Comedians and entertainers in motion pictures took at least 50 years after movies entered the mainstream before shaking loose of their direct vaudeville influences. One of the consequences of this fact is that we have a lasting record of the talents of some—though, as far as I can tell, not even close to all—of the greatest vaudeville acts.
One such great was an act consisting of a family of comedians and musicians operating a variety-show-style performance under the heading of ‘the Marx Brothers.’ Their antics found a natural match in the narrative format of the movie industry, and they became hugely successful, producing 13 feature films in a career spanning decades.
Perhaps their greatest success (though not financially, in its time) is a film called Duck Soup, which today stands on the American Film Institute’s list of the greatest 100 American films of the past century (in addition to being in the top 10 of their list of the 100 greatest comedy films of the past century). Duck Soup is a comedy classic from some of the all-time masters of early (anarchic) movie comedy, and no one with an interest in classic cinema, movie comedy, or theatrical comedy should miss out on watching it.
Jokes that Hit their Marx: