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Hail, Hail, Euphoria!: Presenting the Marx Brothers in Duck Soup, the Greatest War Movie Ever Made Hardcover – September 28, 2010

3.7 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Fifty years after first seeing Duck Soup, humorist Blount watched it again, worried that a new generation of viewers would “walk all over my heaven” and disrespect the experience. Instead, he found that parents and children alike appreciated the wacky humor and subversive sensibilities of the movie that debuted in 1933. The Depression-era film didn’t catch on until the 1960s, when the idea of reveling in a silly, completely unnecessary war was somehow construed as an antiwar message. Blount takes the reader through the more famous scenes of the movie, as Groucho Marx, playing Rufus Firefly, the leader of Freedonia, pushes the nation into bankruptcy and war with the occasional assistance and resistance of his brothers (Harpo as Pinky, Chico as Chicolini, and Zeppo as Lieutenant Bob Roland). Blount includes commentary on the Marx Brothers’ personalities and careers: Groucho’s acerbic wit, Chico’s gambling and womanizing, Harpo’s few speaking occasions. Zeppo, the straight man and former car thief, was reluctantly drafted into the act to replace brother Gummo, the least known of the brothers. Their mother, Minnie, was a stage mother to top all others, with a master plan for her sons that included capitalizing on shtick from vaudeville and memories of growing up Jewish in ethnic New York. Readers will enjoy the stories behind this iconic film and the careers of the Marx Brothers, director Leo McCarey, and frequent costar Margaret Dumont. --Vanessa Bush


“Hail, Hail, Euphoria! is the most lyrical, insightful, scholarly, illuminating and celebratory 144 pages I’ve ever sat down with. This book is a stream of fun.” (Wall Street Journal)

“Roy Blount Jr. knows from humor. In [Hail, Hail, Euphoria!], he sets out to remedy the lack of a scene-by-scene commentary on the Marx Brothers’ greatest movie, the sublimely nonsensical Duck Soup.” (Washington Post)

“An essential read for Marx Brothers fans, those curious about the melding of war and humor in film, and browsers looking for a good read.” (Library Journal)

“Readers will enjoy the stories behind this iconic film and the careers of the Marx Brothers.” (Booklist)

“Roy Blount Jr. deconstructs the Marx Brothers’ magic.” (Los Angeles Times)

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: It Books; 2nd prt. edition (September 28, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061808164
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061808166
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,100,878 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Page for page, this is the most entertaining and enlightening discussion of a single film I've ever read. You might want to watch the movie again (or for the first time), then treat yourself to Blount's manic musings. He provides far more than an account of the comics at work: a bit of history about early film comedy, an appreciation of director Leo McCarey, and a reflection on what can be funny without being crude. Blount is as unpredictable and as irrepressible as the movie itself. He jumps from a shot-by-shot discussion of the film to any number of topics that come to mind, particularly the lives and careers of Minnie Marx's boys. He's nearly halfway though his 144 pages when he reaches the 12-minute mark of the 68-minute film. One footnote takes up three-quarters of a page. But, as Chico might say, "That's irrelephant!" Blount packs every paragraph with interesting facts, thoughtful observations or humorous anecdotes, many admittedly tangential to the movie. It's his skill with language and his effort to figure out what tickles us that make this book a joy to read.
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Format: Hardcover
I am an admirer of Roy Blount's works, but this book will not go into that list. While it is admirable that he decided to do a critcal analysis of this greatest of all Marx Bros. films, how he goes about it is so derivative of another work from over thirty years ago to make reading this book a bit discomforting.

On the plus side, the stills contained herein are some I have never seen and it is really nice to have some different ones unearthed for us to view. Also, I will give Blount kudos for his passion for the film and for taking the time to not only construct an interesting if flawed examination of both the film and its history, but for being so passionate about it.

Now...as to my criticisms, perhaps the biggest one is this: back in the 1970's the best book on the brothers Marx and one of the best tomes on film comedy was published called GROUCHO, HARPO, CHICO AND SOMETIMES ZEPPO by Joe Adamson. His approach to their world and its relation to the rest of it was a huge refreshing breath of air in a genre that normally stifled creativity in film criticism. The book was wise and also wiseass, funny, sarcastic and still is one of the most entertaining books on movies and movie history ever written. It is also obvious that I am not the only one to read it-many of the points in that book are in this one, with no attribution, which saddens me.

Also, some of Blount's facts are just plain wrong-example: he refers to Woody Allen's masterpiece HANNAN AND HER SISTERS and how the Allen character decides to keep on living after a particularly depressing time because of DUCK SOUP. He marvels at the silliness of the film and how great it is to really laugh at something even when the world around you seems bleak.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The moment I saw that this book was just on Duck Soup, I had to check it out. I'm a Marx Brothers fan who all too often finds bios on the boys depressing or dull because the movies I love are such a small snapshot of what their lives were.

Blount at times uses the narrative to ambitiously give a window into the popular culture and the Marx family history and how it influenced what made it to the screen. Other times he uses it for an excuse for Marx and other anecdotes and to wax comically. If you stick too close to expectations you have for the book, it can get tedious or meandering at times. If you take it in the spirit of fun and love the author has for the material, it's a fun quick read that will make you want to revisit the movie (or watch if you've never seen it before).
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Format: Hardcover
Roy Blount jr., a humorist himself, writes a very appreciative, witty and often serious and appreciative view of the Marx Brother's critical 1933 film 'Duck Soup'. While Blount refers to 'Duck Soup' as one of the greatest war movie of all time, as stunning as that remark may seem, a national known military magazine actually rates the film as a top 20 war film of all time. The writing style of Blount is energetic and very fast paced discussing the script, goes back to the movie, the script, then the movie, the brothers, the support actors such as Margaret Dumont, the frequent straight woman foil for Groucho and the boys. Blount provides generous bios on the brothers periodically through his detailed analysis of the film and with intimate details of the film, even describing the stage fruit that the brothers heave at the the end and at Dumont. There is so much captured by Blount, the detailed comedic moments like Chico and Harpo's teasing the lemonade man, and Groucho & Harpo's mirror act that, as Blount describes, is more than coordinated timing but is a special sense of each other from their uniquely close relationship literally growing up at stage. Blount provides fascinating background on the brothers evolving act that was initiated and coordinated by their stage mother Minnie, who sounds funny in her own right, such as wearing a corset to make an entrance then immediately removing it. Blount not only provides descriptions of Chico, Groucho and Harpo but Zeppo who leaves to produce and create a mechanical company that has great success in the medical field and even Gummo who ironically has the last laugh in the book.Read more ›
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