From the Marx Brothers’ best film “Duck Soup” comes the manifesto (set to music) of the fictional country Freedonia’s new dictator Rufus T. Firefly. Key lines: “The last man nearly ruined this place, he didn’t know what to with it. If you think this country’s bad off now, just wait ’til I get through with it!”
When it was released, “Duck Soup” wasn’t as successful as other Marx Brothers films. However, contrary to popular legend it wasn’t a bomb (it was the 6th highest grossing film that year). According to Groucho Marx’s son Arthur Marx, “[MGM studio head Irving Thalberg] said the trouble with ‘Duck Soup’ is you’ve got funny gags in it, but there’s no story and there’s nothing to root for. You can’t root for the Marx Brothers because they’re a bunch of zany kooks. [Thalberg] says, ‘You gotta put a love story in your movie so there’ll be something to root for, and you have to help the lovers get together.'” And I would argue this is EXACTLY why the movies the brothers made for Thalberg pale in comparison to the earlier, more anarchic ones they made for Paramount. And it’s probably why “Duck Soup” is widely regarded as their best movie these days.
Some other fun trivia about “Duck Soup”: The residents of Fredonia, NY were upset that the use of their name as the country in the film would hurt their town’s reputation. The Marx Brothers argued that they should change the name of their town, lest it hurt the reputation of their film.
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