AFI Catalog of Feature Films
Movie Detail
Name Occurs Before Title Offscreen Credit Print Viewed By AFI
Duck Soup
Alternate Title: Cracked Ice
Director: Leo McCarey (Dir)
Release Date:   17 Nov 1933
Duration (in mins):   70 or 80
Print this page
Display Movie Summary


Cast:   Groucho Marx (Rufus T. Firefly)  
    Harpo Marx (Pinky)  
    Chico Marx (Chicolini)  
    Zeppo Marx (Bob Roland)  
    Margaret Dumont (Mrs. [Gloria] Teasdale)  
    Raquel Torres (Vera Marcal)  
    Louis Calhern (Trentino)  
    Edmund Breese (Zander)  
    Leonid Kinskey (Agitator)  
    Charles B. Middleton (Prosecutor)  
    Edgar Kennedy (Street vendor)  
    Verna Hillie (Secretary)  
    Edwin Maxwell (Secretary of War)  
    William Worthington (First minister of finance)  
    George MacQuarrie (First judge)  
    Fred Sullivan (Second Judge)  
    Eric Mayne (Third judge)  
    Davison Clark (Second minister of finance)  
    Dale Van Sickel (Palace guard)  

Summary: Wealthy widow Gloria Teasdale forces the government of Freedonia to accept Rufus T. Firefly as its leader. Firefly's outrageous public behavior offends Ambassador Trentino of Sylvania, who with the help of his confederate, dancer Vera Marcal, intends to take control of Freedonia by marrying Mrs. Teasdale. Firefly, who also makes occasional love to Mrs. Teasdale after learning of her fortune, has in his employ two of Trentino's spies, Chicolini and Pinky, whose battles with a street vendor of lemonade are more effective than their espionage. Firefly's secretary, Bob Roland, decides that Firefly must insult Trentino so that the latter may be deported, and Firefly handles the job with enthusiasm, bringing the two countries to the brink of war. Chicolini and Pinky attempt to steal Freedonia's war plans by impersonating Firefly, and though Firefly is temporarily persuaded that Pinky is his own reflection in a mirror, the job results in Chicolini's capture and trial for treason. Several efforts by Mrs. Teasdale, Trentino and Marcal to effect a reconciliation between Firefly and Trentino only result in Firefly repeating his offensive behavior, and war is finally declared. Chicolini begins the war on the side of Sylvania but soon joins Pinky on Freedonia's side, and Freedonia's soldiers under Firefly's unorthodox command, eventually capture Trentino and emerge victorious. 

Production Company: Paramount Productions, Inc.  
Distribution Company: Paramount Productions, Inc.  
Director: Leo McCarey (Dir)
Writer: Bert Kalmar (Story)
  Harry Ruby (Story)
  Arthur Sheekman (Addl dial)
  Nat Perrin (Addl dial)
Photography: Henry Sharp (Photog)
Art Direction: Hans Dreier (Art dir)
  W. B. Ihnen (Art dir)
Film Editor: LeRoy Stone (Ed)
Music: Arthur Johnston (Mus adv)
Sound: H. M. Lindgren (Rec eng)
Country: United States

Songs: "Hail, Freedonia" and "The Country's Going to War," music and lyrics by Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby.
Composer: Bert Kalmar
  Harry Ruby

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Paramount Productions, Inc. 17/11/1933 dd/mm/yyyy LP4246

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

 
Genre: Comedy
Sub-Genre: with songs
 
Subjects (Major): Dictators
  Imaginary lands
  Impersonation and imposture
  Spies
  Widows
 
Subjects (Minor): Ambassadors
  Dancers
  Fortune hunters
  Romance
  Street vendors
  Treason
  Trials
  War
  Wealth

Note: The opening title card to the film reads "Paramount presents The Four Marx Brothers in Duck Soup ." As noted by a May 1933 news item in MPH , the Marx Brothers left Paramount prior to making this film and filed suit against the studio over withheld profits. According to a modern source, the Marx Brothers planned to form a production company with Sam H. Harris. However, they resolved their differences with the studio and returned to fulfill their contractual agreement to make this fourth, and final, film for Paramount. According to information in the Paramount story files at the AMPAS Library, Grover Jones contributed to an early, temporary script entitled Cracked Ice , which Herman J. Mankiewicz was scheduled to supervise. A news item in HR indicates that M-G-M loaned Norman Krasna to Paramount to write an opening sequence for this film. His contribution to the final film has not been determined. Copyright records list Harpo Marx's character as "Brownie."
       Duck Soup was the last Marx Bros. film in which Zeppo Marx appeared. Modern sources note that Edward Kaufman and Keene Thompson were hired as writers, but left the production after a short time. Although modern critics cite this film as one of the Marx Brothers' best, and in 2007 the picture was ranked 60th on AFI's 2007 100 Years…100 Movies--10th Anniversary Edition list of the greatest American films, moving up from the 85th position it held on AFI's 1997 list, Duck Soup did not receive significant contemporary acclaim. Because box-office figures for the film were lower than anticipated, the brothers' Paramount contract was not renewed. Their next feature film was A Night at the Opera , produced by M-G-M (see below). 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Film Daily   17 Nov 33   p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter   17 Oct 33   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   2 Nov 33   p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald   20 May 33   p. 34.
Motion Picture Herald   14 Oct 33   p. 46.
Motion Picture Herald   11 Nov 33   p. 27.
New York Times   23 Nov 33   p. 24.
New York Times   10 Dec 33   p. 7.
Variety   28 Nov 33   p. 20.

Display Movie Summary
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.
 
Advanced Search
AFI Membership

© 2014 American Film Institute.
All rights reserved.
Terms of use.