Last modified on 3 January 2015, at 15:58

Horse Feathers

The Marx Brothers. Top to bottom: Chico, Harpo, Groucho and Zeppo.
Screenshot of Thelma Todd and Chico Marx from the film Horse Feathers

Horse Feathers is a 1932 film about Quincy Adams Wagstaff, the new president of Huxley University, who hires bumblers Baravelli and Pinky to help his school win the big football game against rival Darwin University.

Directed by Norman Z. McLeod. Written by S. J. Perelman, Bert Kalmar, Harry Ruby, and Will B. Johnstone.
The Maddest Comics of the Screen!

Quincy Adams WagstaffEdit

  • [singing]
    I don't know what they have to say.
    It makes no difference anyway.
    Whatever it is, I'm against it.
  • [to Baravelli] You've got the brain of a four-year-old boy, and I bet he was glad to get rid of it.
  • [about Connie] I'm the plumber. I'm just hanging around in case something goes wrong with her pipes. [To the audience] That's the first time I've used that joke in 20 years.


Wagstaff: Members of the faculty, faculty members, students of Huxley and Huxley students - I guess that covers everything. Well, I thought my razor was dull until I heard this speech. And that reminds me of a story that's so dirty I'm ashamed to think of it myself. As I look over your eager faces, I can readily understand why this college is flat on its back. The last college I presided over, things were slightly different. I was flat on my back. Things kept going from bad to worse but we all put our shoulders to the wheel and it wasn't long before I was flat on my back again. Any questions? Any answers? Any rags? Any bones? Any bottles today? Any rags? Let's have some action around here. Who'll say 76? Who'll say 17 76? That's the spirit! 1776!
Wagstaff:[to a woman sitting on his son's lap] Young lady. Would you mind getting up so I can see the son rise? So, doing your homework in school, eh?
Retiring President: I am sure the students would appreciate a brief outline of your plans for the future.
Wagstaff: What?
Retiring President: I said the students would appreciate a brief outline of your plans for the future.
Wagstaff: You just said that! That's the trouble around here: talk, talk, talk! Oh, sometimes I think I must go mad. Where will it all end? What is it getting you? Why don't you go home to your wife? I'll tell you what, I'll go home to your wife and, outside of the improvement, she'll never know the difference. Pull over to the side of the road there and let me see your marriage license.
Retiring President: President Wagstaff, now that you've stepped into my shoes...
Wagstaff: Oh, is that what I stepped in? I wondered what it was. If these are your shoes, the least you could do was have them cleaned.

Frank: Dad, let me congratulate you. I'm proud to be your son.
Wagstaff: My boy, you took the words right out of my mouth. I'm ashamed to be your father. You're a disgrace to our family name of Wagstaff, if such a thing is possible. What's all this talk I hear about you fooling around with the college widow? No wonder you can't get out of college. Twelve years in one college! I went to three colleges in twelve years and fooled around with three college widows! When I was your age, I went to bed right after supper. Sometimes I went to bed before supper. Sometimes I went without my supper and didn't go to bed at all! A college widow stood for something in those days. In fact, she stood for plenty.
Frank: There's nothing wrong between me and the college widow.
Wagstaff: There isn't, huh? Then you're crazy to fool around with her.
Frank: Aw, but you don't...
Wagstaff: I don't want to talk to you again about this, you snob. I'd horsewhip you, if I had a horse. You may go now. Leave your name and address with the girl outside, and if anything turns up we'll get in touch with you...Where you going?
Frank: Well, you just told me to go.
Wagstaff: So that's what they taught you in college. Just when I tell you to go, you leave me! You know you can't leave a schoolroom without raising your hand no matter where you're going.

Frank: It isn't right for a college to buy football players.
Wagstaff: It isn't, eh? Well, I'll nip that in the bud. How about coming along and having a nip yourself?
Frank: Anything further, Father?
Wagstaff: Anything further, Father? That can't be right. Isn't it 'Anything Father, further?' The idea! I married your mother because I wanted children. Imagine my disappointment when you arrived.

Baravelli: [at the speakeasy door] Who are you?
Wagstaff: I'm fine thanks, who are you?
Baravelli: I'm fine too, but you can't come in unless you give the password.
Wagstaff: Well, what is the password?
Baravelli: Aw, no! You gotta tell me. Hey, I tell what I do. I give you three guesses. It's the name of a fish.
Wagstaff: Is it Mary?
Baravelli: Ha-ha. That's-a no fish.
Wagstaff: She isn't, well, she drinks like one. Let me see. Is it sturgeon?
Baravelli: Hey you crazy! Sturgeon, he's a doctor cuts you open when-a you sick. Now I give you one more chance.
Wagstaff: I got it! Haddock!
Baravelli: That's-a funny. I gotta haddock, too.
Wagstaff: What do you take for a haddock?
Baravelli: Well-a, sometimes I take-a aspirin, sometimes I take-a calomel.
Wagstaff: Say, I'd walk a mile for a calomel.
Baravelli: You mean chocolate calomel. I like that too, but you no guess it. Hey, what-sa matter, you no understand English? You can't come in here unless you say 'swordfish.' Now I'll give you one more guess.
Wagstaff: [to himself] Swordfish, swordfish. [to Baravelli] I think I got it. Is it 'swordfish'?
Baravelli: Hah! That's-a it! You guess it!
Wagstaff: Pretty good, eh?
[When Baravelli opens the door and congratulates him, Wagstaff sneaks in the door, shuts it, and asks for the password.]
Baravelli: No. You're no foolin' me. Swordfish.
Wagstaff: No, I got tired of that. I changed it.
Baravelli: What's the password now?
Wagstaff: Gee, I forgot it. I'd better come outside with you.
[exits and both are now locked out]

Wagstaff: This college is a failure. The trouble is, we're neglecting football for education.
The Professors: [in unison] Exactly, the professor is right.
Wagstaff: Oh, I'm right, am I? Well, I'm not right. I'm wrong. I just said that to test ya. Now I know where I'm at. I'm dealing with a couple of snakes. What I meant to say was that there's too much football and not enough education.
The Professors: That's what I think.
Wagstaff: Oh, you do, do you? Well, you're wrong again. If there was a snake, you'd apologize. Where would this college be without football? Have we got a stadium?
The Professors: Yes.
Wagstaff: Have we got a college?
The Professors: Yes.
Wagstaff: Well, we can't support both. Tomorrow we start tearing down the college.
The Professors: But Professor. Where will the students sleep?
Wagstaff: Where they always sleep. In the classroom.
Secretary: Oh, Professor. The Dean of Science wants to know how soon you can see him. He says he's tired of cooling his heels out here.
Wagstaff: Tell him I'm cooling a couple of heels in here. Where were we? Oh, yeah. How much am I payin' you fellas?
Professor: $5,000 a year, but we've never been paid.
Wagstaff: Well, in that case, I'll raise you to $8,000. And a bonus. Bring your dog around, and I'll give him a bonus, too.
Secretary: The Dean is furious. He's waxing wroth.
Wagstaff: Is Roth out there, too? Tell Roth to wax the Dean for a while.

Biology teacher: Now, let us go on with our lecture.
Wagstaff: I wish you'd go on without your lecture.
Biology teacher: [gesturing to a microscope] What do you think of that slide?
Wagstaff: Well, I think he was safe at second, but it was very close.
Biology teacher: Now, let us examine the circulatory system. Here is the liver.
Wagstaff: What! No bacon! I'd send that back if I were you.
Biology teacher: The liver, if neglected, invariably leads to cirrhosis. Of course, you are all familiar with the symptoms of cirrhosis.
Baravelli: Sure. So roses are red. So violets are blue. So sugar is sweet. So so are you.
Wagstaff: I can't see him, and I bet I know who it is.
Biology teacher: For the protection of the heart, or cardium, Mother Nature has provided a sac, called the pericardium. Any questions?
Baravelli: Yes. When you gonna cut the watermelon open?
Wagstaff: Is this stuff on the level or are you just making it up as you go along? My feet are getting tired from this walk.
Biology teacher: Why, everything I told you can be found in the simplest text book on anatomy. I'm sure my students will bear me out.
[The teacher is borne out of the classroom into the corridor, literally, by the two new students.]

