LowComDom Performances Presents
Film Review - Horse Feathers
It was my parents who first introduced me to the comedic actors of the Great Depression. My siblings and I were taken to see the Bowery Boys, Charlie Chaplin and the Marx Brothers. I really liked Huntz Hall of The Bowery Boys, but three of the four Marx Brothers I thought were a scream. During the Depression, comedic film almost always pandered to the people suffering most from the hard times. These films were sympathetic to their plight, and often poked fun at pompous rich people, who had it easy. The Marx Brothers excelled at this. They moved their act from vaudeville to Hollywood, and found a much larger audience on screen.
Horse Feathers is the Marx Brothers in mid-career. It's irreverent towards the upper class and authorities; silly, sometimes innocent, and sometimes not so innocent. This is not by far the Marx Brothers' best film. Horse Feathers suffers from a song that everyone feels inclined to sing or play at one time or another during the film. One becomes very tired of that song. During the early era of talkies, music was a very common addition to film. I've always thought, with the exception of A Night at the Opera, music was wasted in a Marx Brothers' film.
On the flip side, this is not the worst of the Marx Brothers'. I would chalk that up to either The Coconuts or The Big Store. What works so well in Horse Feathers is the speak-easy scene. While Groucho works a deal to buy football players, Harpo is cutting cards at the poker table with a hatchet, and while the slot machine is occupied, he plays the telephone and wins. Harpo shines in this film.
Groucho gets away with quite a lot in the opening scene, where he is named president of a college. He, in disguised words, brings on the gravest of insults to the establishment. I was amazed at what Groucho had gotten away with in terms of language in 1931. As I have complained about more contemporary movie stars who are always the same character in every film, Groucho in Horse Feathers is Groucho. He performs his usual wisecracks, but he appears to be holding back in this film.
This was the middle of the Brothers' career. Their best work still lay ahead of them, when Irving Thalberg would manage the group after they moved to MGM.
Horse Feathers will make you laugh. It is a lot of fun. Perhaps if you have never seen the Brothers, this would be a good film to begin with, and later move on to Duck Soup and A Night at the Opera.
Directed by Norman Z. McLeod
Released in 1932
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Reviewed by Mongo