March 30, 2009

Some Duck Soup

Currently, I'm going back through the Marx Brothers' films, chronologically. They were pure, zany anarchists in their earlier, "phase one" films (the ones they made while under contract to Paramount Pictures). I can see why the Beatles in A Hard Days Night might have reminded people of them. Groucho, Chico, and Harpo (not so much Zeppo) were all about creating havoc and disorder, most times for no reason at all other than just to do it. Any authority figure, no matter how important or insignificant, is in trouble if he/she is in the same scene with them. How liberating this must have been for some people (especially kids) during the 1930s! Not to mention, hilarious, too, as in this scene featuring Harpo (genius) and Chico (pronounced "Chick-o") from Duck Soup (1933):

I love that leg gag of Harpo's. It turns up frequently in their films.

On a somewhat related note, there is the Marx Brothers/Nacogdoches connection (Wikipedia entry):
old nacogdoches opera house
the Old Nacogdoches Opera House

One evening in 1912, a performance at the Opera House in Nacogdoches, Texas, was interrupted by shouts from outside about a runaway mule. The audience hurried outside to see what was happening.

When they returned, Groucho, angered by the interruption, made snide comments about the audience, including "Nacogdoches is full of roaches" and "The jackass is the flower of Tex-ass." Instead of becoming angry, the audience laughed. The family then realized they had potential as a comic troupe.

The act slowly evolved from singing with comedy to comedy with music.

I can personally attest to the fact that although the streets of downtown are still occasionally filled with the sound of people shouting about runaway mules, Nacogdoches is not "full of roaches."


Gunnar and Sherry said...

I love the Marx Brothers, too. Great clip. I think that bald guy with Chico and Harpo is Edgar Kennedy. He shows up a lot in Laurel & Hardy and Our Gang too. He's always exasperated.

Retro Hound said...

I too Love the Marx Brothers. I've been showing them to my kids. They love them, but for some reason the wife hates them. If I'd know that before we were married...

Chris said...

Ah, he (Edgar Kennedy) is great in that scene. You have to wonder how many times they had to repeat that until they got it right. I thought he looked familiar.

That may be grounds for divorce in some state (certainly California), Retro Hound...

Krista said...

Great post!

I adore the Marx Brothers.
Awesome connection to your town too!

Chris said...

Thanks, Krista. They were a lot of fun (then and now), and as American-made as jazz. I think about them every time I drive past the Old Nacogdoches Opera House and marvel at the fact they'd actually been there.