Wagstaff: As you know, there is constant warfare between the red and white corpuscles. Now then, baboons, what is a corpuscle?
Baravelli: That's easy. First there's a captain. Then there's a lieutenant. Then there's a corpuscle.
Wagstaff: That's fine. Why don't you bore a hole in yourself and let the sap run out? We now find ourselves among the Alps. The Alps are a very simple people living on a diet of rice and old shoes. Beyond the Alps lies more Alps and the Lord Alps those that Alps themselves. We then come to the bloodstream. The blood rushes from the head down to the feet, gets a look at those feet, and rushes back to the head again. This is known as auction pinochle. Now in studying your basic metabolism, we first listen to your hearts beat. And if your hearts beat anything but diamonds and clubs, it's because your partner is cheating - or your wife...Now take this point for instance [He points to a horse's ass placed over an anatomy chart - a picture of Pinky's beloved horse that he placed there when Wagstaff wasn't looking] - That reminds me, I haven't seen my son all day. Well, the human body takes many strange forms. Now here is a most unusual organ. The organ will play a solo immediately after the feature picture. Scientists make these deductions by examining a rat, or your landlord, who won't cut the rent. And what do they find? Asparagus! Now, on closer examination... [Pinky has now placed a picture of his ballerina beauty over Wagstaff's anatomy chart] Hmm! This needs closer examination. In fact, it needs a nightgown. Baravelli, who's responsible for this? Is this your picture?
Baravelli: I no think so. It doesn't look like me.

Wagstaff: Are you Miss Bailey? Come, come! One of us is Miss Bailey, and I'm not!
Connie: I'm Miss Bailey, and who are you?
Wagstaff: [He pulls out an invisible calling card] I'm Professor Wagstaff. Who are you?
Connie: Miss Bailey!
Wagstaff: Ah, then you are Miss Bailey! Thought you could slip one over on me, didn't you? Listen, Madam, you've got to give my son up.
Connie: Give him up?
Wagstaff: You can't take him from me! He's all I've got in the world, except a picture of George Washington crossing the Delaware.
Connie: But, Professor, I...
Wagstaff: Whatever you say is a lie! He's only a shell of his former self which nobody can deny. Whoopee! I tell you, you're ruining that boy, you're ruining him. [sitting in her lap] Did my son tell you you have beautiful eyes?
Connie: Why, yes.
Wagstaff: Told me that, too! Tells that to everyone he meets! Oh, I love sitting on your lap. I could sit here all day if you didn't stand up.

Wagstaff: Have you ever had any experience as a kidnapper?
Baravelli: You bet. You know what I do when I kidnap somebody? First I call them up on the telephone, then I send them my chauffeur...It costs too much money to keep a car and a chauffeur so I sold the car.
Wagstaff: Well, that shows you how little I know. I would have kept the car and sold the chauffeur.
Baravelli: That's-a no good. I gotta have a chauffeur to take me to work in the morning.
Wagstaff: Well, if you've got no car, how can he take you to work?
Baravelli: He don't have to take me to work. I no gotta job.
Wagstaff: Baravelli. This is the finish. How much would you want to stand at the wrong end of a shooting gallery?

Wagstaff: This is the first time I've been out in a canoe since I saw The American Tragedy.
Connie: Oh, you're perfectly safe, Professor, in this boat.
Wagstaff: I don't know. I was going to get a flat bottom but the girl at the boat house didn't have one.
Connie: Well you know, Professor, I could go on like this, drifting and dreaming forever. What a day! Spring in the air.
Wagstaff: Who, me? I should spring in the air and fall in the lake?
Connie: Oh, Professor, you're full of whimsy.
Wagstaff: Can you notice it from there? I'm always that way after I eat radishes.

Connie: Do you know, Professor, I've never seen football signals? Do you think a little girl like me could understand them?
Wagstaff: I think a little girl like you would understand practically anything.
Connie: Is gweat big stwong man gonna show liddle icky baby all about the bad footbawl signals?
Wagstaff: [startled] Was that you or the duck? 'Cause if it was you, I'm gonna finish this ride with the duck.
Connie: If icky baby don't learn about the footbawl signals, icky baby gonna cwy.
Wagstaff: If icky girl keep on tawking that way, big stwong man gonna kick all her teef wight down her thwoat.

Baravelli: [trying to lure Mullen and McHardie away] You gotta brother?
Mullen: No.
Baravelli: You gotta sister?
Mullen: Yeah.
Baravelli: Well-a, your sister, she's a very sick man. You'd better come with us.
Mullen: Yeah? What happened to her?
Baravelli: She hadda accident in her automobile.
MacHardie: Ah, she has no automobile.
Baravelli: Well-a, maybe she's-a fall off-a horse. I don't-a look very close. Come on, we take you in our car.
Mullen: You will, eh? Well, I have no sister.
Baravelli: That's all right. We no got a car. Come on.


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