Duck Soup

This was the fifth and last movie The Marx Brothers made for Paramount. In the other Paramount movies, Groucho is usually put in a position of power. Hotel manager, Explorer, the Dean of a college but in this one he actually runs a country.

While Groucho who plays Rufus T. Firefly is president of Freedonia, Harpo and Chico play Pinky and Chicolini who are spies for a rival country named Sylvania. Freedonia is near bankruptcy and Sylvania trying to take it over. Rufus declares war and manages to get Pinky and Chicolini on Freedonia’s side.

In later MGM movies, The Marx Brothers were sympathetic figures. In this film, they were the definition of anarchy. The Brother’s irreverence is raised many notches in this movie than any other they did.

The film did not do great at the box office in 1933…but has since become a classic. Personally, I like the Paramount movies the best. Their most successful movie was “A Night At The Opera” which was their first at MGM and it was produced by Irving Thalberg. Yes, it had more of a plot and the Brothers were great but were a bit tamer.

Margaret Dumont is brilliant as always as Groucho’s straight “man.”

If you want a great comedy watch this movie…you may even find out the answer to the burning question of “what is it that has four pair of pants, lives in Philadelphia, and it never rains but it pours?”…. well maybe you won’t…but watch it anyway.

Trying to explain the plot is almost like trying to describe in detail about a bomb exploding. In the Paramount movies, the plot was secondary to the Brothers running rampant.

Things were not great in the world while they were filming this movie. Below Harpo talks about working on the movie.

Harpo from “Harpo Speaks” about working on Duck Soup.

Acting in Duck Soup, our last picture for Paramount, was the hardest job I ever did. It was the only time I can remember that I worried about turning in a bad performance. The trouble was not with the working hours, the script, the director, or the falls I had to take (I never used a stunt man or a double). The trouble was Adolf Hitler. His speeches were being rebroadcast in America. Somebody had a radio on the set, and twice we suspended shooting to listen to him scream. Hindenburg had died. Hitler was now absolute dictator of Germany. He threatened to scrap the Versailles Treaty and create a German navy and air force. He threatened to grab off Austria and part of Czechoslovakia. He threatened to go beyond the boycott and revoke the citizenship of all Jews.
I never knew until then what the emotion of pure anger was like, how it felt to be sore enough to want to hit somebody in cold blood. A lot of people I knew were shocked that I was so shocked. Nothing would really come of the dictator’s threats, they said. He was all bluff and hot air. His act was nothing more than a bad imitation of that other comic, Mussolini.

Author: badfinger20

Guitar, Bass, song writer,

72 thoughts on “Duck Soup”

    1. Off Topic but congratulations. I haven’t checked to see who the Pirates gave up but you have a good pitcher under team control for years. He will be even better in the National League. I’ve always liked Archer plus he seems like a good guy.

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      1. Thanks- They surprised me picking up the Rangers closer last night and Archer today. Meadows had been their big prospect- and Glasnow their top minor league pitcher a couple years ago but he has struggled at the major league level. I think he needed a change of scenery.. They have Archer and Kela under contract for three more seasons. I hope the deals work out for them.

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      2. If you are going to trade your top prospect that is the way to go with team control. I’ve always thought Archer possible Ace stuff…

        The Dodgers got Brian Dozier… they need relief pitching but the lineup is solid!

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      3. I wonder how many starts the rotation has missed this year for the Dodgers? It seems like someone is always on the DL. They need to get healthy in September. Isn’t someone out again or am I dreaming it?

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      4. No you are not dreaming… Stripling who has been a big surprise this year just went on it… I think they got Dozier because of Justin Turner. Since the wrist injury he hasn’t been the same and he is on the DL again.

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      5. Yes Stripling- I have him on my fantasy team- so much happening in baseball I couldn’t think of who was out… I see Johnny Cueto looks to need Tommy John- I think the Giants had better start thinking of a rebuilt- they are old!

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      6. I really thought that would happen a few years ago on Cueto…he has always had elbow troubles… The biggest commodity they have is Bumgardner… They should have traded him for a batch of prospects… I will say this though…they are loyal to their players but it will cost them.

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      7. I think the past two years they have thought- maybe we can get one more out of them– adding McCutchen wasn’t the big boost they hoped either. Mysterious how he has faded in the past 3-4 seasons- at a relatively young age. … reminds me a little of the 70’s Steelers they kept a few players a year or two past their prime in the early 80’s– I recall them keeping Dwight White an extra year and cutting Dwayne Board who went to SF and had a fine career.

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      8. McCutchen just started to fade that one year…you are right. I really like McCutchen though. He seems like a great guy. Longoria was already fading also. The Dodgers old GM Ned Colletti came from the Giants and he just didn’t trust young players. It’s a new game now and they are/will be paying for it.

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      9. McCutchen a fan favorite in Pittsburgh over the years and everyone was sad to see him go in the off-season. I don’t know why his skills seem to fade so soon. He will never get a huge contract now… The Giants had a lot of success- but over the past 5-6 years the farm system- used to bring in players instead of playing them. They had a great run though.

