AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Horse Feathers
Alternate Title: The Four Marx Brothers in Horse Feathers
Director: Norman McLeod (Dir)
Release Date:   19 Aug 1932
Premiere Information:   New York premiere: 10 Aug 1932
Production Date:   late Mar--late Jun 1932
Duration (in mins):   68
Duration (in reels):   8
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Cast:   Groucho Marx (Professor [Quincy Adams] Wagstaff)  
    Harpo Marx (Pinky)  
    Chico Marx (Baravelli)  
    Zeppo Marx (Frank Wagstaff)  
    Thelma Todd (Connie Bailey)  
    David Landau (Jennings)  
    Florine McKinney (Peggy Carrington)  
    James Pierce (Mullens)  
    Nat Pendleton (McCarthy)  
    Reginald Barlow (President of college)  
    Robert Greig (Professor Hornsroge)  
    Ben Taggart (Policeman)  
    Edward J. LeSaint (Professor)  
    Edgar Dearing (Bartender)  
    Vince Barnett (Speakeasy customer)  

Summary: Professor Quincy Adams Wagstaff takes over as president of Huxley College in order to help his son Frank graduate, as he has been attending Huxley for twelve years. Wagstaff's inaugural speech is incoherent, and at one point, he bursts into song, after calling attention to Frank, who is sitting among the students with a girl on his lap. After the song and speech, Wagstaff admonishes his son for dating only one college "widow" in twelve years, whereas he himself dated three college widows and attended three different colleges in twelve years. Frank tells his father that Huxley has had a new college president every year since 1888, which is also the last year the school won a football game. Frank insists that the college needs a good football team to beat the opposing team from Darwin University, and informs his father that he can buy two football players at a speakeasy downtown. At the speakeasy, Jennings, a representative of Darwin, buys the two athletes. Wagstaff arrives and gains admission to the speakeasy through repartee with Baravelli the iceman and bootlegger. Pinky, who is Baravelli's mute partner as well as a dog catcher, gets into the club and makes a nuisance of himself. Wagstaff mistakes the two men for football players and hires them for the big game against Darwin, then signs them on as students at Huxley. Jennings goes to see Connie Bailey, Frank's college widow with whom he is in cahoots, and tells her to get the football plays from Frank. He leaves and Frank arrives, after which Wagstaff arrives to convince Connie to give up Frank. Pinky and Baravelli, meanwhile, try to deliver ice several times to Connie's house but continually drop the ice blocks out of the window. Wagstaff discovers he hired the wrong athletes and tells Pinky and Baravelli to kidnap the real athletes. Meanwhile, Jennings buys the football signals from Baravelli but discovers they are the wrong signals. Connie then steals the signals from Wagstaff by attempting to seduce him. Meanwhile, Baravelli and Pinky try to kidnap the athletes but wind up trapped in an apartment. They saw their way through the floor in time to rush to the field and eventually increase Huxley's score through their antics. In the end, Huxley wins, and Baravelli, Pinky and Wagstaff all marry Connie. 

Production Company: Paramount Publix Corp.  
Distribution Company: Paramount Publix Corp.  
Director: Norman McLeod (Dir)
  Charles Barton (Asst dir)
Producer: Adolph Zukor (Pres)
Writer: Bert Kalmar ([Wrt] by)
  Harry Ruby ([Wrt] by)
  S. J. Perelman ([Wrt] by)
  Will B. Johnstone ([Wrt] by)
Photography: Ray June (Photog)
  Fred Mayer (Cam op)
  Daniel Fapp (Cam op)
  William James Knott (Cam op)
  Neal Beckner (Asst cam)
  George Bourne (Asst cam)
  Francis Burgess (Asst cam)
Sound: Eugene Merritt (Sd)
Production Misc: Gordon Head (Still photog)
Country: United States

Songs: "Ev'ryone Says I Love You" and "I'm Against It," words by Bert Kalmar, music by Harry Ruby.
Composer: Bert Kalmar
  Harry Ruby

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number Passed By NBR:
Paramount Publix Corp. 18/8/1932 dd/mm/yyyy LP3209 Yes

Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Noiseless Recording

 
Genre: Comedy
Sub-Genre: College
 
Subjects (Major): Chases
  College presidents
  Dog-catchers
  Fixed football games
  Icemen
  Professors
 
Subjects (Minor): Bootleggers
  Bribery
  College life
  Fathers and sons
  Flirtation
  Kidnapping
  Mutes
  Speakeasies
  Speeches

Note: The title card to the film reads "Adolph Zukor presents The Four Marx Brothers in Horse Feathers ." According to pre-release news items in FD , Arthur Sheekman was signed to the writing team, and dance director Harold Hecht was signed to direct two dances in the film, however, their contribution to the final film is undetermined. An Aug 1932 news item in HR notes that writer Will B. Johnstone sued for writing credit because a scene from his 1924 play I'll Say She Is , which he wrote for the Marx Bros., appeared in the film. News items in FD report that production was halted for approximately six weeks while Chico Marx recuperated from an injury he sustained in an automobile accident. Production was halted in late Apr 1932 and resumed in late Jun 1932. A 3 Aug 1932 HR news item reported that director Norman McLeod shot a new ending for the film. Modern sources name the song that interrupts "I'm Against It" as "I Always Get My Man," which is a line in the song. Modern sources include E. H. Calvert ( Professor ) in the cast and note that the title of the film derived from a Barney Google cartoon of 1928. In addition, modern sources note that some scenes were filmed at Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Film Daily   2 Mar 32   p. 8.
Film Daily   10 Mar 32   p. 7.
Film Daily   23 Mar 32   p. 6.
Film Daily   24 Mar 32   p. 29.
Film Daily   22 Apr 32   p. 4.
Film Daily   1 May 32   p. 4.
Film Daily   23 Jun 32   p. 3.
Film Daily   12 Jul 32   p. 2.
Film Daily   11 Aug 32   p. 1.
Film Daily   12 Aug 32   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   30 Jul 32   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   3 Aug 32   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   29 Aug 32   p. 4.
International Photographer   1 Sep 32   p. 36.
Motion Picture Herald   5 Aug 32   p. 35.
New York Times   11 Aug 32   p. 12.
Variety   16 Aug 32   p. 15.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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