Freedonia: The nation that declares war with a musical number.
"The last man nearly ruined this place, he didn't know what to do with it.
If you think the country's bad off now, just wait till I get through with it!"
The Marx Brothers' fifth film, and held by many to be their best (in tough competition with A Night at the Opera for that title). Released in 1933, it was also their final film for Paramount Pictures. It was one of the first films to openly mock the rising fascism in Europe.The story begins in the vaguely European country of Freedonia, which is nearly bankrupt due to national mismanagement. Wealthy dowager Mrs. Teasdale (Margaret Dumont) agrees to loan the country $20 million, but only if Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho Marx) is appointed ruler. Unfortunately, Ambassador Trentino (Louis Calhern) of the neighboring nation of Sylvania plots to take over Freedonia, and sends his best spies Chicolini (Chico Marx) and Pinky (Harpo Marx) to do his dirty work. But between Firefly's womanizing antics, Firefly's incompetent policies, and Firefly's wanton insults to the Ambassador, Freedonia is soon on the fast track of war with Sylvania. Naturally, Hilarity Ensues throughout all of this.In the Marx Brothers' repertoire, this movie is notable for being Zeppo Marx's final appearance with the act.
"Of course you know, this means tropes":
Aerith and Bob: The Marx brothers play Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho), Chicolini (Chico), Pinky (Harpo)... and Firefly's Secretary, Bob Roland (Zeppo).
Anti-Hero: Rufus T. Firefly, as summed up with the song lyrics included at the top of the page.
Crowd Song: "To war, to war, to war we gotta go!" It eventually devolves into a minstrel show. (No Blackface, though.)
Culture Police: Firefly, as the newly installed ruler of Freedonia, lays down the law in a jaunty tune:
No one's allowed to smoke — Or tell a dirty joke — And whistling is forbidden! If chewing gum is chewed — The chewer is pursued — And in the hoosegow with him! If any form of pleasure is exhibited, Report to me and it will be prohibited! I'll put my foot down So shall it be-e-e... This is the land of the free!
Cute Mute: Harpo, although this is one of the films that does address the fact that he is mute by choice and used to talk. (Chicolini can't understand why he won't talk to him.)
Distracted by the Sexy: Firefly sends Pinky out to warn the country that the Sylvanians are coming, which he does, in a Paul Revere-esque manner, until... he sees a woman about to take a bath. And yet he prefers to share her bed with his horse.
Fiction 500: Mrs. Teasdale is rich enough to solve a nation's debt, even a small one, and declare who is to lead it.
Handshake Refusal: Rufus T. Firefly imagines Ambassador Tretino won't shake his hand, and builds up resentment towards him so much that as soon as Tretino enters, Firefly Glove Slaps him for the refusal which hadn't actually happened.
"I'd be only too happy to meet with Ambassador Trentino, and offer him on behalf of my country the right hand of good fellowship. And I feel sure he will accept this gesture in the spirit of which it is offered. But suppose he doesn't. A fine thing that'll be. I hold out my hand and he refuses to accept. That'll add a lot to my prestige, won't it? Me, the head of a country, snubbed by a foreign ambassador. Who does he think he is, that he can come here, and make a sap of me in front of all my people? Think of it - I hold out my hand and that hyena refuses to accept. Why, the cheap four-flushing swine, he'll never get away with it I tell you, he'll never get away with it!" [Trentino enters] "So, you refuse to shake hands with me, eh?" *SLAP!*
Hilarity Ensues: It's the Marx Brothers. You could make them fill out taxes and still get this.
Chico: Hey, I got an uncle lives in Taxes! Government Minister: No, I'm talking about taxes. Money. Dollars. Chico: Dollars! That's where my uncle lives! Dollars, Taxes!
Hurricane of Puns: Chicolini's trial. The above quote is just the tip of the iceberg.
Hypocritical Humor: Firefly's secretary Bob Roland (played by Zeppo) whispers to him a story that he'd told to Vera Marcal, which caused her and Ambassador Trentino to slap him. Firefly immediately slaps Zeppo.
Firefly: You ought to be ashamed of yourself! Where'd you hear that story?
Roland: Why, you told it to me.
Firefly: Oh yes, I remember. I should have slapped Mrs. Teasdale's face when she told it to me.
I will not stand for anything that's crooked or unfair, I'm strictly on the up-and-up, so everyone beware! If anyone's caught taking graft - and I don't get my share, We stand him up against the wall and Pop Goes the Weasel!
It Won't Turn Off: At Mrs. Teasdale's manor, Pinky mistakes a safe for a radio, which plays a very loud and energetic rendition of "Stars And Stripes Forever". He tries to muffle the radio with pillows, to no effect. He then throws it on the floor and smashes it to pieces; again, the radio continues to play. Pinky has to settle for throwing what's left of the radio out the window.
It's Probably Nothing: After all this, Chicolini dismisses the sudden noise by saying "Sounds to me like mice!"
Just a Stupid Accent: Parodied when Chicolini (Chico) has disguised himself as Firefly (Groucho), and when Mrs. Teasdale (Margaret Dumont) asks why he's talking like that, he replies, "Well, I think maybe sometime I go to Italy, and I'm practicing the language." Impressed, Mrs. Teasdale gushes, "Your dialect is perfect."
Rufus T. Firefly: Take a card. Mrs. Teasdale: [takes one] Card? What will I do with the card? Rufus T. Firefly: You can keep it. I've got fifty-one left.
Please Select New City Name: The city of Fredonia, NY complained about the name "Freedonia," worrying that it might negatively affect them. Groucho, of course, replied, "Change the name of your town. It is hurting our picture."
Mrs. Teasdale: I was with [my late husband] to the very end. Rufus T. Firefly: No wonder he passed away. Mrs. Teasdale: I held him in my arms and kissed him. Rufus T. Firefly: Oh, I see, then it was murder. Will you marry me? Did he leave you any money? Answer the second question first.