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      10. I will admit…I have to…they did have a great run. I give them credit because I didn’t think they would win many of those playoff games and World Series but they found a way.

        It’s hard to root against McCutchen…I use to really like Shawn Green and he did the same thing. He just faded after an injury and was never the same.

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      11. Dale Murphy was another one who faded at 30. A couple more outstanding years and he would have been in the Hall of Fame years ago- If I recall correctly he only a year or two to write home about after 30.

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      12. I just read an article about him. Two home runs away from 400. Again around 30… Pitchers I understand more than position players.

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      13. It is remarkable how Henry Aaron and Ted Williams – played so well- until around 40. Ted won battling titles are 39 and 40 and you have to figure he was getting no infield leg singles… Aaron 40 home runs at 39…

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      14. The two you mentioned also played most of their games in the sun and travel wasn’t as luxurious… Tony Gwynn also played well into his thirties.

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      15. I wish I could recall who said this but I remember this quote comparing Aaron and Mays. The person said you go to one game and see Mays and you would probably be wowed by him- and recognize he was a great player. He was just exciting.. Aaron- if the Braves came to town and you went to all three games in the series at the end of the series you could look at your score cards and see the damage he did to your team–wow he is a great player. Aaron wasn’t exciting but deadly…… yes Gwynn was a hitting machine that is for sure! A great more modern example.

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      16. I always thought Aaron = Consistency… Every time I check his stats it was year after year…the same thing over and over again… great quote

        You probably got to see him play right?

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      17. I think it would be hard to find a more consistent player than Aaron was.. was always in great shape- never any controversy- just kept repeating his numbers year after year…… I looked up Gwynn- he hit .289 his rookie year- never under .300 again- even at the end at 41 over .300.

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      18. Aaron was classy and has always remained that way. That man took a lot of abuse in 72-74.
        After I mentioned Gwynn I looked him up. I knew he did well but you are right over 300 at 41.

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      19. I loved watching Brett play.. he was born about 20 minutes away– of course he moved to California when he was like two months old!

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      20. Brett was a throwback. Hard nose ballplayer…I always rooted for the Royals against the Yankees of course… I didn’t know he was born there.

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      21. I did too- I hated the Yankees then and now!!! I always said I’d have rooted for the Soviets against the Yankees- maybe not…. The family moved he probably has never been back lol….

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      22. lol… Reggie Jackson was my first reason to hate them and it just built from there… Now I will admit I love reading about the 20s-30s Yankees. How could any kid not read and like the Babe?

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      23. yes I separate the Babe and Gehrig from what they became under The Boss.. In 1981 when they took that 2 games to 0 lead over your Dodgers I was thinking OH NO NOT AGAIN– I never expected the Dodgers to then win 4 in a row– but it sure made me happy!

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      24. Yes I keep that separated… it’s not the same.

        You don’t know how it made a certain fourteen year old feel…I thought the same thing. I have a home video of that series with commercials… I still watch it time to time…I remember I thought Goose Gossage killed Ron Cey with that ball.

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      25. Yes he could…now most middle relievers can hit what he did at times…its crazy….but he pitched more than one or two innings…as he would tell you at any time.

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      26. LOL.. Yes Gossage is certainly the King of Get off of my lawn… I was thinking at today how valuable middle relievers are- today teams are as likely to trade for them as any position– 30 40 years ago they were just failed starters…

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      27. Now that starters go 5-6 innings they are super valuable… One thing about sabermetric teams…they do NOT like paying a lot for bullpen…they will on a closer but that is it… that is where they like to save money. I guess because bullpens can be uncertain from year to year.

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      28. One thing the Pirates have been good at- is letting a closer go at the right moment- and replacing him with someone good–and having a decent bullpen- even when the members of the pen change from year to year.. I guess when you look at how Cleveland got to the World Series a couple years ago- and how KC won in 2015…a deep bullpen is necessary.

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      29. Yes they are plus the Pirates have the best pitching coach…you are right. They let…I forgot his name…a closer go but the Giants signed him and he has been a failure…I feel stupid…his last name started with a M…Melco…you will probably know

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      30. Mark Melancon- he was traded to Washington a couple years at the deadline- the current closer Rivero- or Vazquez as he now goes by came over in that trade … everyone hated that deal at the time.. turned out pretty well.

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      31. Yes thank you! He didn’t have a lot of velocity. I know location means more but for a closer I would want higher velocity. The Dodgers surprised me that year and resigned Jansen. I didn’t think they would pay that much for a closer.

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      32. 1977 the Pirates had Goose and Tekulve.. and Terry Forster wasn’t bad either…. yes i like a closer that can bring it too.. Melancon has run into injury problems. They had Hanrahan before him and traded him to Boston for Melancon– and Hanrahan was never the same -injuries too.

