Monday, June 16, 2008

MOVIE: HORSE FEATHERS



ABOUT: Horse Feathers (1932) was the fourth Marx Brothers film. It stars the four Marx Brothers, Groucho, Chico, Harpo, and Zeppo, as well as Thelma Todd as Connie Bailey, and was written by Bert Kalmar, Harry Ruby, S. J. Perelman, and Will B. Johnstone. Kalmar and Ruby also wrote some of the original music for the film. Several of the film's gags were taken from the Marx Brothers' stage comedy from the 1920s, Fun in Hi Skule.

The film revolves around, among other things, college football and a game between the fictional Darwin and Huxley Colleges. (Huxley was a defender of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.) 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 president of Huxley College, and Zeppo is his son Frank, who convinces his father to recruit professional football players to boost the Huxley team's chance of winning. There are also many references to Prohibition. Baravelli (Chico) is an "iceman", who delivers ice and bootleg liquor from a local speakeasy. Pinky (Harpo, wearing his usual pink-colored "fright wig") is also an "iceman", as well as a part-time dogcatcher. Through a series of misunderstandings, Baravelli and Pinky are recruited to play on Huxley's football team; this requires them to enroll as students at Huxley, which, of course, results in nothing but comic chaos throughout the school.




The only existing prints of this film are missing several minutes, due to both censorship and damage. The damage is most noticeable in jump cuts during the scene in which Groucho, Chico and Harpo visit Connie Bailey's apartment. Several sequences were cut from the film, including an extended ending to the aforementioned apartment scene, additional scenes with Harpo as a dogcatcher, and a scene where the brothers play poker as the college burns down. (A description of the latter scene, along with a still image, exists from a pressbook from the year of the film's release, however.)


MY REVIEW: Horse Feathers is like the movie version of the Marx Brothers' shows. Most of their movies were like their shows but this one more so because it plays like one. The movie hardly has any plot unlike their other movies. They even use jokes from their shows like one that Groucho does in the movie and then he looks into the camera to say that he hasn't used that joke in 20 years.

All of the brothers are in top shape here as usual. The female roles are also played well as they usually are in Marx Brothers movies. My favorite is Harpo and in Horse Feathers he plays a dog catcher, that is all I need to say about that, you can use your imagination. The best scene in the film is not a comedic one however. Harpo is trying to impress a girl so he starts playing a harp under her bedroom window. I start thinking that in 5 seconds something wacky is going to happen, but it never does. Harpo plays a song on the harp for an entire three minutes and you can tell that it is actually him playing it. It is a very sweet and touching moment, not something you would expect coming from Harpo.

If your looking for a good Marx Brothers movie with a lot of zingers, then Horse Feathers is for you.



MY CHEESY RATING: Horse Feathers gets a knee slaping 6 out of 10.


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