Duck Soup (1933)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Absurd Comedy, Farce, Satire  |   Release Date - Nov 17, 1933 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 70 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Along with A Night at the Opera, Duck Soup is often regarded as the definitive Marx Brothers movie, the picture in which every shot, every line, and every gag worked. Modern audiences are often surprised to learn that it was a notorious flop that killed the Brothers' contract at Paramount Pictures in the mid-1930s. Audiences harried by the Great Depression seemed unable to connect with the Marx Brothers in their Paramount movies, at least not in the way that Broadway theatergoers and Paramount executives who'd seen them in The Cocoanuts or Animal Crackers did. Part of the problem may have been their piercing topicality and ethnic humor, whether Groucho's Jewish conniver or Chico's fake Italian. And no movie was more piercing in its topicality in 1933 than Duck Soup, a satire of nationalism, diplomacy, and international intrigue that seemed all too real as Hitler's rise to power in Germany dominated world news. When the Marxes then moved to MGM, the company's chief of production, Irving Thalberg, convinced them to tone down their image and give themselves sympathetic personae, and audiences then devoured their work. But Duck Soup, a failure in its time, remains the brothers' definitive film in their classic original style.