Duck Soup: A Classic for Generations to Come

         From 1921 to 1949, the Marx Brothers made 15 movies, 14 of which were released to the public. Duck Soup was one of the fourteen released. The historical aspect of Duck Soup was the type comedy used throughout the movie. Duck Soup, like their other Marx Brothers movies, had a sense of style and comedy that was unheard of in previous movies. The Marx Brothers had some of the first movies with sounds, so when they made movies with extreme sarcasm and their famous one-liners, people were drawn to them.

         Their style was their own; they commonly had music in their movies, and the lyrics were always funny. In Duck Soup, the first song was performed when Groucho accepted the position as the leader of Freedonia. The main line he had in the song was, "If you think the country is bad now, just wait till I get through with it." The movie was one of the first to have sarcasm heard instead of just acted out.

         Although this movie had full sound, there was a nice use of silent comedy mixed in. The main scene that displayed this silent comedy was the mirror scene, in which Chico and Harpo, dressed like Groucho, imitate each other's movements. The scene was very comical just by the body movements and expressions displayed. Another example of the silent comedy was Harpo's horse ride that was meant to mock the midnight ride of Paul Revere, except Harpo went to someone's house and went to sleep with the resident female, while sharing the bed with his horse. Another silent feature to all of the Marx Brothers movies was Harpo, the silent actor who always found crazy, alternative ways to express what he wanted to say.

         Duck Soup was also very political, and in my opinion, made fun of our political system. One example of the political comedy was showing Groucho in power and having everything at his fingertips, no matter how ridiculous of a thing it was he wanted. He also had the power to create completely pointless jobs and gave them to people just because he liked them. The movie had a woman, Mrs. Teasdale (Margaret Dumont), who donated a lot of money, but in return she had a large amount of influence in the ruling of the country; which still happens in our country today through soft money donations. At the beginning of the movie Groucho also said there would be no dirty jokes or smoking allowed, but that it was a free country; this to me is a limited Democracy, similar to what we have in the U.S. now.

         There were also sexual innuendos all throughout the movie. Although they were funny, there were almost unheard of for the time period. Comedy like this had become popular in Vaudeville shows, but not in movies. Some of the things said in this movie were almost risqué for this time, because many people still thought that it was improper to talk like this.

         The risks the Marx Brothers decided to take made them famous. Their movies were loved by people of all age groups, and they became more and more popular with each movie. Even though their movies were made as early as 1929, they are considered classics that are now loved by all generations.

Amanda Saunders

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