Frank: "Dad, two of the greatest football players in the country hang out in a speakeasy downtown."
Professor Wagstaff: "Are you suggesting that I, the president of Huxley College, go into a speakeasy without even giving me the address?"
This was the fourth and arguably the funniest film Groucho, Chico, Harpo (and sometimes Zeppo) did in their cinematic hey-day. To the left you see their success as purveyors of comic anarchy inside the hallowed halls of mythical Huxley College earned then the rare honor for a comic team---a front cover on the nation's most influential news magazine, "Time".
The plot, like most of the Brothers films, defied logic as often as not, but the premise is irresistable. But once Groucho is placed in the position of president of a prestigious American college, one over looks plausibility.
From Imdb: "Professor Quincy Adams Wagstaff has just been installed as the new president of Huxley College. His cavalier attitude toward education is not reserved for his son Frank, who is seeing the college widow, Connie Bailey. Frank influences Wagstaff to recruit two football players who hang out in a speakeasy, in order to beat rival school Darwin. Unfortunately, Wagstaff mistakenly hires the misfits Baravelli and Pinky. Finding out that Darwin has beaten him to the "real" players, Wagstaff enlists Baravelli and Pinky to kidnap them, which leads to an anarchic football finale." Written by Rick Gregory <email@example.com>
What university experience would be complete without some off-campus "tutoring" from the local college widow, especially as soon as her gangster boy friend has his back turned? Or turning a learned but clueless professor or two into straight men for your best one-liners? And winning a big Saturday afternoon football game, even though you're not officially on the team roster?
And most importantly learning the passwords to get into one or two local "speak-easies" (underground locales for illicit drinking during the Prohibition Era.) It's one thing for a nation to be headed into Herbert Hoover's Depression but to do so without the ability to hoist a legal drink in a gin joint or saloon? That's really "Un-American". The Prohibition Amendment was repealed in January 1934.;
The gags in this film come as fast and furious as any film you're likely to have seen. And if you don't laugh at one of Groucho's quips or Chico wordplay or Harpo's masterful pantomime, there will be another set-up and punch-liine coming along in a few seconds that will delight.
. One thing to note about what made "Horse Feathers" so funny is that some of Broadway's best musical comedy writers in this period had come West to Hollywood to write for early talking pictures like these. (The great New Yorker-style writers of humor and satire of that era, men like George F. Kaufman, Morton Ryskind and S.J. Perlman and others of like mind and ready wit more than earned their keep under the palm trees of the new American El Dorado. ) This next clip features President Wagstaff juggling administrative tasks with some dating procedures with Connie, the college widow. She is played by Thelma Todd, a beautiful blond actress who worked well with Groucho in an earlier film "Monkey Business".
A sad coda: Ms. Todd did a number of successful two-reel comedies with the Hal Roach studio where Laurel and Hardy did their best films. She died at 29 in December of 1935, three years after this film. Her body was found beaten in a garage with a running car engine. It is believed by many that Thelma was killed for not being willing to sell her coast-side Santa Monica restaurant/night club to the gangster Lucky Luciano.
Because of fear of Luciano and his East Coast mob--that were then establishing themselves in Los Angeles, no witnesses were willing to testify to that effect and the case was ruled an "accidental death", a very unrealistic verdict.