13th and final feature film.
The Big Store is an American comedy film starring the Marx Brothers released in 1941, with Groucho, Chico and Harpo wreaking havoc in a large department store. Groucho appears as private detective Wolf J. Flywheel.
Flywheel, Shyster, and Flywheel is a situation comedy radio show starring two of the Marx Brothers, Groucho and Chico, and written primarily by Nat Perrin and Arthur Sheekman. The series was originally broadcast in the United States on the National Broadcasting Company's Blue Network beginning November 28, 1932, and ended May 22, 1933. Sponsored by the Standard Oil Companies of New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Louisiana and the Colonial Beacon Oil Company, it was the Monday night installment of the Five-Star Theater, an old-time radio variety series that offered a different program each weeknight. Episodes were broadcast live from NBC's WJZ station in New York City and later from a sound stage at RKO Pictures in Los Angeles, California, before returning to WJZ for the final episodes.
I'll Say She Is (1924) is a musical comedy revue written by brothers Will B. Johnstone and Tom Johnstone (music). It was the Broadway debut of the Marx Brothers. A revival of I'll Say She Is, as "adapted and expanded" by the writer-performer Noah Diamond, was seen Off Broadway at the Connelly Theater in 2016.
The Mad, Mad, Mad Comedians is a 1970 American animated television special produced by Rankin/Bass Productions. After the Christmas special Frosty the Snowman (1969), it was Rankin/Bass' second hand-drawn animated work to be outsourced to Osamu Tezuka's Mushi Production in Tokyo, Japan. The show aired on ABC on April 7, 1970 before the airing of that year's Oscars. It was a tribute to early vaudeville, and featured animated reworkings of various famous comedians' acts.
Samuel Marx was the father of American entertainment group (the) Marx Brothers, stars of vaudeville, Broadway and film, and the husband of Minnie Marx, who served as the group's manager.
Marx is a Germanised form of the Jewish family name Mordechai that was changed from the original surname Ha-Levi meaning from the tribe of Levi or from the levites
"Why a Duck?" is a comedy routine featured in the Marx Brothers movie The Cocoanuts (1929). In a scene in which Groucho and Chico are discussing a map, Groucho mentions the presence of a viaduct between the mainland and a peninsula. Chico, who is playing the role of an immigrant with poor English skills, replies "Why a duck?" This leads into a long schtick with Chico responding "Why a no chicken?", "I catch ona why a horse", and so forth.
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