Horse Feathers Review

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Quincy Adams Wagstaff becomes President of Huxley College, where his son, Wagstaff Jr., is studying and pursuing Connie Bailey, the college widow. In order to beat rivals Darwin at American Football, they kidnap Baravelli and Pinky instead of a couple of star players, but all turns out well on the day of the big game.


Despite once conceding that his style was `as quiet as a mouse pissing on a blotter', Norman Z. McLeod was the Marx Brothers most comedically intuitive and speed sensitive director. Following his success on Monkey Business, he reunited with the madcap quartet for this gleefully anarchic romp that makes less sense, but grows ever funnier, with each viewing.

Despite McLeod's genial guidance, life behind the scenes often proved as chaotic as it appeared on screen. Chico spent much of the shoot gambling with the stagehands before multiple injuries sustained in a car crash caused production to be closed down for 10 weeks. Groucho devoted himself to pursuing Thelma Todd, while the easily distractable Harpo once left the set in a bid to persuade a young Shirley Temple's parents to let him adopt her for $50,000.  

Once they had been corralled on to the soundstage, the Marxes proceeded to drive screenwriter S.J. Perelman crazy with their insistence on ad-libbing around his carefully concocted wisecracks and sophisticated literary lampoons. Co-writers Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby were more relaxed, however, especially as their songs `Whatever It Is, I'm Against It' and `Everyone Says I Love You' were among the picture's highlights.  

Harpo had some inspired moments of silent pantomime, involving a coat full of crockery and a roaring fire, while he teamed with Chico to cause havoc in a classroom. But the revelation was Groucho's byplay with Thelma Todd (who had also featured in Monkey Business). Far less passive a stooge than Margaret Dumont, she gave as good as she got, especially during the scene on the lake (intended to parody the drowning sequence in Theodore Dreiser's novel,  An American Tragedy) in which she tried to dupe Groucho into revealing his secret football plays.  

 However, the episode almost ended in catastrophe, as Groucho thought the non-swimming Todd's cries for help were a gag and he rowed away, leaving her to be rescued by a sextet of plucky technicans.

Marx brothers anarchy that makes up fr plot inconsistencies with infectious humour.