Directed by: Norman McLeod
Starring: The Four Marx Brothers, Thelma Todd, David Landau, Nat Pendleton, Robert Greig
In one of their most anarchic films, Horse Feathers (1932), the Marx Brothers take on higher learning—and higher learning loses. Here’s the idea—Groucho has become (through goodness-knows-what process) the president of Huxley College, despite making sport of his predecessor and the entire faculty, even singing a song where he tells them not to bother making suggestions, “Whatever it is, I’m against it.” His son (Zeppo) is a student at said college, and he convinces his father to hire professional football players to bolster the school’s perpetually losing team. Since he’s been apprised that two of the “greatest football players in the world” hang out in a speakeasy downtown, Groucho goes there and signs up the first two people he meets there—Harpo and Chico. There’s really not much more plot to the film, but there doesn’t need to be. This is the Marx Brothers in their purest form—something that only happened three times, so treasure it—and while it doesn’t reach the heights of their next film, Duck Soup (1933), neither is it that far from it. And it has its own identity as the Marx Brothers film that’s very nearly more like a cartoon than a movie in its surrealistic gags. Before the boys are through, they’ve pretty thoroughly demolished education, football and marriage. Maybe not their best film, but it’s in the running—and it’s completely devoid of any romantic subplot. And the password is “swordfish.”
The Asheville Film Society will screen Horse Feathers Tuesday, August 30, at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge of The Carolina Asheville and will be hosted by Xpress movie critics Ken Hanke and Justin Souther. Hanke is the artistic director of the A.F.S.