Film fans talk about The Marx Brothers' DUCK SOUP as a one-of-a-kind political satire, when in actuality, it was part of a political satire trend at Paramount. MILLION DOLLAR LEGS preceded it by one year, while the Wheeler and Woolsey vehicle DIPLOMANIACS was released in 1933 several months before the Marx Brothers classic. Of the three, MILLION DOLLAR LEGS is the most surrealistic. The film is populated with many famous comic players and character actors, such as Billy Gilbert and Andy Clyde, who pile absurdity on top of absurdity with abandon throughout the film. Jack Oakie gets top billing over W. C. Fields, whom Paramount still seemed uncertain what to do with.
The plot, such as it is, has Fields as "The President" of Klopstokia, with his country running out of money and his cabinet running out of patience. Fields recruits his daughter's sweetheart (whom he insists on calling "sweetheart" himself), a brush salesman, to whip the population into shape so that they can enter a team in the Los Angeles Olympics as a way to win money and endorsements and save their nation. It's all wacky good fun but without the strong wit of the Marx Brothers films for the same studio. In MILLION DOLLAR LEGS, everybody acts silly, leaving no straightmen for anybody to play off. (The later comedy team Monty Python would use superior wit and wild, wild gags to overcome this problem, but even their films tend to wear out their welcome before they run their course). Fields has some good moments in the movie, but it wouldn't be until his breakout turns in INTERNATIONAL HOUSE and SIX OF A KIND that the real Fields would be unleashed, finally convincing Paramount to stop putting him in all-star films and start putting him in W. C. Fields films. ½ - JB
HARPO'S SANER HALF
Among the many cast members, perhaps the most interesting, aside from Fields, was Susan Fleming, who plays The President's daughter. A starlet who didn't much care for making movies, Fleming had an undistinguished film career, but is still famous and beloved among classic comedy fans, who remember her more as Mrs. Harpo Marx. She and the famous "silent" MArx Brother married in 1936 and remained married until the comedian's death in 1964. She was interviewed by Richard J. Anobile for his and Groucho's 1974 book The Marx Brothers Scrapbook, in which she was not shy about giving her opinion about the other brothers, especially Groucho. Susan Fleming Marx lived on for several more decades, dying in 2002 at the age of 94.
ADD ANOTHER QUOTE AND MAKE IT A GALLON
"Conductor! I thought this train went to Los Angeles!"
"So did I! I can't understand it! We haven't made a mistake like this in 40 years!"