#19 /365 – ‘Duck Soup’ (1940) – 68 mins
IMDB Challenge #13 / 250 – Ranked #228
To rescue the mythical country of Freedonia from bankruptcy, Mrs. Teasdale agrees to donate 20 million dollars if Rufus T. Firefly is appointed its new president. Firefly is a cynical, sarcastic dictator who refuses to play politics by the book. For instance, he does reduce workers’ hours–by shortening their lunch breaks! Firefly attempts to win the hand of Mrs. Teasdale, as does Ambassador Trentino of the neighboring country, Sylvania. When the two leaders cannot resolve their dispute over the wealthy dowager, war between the countries is declared, and Mrs. Teasdale’s house comes under attack. Who will save the day?
After being a fan of the Marx Brothers for a many a year, to me Duck Soup is Brothers’ greatest masterpiece – a short, but brilliant one part political satire, two parts inspired comedy of lampooning of blundering dictatorial leaders. Whilst it doesn’t have the polished storyline of some of their later films ‘A Night at the Opera’ (1935), ‘A Day at the Races’ (1937)’ which they were later to produce with MGM, after this being their last in a five picture deal with Paramount, it remains their funniest and showing they weren’t afraid to take risks with their zany improvisations and raucous quick-fire gags – “You know, you haven’t stopped talking since I came here. You must have been vaccinated with a phonograph needle.”
The film also features two memorable scenes – the mirror pantomime sequence is immaculately performed, whilst this is not entirely original (Charlie Chaplin) it does remain timeless, as well is the lemonade seller confrontation featuring the lovable Harpo Marx as Pinky.