Next to Duck Soup…Horse Feathers (1932) is my favorite Marx Brother movie. Their five movies for Paramount are great. When they moved to MGM their movies had more of a plot but were diluted and tame in comparison with the Paramount films.
They were the kings of being irrelevant or irrelephant as Groucho would say.
There are some 1930’s references in the movie and many double entendres. With the Marx Brothers, you either get them or not. They are chaos and anarchy all rolled into one. They were anti-establishment before the term was popular. In the 1970s their popularity soared again when college students would wait in lines around theaters to see their films that were 40 years old at the time.
Harpo has some of his best visual gags in this movie. Chico or Chicko gets lost sometimes when talking about the brothers but he plays a big part in the act. Zeppo was regulated as the straight man and Groucho…is Groucho.
In Horse Feathers, Groucho plays college president, Professor Quincy Adams Wagstaff. Groucho runs the school and chaos reigns. He finds out the college cannot support the football program. The professors are kissing up to Groucho (Wagstaff) because he is a President. Here is an exchange.
Wagstaff: This college is a failure. The trouble is, we’re neglecting football for education.
The Professors: [in unison] Exactly, the professor is right.
Wagstaff: Oh, I’m right, am I? Well, I’m not right. I’m wrong. I just said that to test ya. Now I know where I’m at. I’m dealing with a couple of snakes. What I meant to say was that there’s too much football and not enough education
.The Professors: That’s what I think.
Wagstaff: Oh, you do, do you? Well, you’re wrong again. If there was a snake, you’d apologize. Where would this college be without football? Have we got a stadium?
The Professors: Yes.
Wagstaff: Have we got a college?
The Professors: Yes.
Wagstaff: Well, we can’t support both. Tomorrow we start tearing down the college.
This is the plot from Wiki…which for a Marx Brothers movie is not as important.
The film revolves around college football and a game between the fictional Darwin and Huxley Colleges.[a] 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 plays Quincy Adams Wagstaff, the new president of Huxley College, and Zeppo is his son Frank, a student at the school who convinces his father to recruit professional football players to help Huxley’s terrible football team. There are also many references to Prohibition. Baravelli (Chico) is an “iceman”, who delivers ice and bootleg liquor from a local speakeasy. Pinky (Harpo) 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.
- Groucho Marx – Professor Quincy Adams Wagstaff
- Harpo Marx – Pinky
- Chico Marx – Baravelli
- Zeppo Marx – Frank Wagstaff
- Thelma Todd – Connie Bailey
- David Landau – Jennings
- Robert Greig – Biology professor Hornsvogel
- Reginald Barlow – Retiring President
- E. H. Calvert – Professor in Wagstaff’s office
- Nat Pendleton – Darwin football player MacHardie
- James Pierce – Darwin football player Mullen
- Theresa Harris – Laura, Connie’s maid
- Walter Brennan – Football commentator (uncredited)