Thursday, March 24, 2011

Horse Feathers

This is Make 'em Laugh Week! All this week we'll look at films by some of the greatest comedic legends in film history and talk about what makes them funny.

Horse Feathers

seen online via YouTube

I've loved the Marx Brothers from the first time I saw them, which was back in my Film History class in college. I think in all of film history, only the Monty Python troupe comes closest to matching the sense of anarchic, anything-goes silliness embodied by these guys, both in their physical slapstick and especially in their wacky wordplay.

They made it look so easy. When you've got four different performers, with four distinct approaches to their craft, all sharing the same stage, one would imagine that conflicting egos would make it difficult for their work to thrive. Maybe it was - but they all knew their roles and they all knew how to play off of each other so well. Groucho was the ringleader, but sometimes he'd play straight man to Chico. Zeppo was the "normal" one, but he'd get plenty of co
medic moments. And even though Harpo never spoke, he made his presence felt. Plus, they were musicians. To see Harpo play his harp, you really get a feel for how talented they all were.

Horse Feathers, like many of their best movies, follows a familiar formula: Groucho has a scheme of some sort, the other Marxes get involved, opposing forces are at work, and the straights are either befuddled or amused (or both) at Groucho's ways. And a girl is involved. But it works every time because they execute it so professionally and with such verve. I'd stop short of calling it flawless - the cinematography is not as imaginative as it could be during the musical numbers, and while they do change the lyrics each time it's used (which is a clever idea), one gets a little tired of hearing "Everyone Says I Love You" after awhile. Still, I laughed my head off the whole way through. The Marx Brothers were just that good, time and time again.


Previously on Make 'em Laugh Week:
The Flying Deuces
The General

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