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      33. I remember that… Forster could bring it also. As a kid I loved to see Tekulve pitch on television. Didn’t the Pirates get Goose and Forster from the White Sox? I don’t know why I remember that. Maybe that just got one of them from them.

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      34. the pirates traded outfielder Richie Zisk to Chicago for Goose and Forster two failed starters. If you look up Forster’s hitting record I believe if he had one more hit he would have been a career .400 hitter.. no power I don’t think he ever hit a home run- but he was a great hitting pitcher…..later made fun of by David Letterman!

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      35. Wow I didn’t know that. I know the Dodgers got him and when he was healthy which wasn’t much he could pitch. I didn’t remember him as that good of a hitter…that is great being a reliever.

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      36. looking at his stats- he only came to bat 12 times in 5 years with the dodgers. he was in a slump those years only 4 for 12!

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      37. lol… he probably was never healthy enough. I may be wrong but the Dodgers could have traded for either one…of course, they got the wrong one.

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      38. It’s great you got to see them both… Do you think Mays would have caught the Babe if not for the lost military years? It was in his prime. He would have needed 54 home runs in those two years…I think it was two years.

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      39. That hurt him and if the Giants had stayed in New York. Aaron was helped by the move to Atlanta- Mays was hurt by moving to Candlestick…

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      40. I was wrong though…it was one full year and I think part of another. Yes, the parks made a difference. Candlestick was a terrible park.

        Like

      41. Did you see the recent American Experience on Williams? Last week I think- very good- on PBS.. I loved that All-Star Game with all the players out there- and Tony Gwynn there with him… I loved the fact that Ted wasn’t one of those ‘back in the day’ guys- he was always praising the current ballplayers…… speaking of which I see Trout turns 27 next week- I hope he stays healthy and doesn’t fade- It would be great if in ten years we are talking- is he one of the 5 greatest players ever..

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      42. We were talking about consistent. Trout seems to be down that path if injuries don’t bring him down. A great guy for the game.

        I didn’t see that but I remember McGuire talking about talking to Williams. Williams wanted to know if McGuire smelled wood burning when he fouled a ball off…I’ll never forget that…and his answer was yes

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      43. Yes that was a great moment– Ted talking about hitting – no one has ever known as much about hitting a baseball as he did…. I have always wondered- he had a terrible childhood- neglectful parents etc–he lived on the neighborhood ballfield.. if he had normal loving parents would he have become the ballplayer he became? And I have another similar wonder- Lewisohn touched on this– if Mary McCartney lives is there a Beatles?

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      44. Sometimes tragic events…especially that young will forever affect that person. I think it would have changed McCartney more if she would have lived than if Julia would have lived…with John… John was already down that bad seed road but that did scar him bad…not saying it didn’t.

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      45. Mary would have never let Paul hang out with that Lennon fella- he was certainly a bad influence!! Yes John was already set in his ways-Mimi couldn’t tame him.

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      46. Mimi was very interesting to read about. John picked up a lot from her… lol you are right she probably would not have allowed Paul around that damn Lennon.

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      47. That was a very realistic possibility. I’m reading a book about 1965 going over music and politics of that year. George Martin was talking how envious Lennon was of McCartney because of his melodies and McCartney was envious of Lennon because of his lyrics…just a perfect combination of people.

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      48. Yes! it is that book. I have the audible and I’m about through so while in Florida I downloaded Catch a Wave when you mentioned it. I’ll start it in a few days.

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      49. I will put that on my list. I can’t get over how good that 66 Beatles is…
        On the Grant book at the very first I thought oh no just a rehash of everything I’ve read but soon it took off in many directions. I really like it. I didn’t know the Watts Riots were in 65… That book got me through the 9 hour drive back.

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      50. yes good book!.. Savage i discovered has double Cd’s out covering 1966 1967 and 1965- not the music we always here- but for example the 1966 book talks of a lot of music that didn’t necessarily make the charts- the cd’s cover those songs- I have the 66 and 67 cds- I recently discovered he has one out now on 65 i don’t have that one yet..

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      51. I will have to get that. So many garage-punk bands at that time…especially in Florida… I don’t know why but Florida was a breeding ground for musicians in the 60s.

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      52. When I was reading that 1966 book and he was talking about these songs-most of them I had never heard- I just had to hear them all!

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      53. I appreciate the book tips. I always read the reviews but you never know. You I believe. You never know what others are looking for…

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      54. You are welcome. I don’t know how I came across the 1966 book- I am thinking I read a review in Mojo maybe. It was a hard book to find in a book store. Like you- I love learning about the times before I was around or before I had a memory of the times. I was hoping he’d do a book on 1967..

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      55. A different and more simple world. I also am amazed at the technology … like the Beatles getting a VTR I believe it was called in 65 and they recorded tv…I had no clue any body could do that back then except a television station.
        I read a novel on the Beatles called Get Back by Donavan Day. It’s about him going back in time and meeting James Taylor, Jim Morrison, Keith Moon and Richards and of course the Beatles…whether to warn John about 1980. It’s a fun book but nothing more.

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