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Film: Duck Soup
"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. 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.

Groucho plays Rufus T. Firefly. Mrs. Teasdale (Margaret Dumont's character) has appointed him ruler of Freedonia. One of his first acts in office, after promising to be a bad president and insulting her, is to offend the ambassador of Freedonia's neighbor, Sylvania. Chico and Harpo are two Sylvanian spies. They are about as competent as you can expect from characters played by Chico and Harpo. Zeppo (in his last appearance with the act) plays Firefly's secretary.

Twice, Firefly considers making peace with Sylvania. Twice, he chooses to offend the ambassador further. Finally, Sylvania declares war.

Hilarity Ensues throughout all these proceedings.

"Of course you know, this means tropes":

  • Aerith and Bob: The Marx brothers play Rufus T. Firefly, Chicolini, Pinky...and Bob Roland.
  • Anti-Hero: Rufus T. Firefly, as summed up with the song lyrics included at the top of the page.
  • Awesome McCoolname: Rufus T. Firefly.
  • Behind the Black: Harpo hides in an ordinary bathtub. From the man who's bathing in it.
  • Changing Clothes Is a Free Action: In the climactic battle scene, Rufus' uniform changes almost every time the camera switches, to a variety of increasingly improbable outfits.
  • Couldn't Find a Lighter: Harpo uses a blowtorch to light a cigar.
  • Crowd Song: "To war, to war, to war we gotta go!" It eventually devolves into a minstrel show. (No Blackface, though.)
  • 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.
  • Fat Girl: As Firefly says of Mrs. Teasdale:
    "I can see you now in the kitchen, bending over a hot stove. But I can't see the stove!"
    • Made all the funnier by the fact that Margaret Dumont is not fat, especially not by 1933's standards.
  • Grande Dame: Mrs. Teasdale.
  • Harpo Does Something Funny: Trope picture courtesy this film.
  • 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 Know You Know I Know
  • Implausible Deniability: "Who you gonna believe, me or you own eyes?"
  • Incessant Chorus: The Freedonian national anthem.
  • Insult to Rocks: After calling the Sylvanian ambassador a baboon, Firefly apologizes, saying "That isn't fair to the rest of the baboons."
  • I Take Offense to That Last One: "That's right, 'upstart'!"
  • "Join the Army," They Said: And see the Navy.
  • Mathematician's Answer:
    Prosecuter: Chicolini, when were you born?
    Chico: I don't remember. I was just a little baby.
  • Mirror Routine
  • One-Liner
  • 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."
  • Premature Aggravation: Used to provide the page quote.
  • Pretty in Mink: Mrs. Teasdale wears a couple, given she's rich enough to bail out a bankrupt country.
  • Produce Pelting: Firefly and company do this to Trentino at the end of the movie. Then they do this to Mrs. Teasdale when she insists on singing the Freedonian national anthem again.
  • Pungeon Master: Firefly is full of them, though Chicolini isn't far behind. See Hilarity Ensues.
  • Rapid-Fire Comedy
  • Right on the Tick: Firefly is supposed to turn up when the clock strikes 10. Subverted for laughs: he sneaks in from the back. By fire pole, no less.
  • Rule of Funny: The answer to any of the MANY gaps in logic in the film. It works because just about every gap results in a Crowning Moment Of Funny.
  • Running Gag:
    • Harpo pulls up in a motorcycle, Groucho gets into the sidecar, Harpo drives off. Invariably, Groucho is left behind.
    Groucho: This is the fifth trip I've taken today, and I haven't gone anywhere.
    • Later subverted as Groucho gets clever and insists on riding on the motorcycle portion. Cue Harpo driving off in the sidecar.
      Groucho: Ah, this is the only way to travel.
    • Groucho's changing uniforms during the actual war sequence.
    • Harpo's half-kleptomania, where he steals half-items by snipping them off with scissors.
  • Senseless Violins: Groucho of all people in the battle sequence. Naturally, he's shooting in the wrong direction.
  • Silence Is Golden: The Mirror Routine is performed entirely without sound.
  • Slap Stick
  • Stock Footage: Amusingly deployed when Firefly summons for help during the battle sequence.
  • That Was Objectionable: During the treason trial. Judge Groucho even sustains it.
  • This Means War!: Not the trope creator, but possibly the Trope Namer. Firefly declares war after insulting himself and blaming it on the other country's ambassador. And then there's a big musical number about it.
  • Whole Plot Reference: Animaniacs in one of their most popular episodes, King Yakko.
  • You Fool!: The Sylvanian ambassador uses a few lines in response to the insults from Groucho. The one that sets off the slap is "You upstart".

Citizen KaneDanny Peary Cult Movies ListEnter the Dragon
Double IndemnityCreator/ParamountThe Elephant Man
Duck AmuckRoger Ebert Great Movies ListE.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Horse FeathersFilms of the 1930sA Night at the Opera
All Quiet on the Western FrontNational Film RegistryTop Hat
Riding the BombImageSource/Live-Action FilmsHarpo Does Something Funny

alternative title(s): Duck Soup
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