7.7/10
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Horse Feathers (1932)

Not Rated | | Comedy, Musical, Romance | 19 August 1932 (USA)
Quincy Adams Wagstaff, the new president of Huxley University, accidentally hires bumblers Baravelli and Pinky to help his school win the big football game against the rival Darwin University.

Director:

Norman Z. McLeod (as Norman McLeod)

Writers:

Bert Kalmar (by), Harry Ruby (by) | 2 more credits »
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2 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
The Marx Brothers ... (as The Four Marx Brothers)
Groucho Marx ... Professor Quincy Adams Wagstaff
Harpo Marx ... Pinky
Chico Marx ... Baravelli
Zeppo Marx ... Frank Wagstaff
Thelma Todd ... Connie Bailey
David Landau ... Jennings
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Storyline

Professor Quincy Adams Wagstaff has just been installed as the new president of Huxley College. His cavalier attitude toward education is not reserved for his son Frank, who is seeing the college widow, Connie Bailey. Frank influences Wagstaff to recruit two football players who hang out in a speakeasy, in order to beat rival school Darwin. Unfortunately, Wagstaff mistakenly hires the misfits Baravelli and Pinky. Finding out that Darwin has beaten him to the "real" players, Wagstaff enlists Baravelli and Pinky to kidnap them, which leads to an anarchic football finale. Written by Rick Gregory <rag.apa@email.apa.org>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The Maddest Comics of the Screen!


Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

19 August 1932 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Die Marx Brothers in der Uni See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Paramount Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Included among the American Film Institute's 2000 list of the Top 100 Funniest American Movies. See more »

Goofs

Pocahontas was born 103 years after Columbus first sailed, and thus it would have been impossible for them to have met. See more »

Quotes

Professor Wagstaff: You know, this is the first time I've been out in a canoe since I saw the American Tragedy?
Connie: Oh, you're perfectly safe, Professor.
Professor Wagstaff: I don't know. I was gonna get a flat bottom, but the girl at the boat house didn't have one.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in In Our Nature (2012) See more »

Soundtracks

I Always Get My Man
(1932) (uncredited)
Music by Harry Ruby
Lyrics by Bert Kalmar
Performed by Groucho Marx, Zeppo Marx and Chorus
See more »

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User Reviews

Humor, Youth, and Everyone SAYING They Love You
12 September 2009 | by tedgSee all my reviews

I was challenged by a reader, because I wrote that a movie was funny. His belief was that the movie wasn't funny, that it couldn't be because the comedians were too old, and I wouldn't know in any case because I was also too old. So I turned to the good old Marx Brothers.

Fortunately, some other unhappy soul had deleted my comment for this movie, so I can write a replacement.

I think this is funny. It shouldn't really matter to me whether anyone else does, except insofar as they support the market forces that guarantee I can access it. But as it happens, lots of other people also think it funny and I wonder why.

"Horse Feathers," if you do not know, was the frontier term for split boards about two feet long that were nailed on barns in an overlapping fashion like shingles. These were primitive, but had the advantage of keeping your major investment, your horse, warm. They are themselves ad hoc, somewhat random with some order, and an effective container. Such a barn was wholly man-made, but clearly the mind finds it handy to make the joke that if the barn looked like a chicken, then its name should follow.

Lexicographers know that language often naturally grows from these jokes. The older the term gets, the deeper the joke: "horsefeathers" probably originated in the 1870-80's homesteading era, and gained popularity as farm boys from those areas were mixed into the WW I army, the term used as a substitute for one whose use would have been punished for insubordination. It subsequently entered the print world when used in Wilson's second presidential campaign.

A youngster with no knowledge of its origin would simply hear "nonsense." but a wizened farmer would recall the image of a building that looks ridiculous, like a chicken. He would have recalled chuckling when thinking what part of the chicken he would enter and exit each day when doing his chores. It would contribute to giving his life enough richness to keep going.

I believe that the best humor is humor like this. It combines small twists of language with implied bigger twists of incited images. And it gets warmer and deeper (and funnier) the more you live with it.

The first (language and image), is what the Marx brothers invented in cinema. These guys had honed a stage act based on clever language — timing, twists, perspectives implied by stereotypes. Its all in the words. But they were able to bring it to us in a frantic, ad hoc visual manner, so that we could have a blizzard of images like the feathered barn, the images themselves feathered together in a sort of story.

Eye and mind played with, and played through practice. These masters were not kids. Groucho by the time this was made was 43. He got funnier every year after that in working with these sorts of ad libbed word images. His "secret word" bit in "You Bet your Life," was even a part of this.

These, I think, are basic to the both the notion of what makes cinema work (folded images and narrative) and what makes humor attractive (naming enriched by ambiguous image). If you want to know yourself, you navigate through your cupboard of these that you have collected. You go to school. You play the game. You can only do this and truly laugh if you are old enough (or young and aggressive enough in collecting) to have something to rumble around in.

Marx brothers: old school funny. At least to me.

This is one of their Paramount projects before being reinvented again by MGM. More random; more eggs.

Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.


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