BU Film School

Monday, August 29, 2005

FT 540 Reading: Duck Soup

Screenplay info
Written by: Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby
Film info: http://us.imdb.com/Title?0023969
Filmsite.org link: http://www.filmsite.org/duck.html

Film opens with a cabinet meeting in Fredonia. The country needs $20 million. Mrs. Teasdale, who has already lent the country money, agrees to the loan, but only if Rufus T. Firefly is appointed leader.

Reception for Firefly. Ambassador Trentino of Sylvania and Vera Marcal plot. Trentino says he can gain control of Fredonia if he marries Mrs. Teasale. Song -- when the clock on the wall strikes ten. Song - Freedonian anthem. Everyone waits for Firefly's grand entrance. Firefly, meanwhile, is asleep in his room. Awakened, he slides down a pole, then joins the others in waiting for a grand entrance before people realize it's already been made. There's tension between Firefly and Trentino. Firefly pokes fun at him, Mrs. Teasdale and Vera (sending off each one in a huff). He sings about how he's going to run the nation. "If you think this country's bad off now, just wait till I get through with it." Pinky on motorcycle -- drvies off without Firefly in sidecar.

In Sylvania, Trentino is plotting away. He tries to find out what his two spies, Chicolini and Pinky, have discovered, but with no luck. Business with phones, cigars, scissors. It turns out that the spies haven't even followed the right man! Trentino gives them one more chance.

In Freedonia, Firefly meets with his cabinet ministers. He sorely tries their patience (new business, old business, etc.). The Minister of War quits.

Chicolini is running his peanut stand. He tries to get Pinky to talk, but gets no results. He complains to the lemonade vendor, who wants nothing to do with either. Business with pants-kicking, Pinky's horns, hat-swapping.

Firefly sees Chicolini and peanut stand. They chaff each other. Firefly: "Come on up here, I want to scare the Cabinet." He interviews Chicolini. Pinky shows up. Business with phones, standing army (a joke which gets Chicolini booted), Pinky's tattoos.

Bob, Firefly's secretary, has Trentino's letter -- proof that he's trying to undermine Firefly. The plan -- to make Trentino mad so that he leaves the country. Business again with Pinky, sidecar left behind.

Tea party at Mrs. Teasdale's. Vera had torn up Firefly's invitation, but he crashes the party anyway. Trentino is about to propose to Mrs. Teasdale, but Firefly stops him. Trentino calls him a swine, a worm, and an upstart -- slap! This seems to mean war. Firefly gets in motorcycle, but Pinky drives off in the sidecar.

Pinky and lemonade vendor. Hat business. Pinky gets in the lemonade vat.

Mrs. Teasdale calls Firefly. He comes over, gives her war plans. Trentino, Vera come in, say Trentino's on a friendly visit. Firefly says he can't even remember what the insult was. "Oh, yes. Upstart." Slap! War.

Trentino -- must get hold of plans. Vera is at Teasdale's, but so is Firefly. Pinky, Chicolini show up there too. Business with butler, front door. Vera lets them in, cautions them against noise. Pinky makes lot of noise with alarm, music box, piano.

Mrs. Teasdale calls Firefly's room and asks him to take the plans back, because she's nervous. Chicolini locks Firefly in the bathroom, then disguises himself and goes to Mrs. Teasdale. She's bemused by his behavior, but goes to write down the safe combination. Just then Pinky, also disguised, shows up. Chicolini hides under the bed. Teasdale, even more confused, gives Pinky the combination. Pinky and Chicolini spot each other. Pinky leaves. Chicolini leaves. Mrs. Teasdale lies down. Firefly breaks open the bathroom door and goes to Mrs. Teasdale.

Pinky finds radio and does the combination. Music blares. Firefly hears it, and calls guards. He goes downstairs himself. "Mirror" business. Chicolini appears too. Pinky runs off, Firefly grabs Chicolini.

Chicolini is on trial. Lots of wordplay (objections). Mrs. Teasdale makes one final effort to prevent war. Trentino is coming again. Firefly at first is prepared to be conciliatory, but he starts imagining snub. Slap! War song. "Oh, Freedonia, Oh donya cry for me." Paul Revere spoof with Pinky. He sees a girl, stops and goes in that house, which happens to be the lemonade vendor's. He goes to another house -- girl in one bed, he and his horse in the other.

War HQ. Freedonia is being badly beaten. Shells. Firefly shoots a machine gun -- unfortunately, his own men. Sylvanians are drawing near Teasdale's. They need help, and draw lots for a messenger. Pinky gets it, salutes, and falls backward into the ammo store. Explosions. Soldiers surround the house. Firefly and others barricade the door. Montage of help coming (fire engines, monkeys, porpoises). As soldiers come in, each is hit on the head with a brick. Trentino is captured.

My notes
-- zany. Lot of visual gags, plays on words.
-- detailed camera directions
-- things topsy-turvy. Jokes funny because unexpected.
-- running gags link scenes (hats, phones, motorcycle)

FT 540 notes (from 06/12/03)
-- Groucho plays word games, turns cliches inside out. Again, use of language.
-- Chico plays the immigrant. Also turns things upside down.
-- Harpo is pure chaos (scissors, etc.)


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