Groucho Marx…August 19, 1977

43 years ago Groucho Marx died on August 19, 1977 and the news of his death was swallowed up by Elvis dying 3 days before. Groucho was 87 years old and still was popular among college kids partly due to a resurgence of the Marx Brothers movies. He was constantly photographed with Rock Stars (Alice Cooper, Queen) and movie stars in the mid-seventies. 

The Marx Brothers remain my favorite comedy team hands down. All of them were talented and Harpo and Groucho in particular never fail to make me laugh.

I’ll leave you with some Groucho Quotes.

He may look like an idiot and talk like an idiot but don’t let that fool you. He really is an idiot.

Some people claim that marriage interferes with romance. There’s no doubt about it. Anytime you have a romance, your wife is bound to interfere.

I have nothing but respect for you — and not much of that.

Man does not control his own fate. The women in his life do that for him.

Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them… well, I have others.

Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.

I intend to live forever, or die trying.

A man’s only as old as the woman he feels.

Marriage is a wonderful institution, but who wants to live in an institution?

I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn’t it.

I never forget a face, but in your case I’ll be glad to make an exception.

I sent the club a wire stating, PLEASE ACCEPT MY RESIGNATION. I DON’T WANT TO BELONG TO ANY CLUB THAT WILL ACCEPT ME AS A MEMBER.


The Marx Brothers – Horse Feathers

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.[5]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.

The Cast

  • 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)

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.