Duck Soup (1933, Leo McCarey)

The one where Groucho is “Rufus T. Firefly,” the contrived new president of Freedonia, who causes war with a neighboring country whose ambassador (Louis Calhern, Cary Grant’s boss in Notorious) is trying to cuddle up to the rich woman (Marx regular Margaret Dumont) who installed Rufus on the throne. Despite the simple plot summaries I see online claiming a love triangle plot, Groucho is too anarchic for this, insulting both of them equally, while ruling the country with contempt for power and also for the commoners. Harpo and Chico are supposedly spies, but I preferred their scenes as peanut sellers outside the palace, almost standing disconnected from the rest of the movie. Speaking of disconnect, trusty time-filling brother Zeppo is here, I forget in what role, but he vanishes halfway through except for an unwelcome appearance in the big closing musical number. The great Leo McCarey (Ruggles of Red Gap, The Awful Truth) is said to have directed, and indeed this one holds together as a proper film a bit more than Horse Feathers. Katy didn’t like it, she later revealed.

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