Cinema: Horse Feathers

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(See front cover)

If the trustees of Princeton or any other U. S. university which lacks a president had met last month to choose one, they would surely not have chosen Groucho Marx. He lacks the manner, the appearance, the erudition proper to the post. Nonetheless, at the beginning of Horse Feathers (Paramount) it becomes clear that the trustees of Huxley College have been so haphazard as to select Groucho. thinly disguised under the pseudonym of Professor Wagstaff, for this honor. He is discovered on a rostrum, where the retiring president of Huxley is addressing the faculty and student body. Attired in a mortar board, with a tailcoat over his arm, Groucho is shaving his false mustache in a portable mirror while puffing a stogie. The retiring president asks him to throw away the cigar. Groucho Marx casts a look at the faculty of Huxley and says: "There'll be no diving for this cigar." He goes on puffing. Carried away by his own address to the students, he breaks into a song called "I'm Against It," leads the faculty in a soft-shoe dance.

Harpo Marx's profession in Horse Feathers is somewhat more appropriate than his brother's. Harpo is a dogcatcher. He has a large lamp post to attract large dogs, a small lamp post for lapdogs, nets of various sizes. Running wildly about the town, he presently arrives at a speakeasy where Groucho Marx is trying to find a pair of professional football players to improve the Huxley team. Chico Marx is associated with the speak-easy as bootlegger and iceman. In the speakeasy. Harpo plays the slot machine with buttons, tries to enlarge his winnings by dropping coins in a pay telephone. He bowls grapefruit at bottles on the bar and when he hears someone say "Cut the cards." does it with an axe which he carries in his pocket.

Incompetent Groucho Marx hires Chico and Harpo to play football for Huxley, gives them each a contract. When Groucho wants a seal to make the contracts official. Harpo produces a live one. Presently, all three go to a classroom where Groucho gives a lecture on geography and anatomy. Says he: "The Lord Alps those that Alps themselves." Harpo and Chico stop clawing at pretty female classmates long enough to blow spitballs at Groucho. Groucho dismisses the class, blows spitballs back.

Like other Marx Brothers pictures (The Cocoanuts, Monkey Business) this one is distinguished by an irrationality which is only vaguely challenged by romantic episodes concerning Zeppo Marx. This time Zeppo is attached to a blonde Miss Bailey (Thelma Todd), the college widow. Groucho, Chico and Harpo also attempt to become familiar with Miss Bailey. She tries to steal the signals of the Huxley football team from President Groucho by taking him for a ride in a canoe. Groucho lets her paddle, throws her a candy life-saver when she falls out. Presently, Chico and Harpo go to kidnap the two best players of the rival football team. The football players kidnap Chico and Harpo. Harpo and Chico saw their way out. Half naked, they drive to the game in a perambulating garbage can that resembles a chariot (see front cover). After Harpo has made one touchdown by scattering banana peels in the way of the opposing team, all four Marx brothers ride up the field in their refuse wagon and put down several balls for several more touchdowns.

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