This is not in the order you might expect, but all will be revealed.


EV'RYONE cover alt


Zeppo in a Russ Columbo mood, with time out for toast and jam delightfully consumed by Miss Todd, then the equestrian version with a modernized banana:

Groucho with a guitar and some Perelmanesque byplay that references Theodore Dreiser:

And more variations on this pretty theme, audio only:

with a return to the 2015 version, a triumph of passion and control:

I always thought this song had a simplistic melody — lines that one might have played with one finger on a piano keyboard in C, ascending and descending.  But the 2015 version presented here, by Marc Caparone, cornet, and Ray Skjelbred, piano, at the San Diego Jazz Fest, shows me that it’s not only the clever lyrics by Kalmar that make the song memorable.  However, those lyrics — sung sweetly by Zeppo, sung in his own faux-Italian vaudeville fashion by Chico, whistled by Harpo — stay in our minds.  When Groucho demolishes them in the canoe, world-wearily suggesting that love is resistible, “just inviting trouble for the poor [s]ucker who . . . ” the effect is powerful, even before we get to the duck, the oar, and more.  Incidentally, Groucho’s take on romance — sour as it is — is what we could expect from a motion picture whose title everyone would recognize as a polite version of HORSE SHIT?

But I digress.  Beautiful melodic improvisations don’t need sophisticated material.  It’s what you do with it that counts.

May your happiness increase!


  1. Groucho is really playing guitar in the canoe while he sings and notice that the duck trailing behind is fake ( they stuck in a real one for the ‘quack’) as is the guitar he throws overboard, not the same one is has been playing. They would not waste a good guitar like that.

    “You know this is the foist time I have been in a canoe since I saw the ‘America Tragedy’!”

    I have no idea what this even means but it’s still hilarious. Reference to Dreiser?

    Had no idea that horse feathers had anything to do with horse shit but this does pose a major perceptual shift in perspective. Was that you or the duck?

  2. Theodore Dreiser’s AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY focuses on a failed love affair where the fellow takes the girl out in a canoe and drowns her. (I could be slightly off here, but that’s what I remember from 1973.) And “horse feathers” was the euphemism for something more vulgar, in just the way that “jeepers creepers!” was so that someone would not take the name of Our Lord in vain. It was the duck.

  3. Thanks for the clarifications. It was indeed Our Lord the duck.

  4. Don "Zoot" Conner

    Love it,Michael your versatility never fails to amaze me.Your pairing of various endeavers I now call “pluralism personified” for lack of any other name.Needless to say,It’s wonderful stuff-keep it up.

  5. Thanks for clearing up a mystery that has endured for more than 60 years! My late Father and I, both devout Marx fans, saw this film in a kind of retrospective (“Monkey Business”, “Animal Crackers”, “Duck Soup”) in a local Edinburgh cinema in 1951. We did wonder slightly where the title came from. Now maybe you could explain the significance of the “College Widow”; in the UK the term is meaningless. Incidentally, S.J.Perelman was the only one of the scriptwriters to have gone to college. Perhaps the names of the colleges Huxley and Darwin are down to him?

  6. Ian, I had a general idea that a or the “college widow” was an older woman who enjoyed the erotic attentions of college students, but here’s a lovely explication of the now-archaic term:

    Groucho was also a great reader, so Huxley and Darwin might have come from him. In the United States in 1925, a teacher in Tennessee (I think) named John Scopes was brought to court for teaching evolution in schools. So the names of the schools have, perhaps, a contemporary relevance.

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