~ Horse Feathers is the Blind Spot entry for August. Full listing here. ~
Horse Feathers falls within the Marx Brothers golden era, pre-code, during prohibition, and packing plenty of laughs. Or as Variety put it,
"Laffs galore, swell entertainment." Variety - August 16, 1932
True to the seemingly impossible surrealist humour that the Marx Brothers honed so masterfully Groucho is hired as the new President of Huxley College. Groucho, ever the anti-establishment character with far too much power for his defining sensibilities fulfils the odd ironic quirk that contributes to the delightful Marx ouvre, without missing a beat.
Like all Marx films the plot is fairly simple. There are rarely unpredictable twists or unfathomable plot holes. Everything is tied together nicely but the journey from start to finish is always a pleasure and there is rarely a dull moment.
Zeppo, as Frank, plays Professor Wagstaff’s (Groucho) son in his penultimate Marx Bros film and plays up to his father’s pride. Huxley and Darwin Colleges clash heads in the opening football game of the season and Zeppo is keen to prove that any American college worth its salt has a great football team to boot.
Catching wind of a couple of professional athletes who hang out at the local speakeasy Frank emplores Wagstaff to locate them and enroll them at Huxley college, making them eligible to play for Huxley’s football team. However, Darwin get to them first and by the time Groucho gets round to the speakeasy he hires Baravelli (Chico) and Pinky (Harpo), a couple of bumbling “icemen” instead of the real deal.
While the entire speakeasy scene screams Marxian idiosyncrasies, witty one-liners and standard slapstick humour what transpires is an elaborate dig at the flimsy nature of college football enrolment.
What follows is a series of ludicrous high jinks incorporating the classic Marx trademarks. With a candle that burns at both ends, fast-paced hide and seek, recurring jokes, resisting lascivious advances, reversed kidnapping, and a chariot touchdown Horse Feathers features some of the most memorable scenes from the Marx filmography.
Groucho plays his role perfectly, Chico employs his characteristic flimsy Italian accent and Harpo is up to his usual tricks as the lovable, childlike mischief maker, and Zeppo rounds out the familial outing in true straight laced persona. Revealing slight allusions to contemporary issues, including college enrolment, prohibition and the Great Depression to name a few the Marx Brothers effortlessly deliver a delightful piece of cherished American escapism that remains remarkably current.
Perhaps overly affected by a heavy-handed treatment of contemporary issues Horse Feathers falls short of the usual Marxian idiosyncrasies but still remains a Brilliant example of artistic invention during the free spirited pre-code era.
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~ Happy Viewing ~
Robin Williams shines in September’s Good Morning, Vietnam.