Filmsite Movie Review
Horse Feathers (1932)
Pages: (1) (2) (3)
Plot Synopsis (continued)

In the football locker room, Frank tells his father that he has hired the wrong football players in the speakeasy. Wagstaff finds Baravelli in a locker, crouched down calling play numbers to himself: "I'm practicin' secret signals." Baravelli is asked to kidnap the two real star athletes of the other team. Baravelli explains his standard kidnapping routine:

Baravelli: 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?

As they leave, Baravelli is pulled aside by Jennings. Ignorantly, he informs Jennings that he has to kidnap the two athletes Mullen and MacHardie from the Darwin team. Then, he is bribed with $500 to divulge Huxley's game plans and signals. He agrees to do so, but he hands over Darwin's signals instead, explaining that he has to make a profit - he paid $200 for them.

Pinky reappears below Connie's upstairs window and plays her a harp solo from the garden patio. She throws him a kiss. Then, Jennings enters Connie's room and tells her to get busy and romance Professor Wagstaff to get Huxley's football team signals and ensure Darwin's victory: "You know how! Romance him, baby. Romance him. And remember, all you're to get is football signals."

Another classic scene follows - Wagstaff's romantic canoe ride with Connie on a duck pond. He serenades her with a guitar and love song (his version of the film's same love song) as she paddles. A quacking duck that follows the canoe interrupts the end of the song. He insults the duck: "That's a wise quack. You keep your bill out of this. How would you like it if I butted into your affairs and laid an egg?" After singing to her, he throws the guitar overboard. The setting of the scene is a spoof on Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy:

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.

The football team's signals fall out of Wagstaff's coat pocket into the water and drift by Connie. He boasts that he has a second set of signals in his other pocket: "Luckily, I've got a duplicate set in my pocket. I always carry two of everything. This is the first time I've only been out with one woman." She attempts to use baby talk on him to divulge Huxley's football signals:

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.

When they both stand up in the canoe and she attempts to hug him and grab the football signals away, he discovers what's on her mind and pushes her overboard like his guitar. Drowning, she cries for help: "Professor Wagstaff!" Instead of instantly saving her, he talks about how he should be addressed: "Oh, just call me Quincy. After you get to know me better, you can call me Quince." She calls out for the lifesaver. In response, he leisurely peels the wrapper off a tube of candy and throws her a small peppermint (slightly out of her reach) from his pocket. The canoe trip ends with Wagstaff in the canoe with the duck and Connie floundering in the water.

On the afternoon of the big game, Pinky and Baravelli arrive at Darwin College to kidnap Darwin's star athletes (Ed Mullen (James Pierce) and MacHardie (Nat Pendleton)), but because of Baravelli's big mouth, the two athletes have been informed and are prepared. For the abduction, Baravelli and the dogcatcher have brought a shovel, axe, and a pick (a small piglet walks out of Pinky's bag):

That's a no pig. That's a hog! A hog. Don't you know what a hog is? (Pinky extends his arms to hug Baravelli)

Baravelli tries to lure Mullen away:

Baravelli: 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.
MacHardie: So you think you're gonna take us for a ride, eh?

Pinky is pushed forward to deal with them, and given last minute hints by Baravelli to drag them one at a time, or to "get tough." He tries to intimidate them by menacing them with a ferocious, rage-filled look, but then he gives each of them a light tap on the cheek. They pitch him across the room, each delivering a solid blow to his jaw. Baravelli provides commentary:

Now, you're getting someplace. Hey, Pinky. You'd better think of something else.

The kidnappers turn and run upstairs, where they are pursued, but are caught and locked in an upstairs room: "We come to kidnap them. They kidnap us. That's a fix-a-fine we're in." Pinky has a rope which Baravelli suggests they use: "Tie on-a the bed, throw the rope out of the window." Pinky starts by removing his necktie, throwing it on the bed, then tossing the rope out of the window - without tying it -- following Baravelli's orders exactly (but not as envisioned).

His next act is to hang his ballerina poster on the wall. Finally, they literally saw a circle in the upstairs floor, falling through the hole to the bedroom below, where the two athletes confront them again. Obsessed with the ballerina, Pinky must hang another one of her posters on the wall in the athletes' room. Baravelli is forced to strip to his underwear as Pinky watches. Modestly, he turns the ballerina's poster toward the wall for Baravelli's sake. But then Pinky is forced to strip as well, and he is coyly embarrassed. The two athletes leave them locked in the room and then depart to play in the big football game.

The climax of the film is the funny sequence of the wild Huxley-Darwin afternoon football game. Pinky and Baravelli are still in their underwear when the game begins. They escape by sawing into the next room below and falling into a ladies' card party. Pinky takes a white sash from one of the ladies and wraps it around his head like a gladiator's headdress. Pinky leaps into a waiting chariot outside (a garbage collector's horse-drawn cart) and rides to the stadium (arriving in Roman Ben-Hur style) just as the first half is finishing. Darwin leads the game 12-0. Baravelli has transported himself on a bicycle. Baravelli suggests they enter the game: "Hurry up. Hurry up. Come on. Come on. We still got time to play." They go to the bench and start a card game of pinochle. Wagstaff ridicules their kidnapping effort: "Well, you're a couple of fine kidnappers. You know that the fellas you kidnapped got in before you did."

Wagstaff goes to give a morale-boosting talk to his team, and suggests a play. Mistakenly, he is talking to the Darwin team. Wagstaff tells his son Frank: "My boy, get in there and play like you did in the last game. I've got five dollars bet on the other team." Baravelli and Pinky join the huddle - still playing pinochle. In the middle of the game, Professor Wagstaff goes to the announcer's microphone and broadcasts the birth of twins to an unseen Mrs. Moscowitz: "OK, Mr. Moscowitz!" Later, Wagstaff is seen on the sidelines, talking and flirting with a pretty woman. He leaves the sidelines with a "Pardon me" to tackle a Darwin player running for a touchdown. (He is dressed with a helmet, football cleats and pants, and his cigar and frockcoat.) Wagstaff proves himself to the lady: "That'll teach him to pass a lady without tipping his hat."

Baravelli gives audible football signals in the backfield, giving away the plays before the ball is snapped. When Mullen is startled to see Pinky, Pinky gives him a flying tackle. Because Mullen doesn't have the ball at the time, Huxley's team is penalized fifteen yards. Instructed by the referee to "tackle the man with the ball," Pinky tackles the referee. After a long run downfield with the ball, Pinky finds he has lost his hot dog in its roll (that he picked up on the side during the run) after a pileup. He puts the roll on Mullen's finger, smears on mustard, and then takes a bite.

Wagstaff joins the Huxley team. Baravelli calls the signals:

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
Professor Wagstaff gets the ball.

Wagstaff throws an interception. Through zany antics, including an elastic rubber band which has been attached to the ball, Pinky scores a touchdown, bringing the score to 7-12 in the fourth quarter. The next play, involving banana peels is signaled by Baravelli:

Uno, due, tre, vendi.
This-a time we go left endi.

The next touchdown's call signals are:

Hi diddle diddle.
The cat and the fiddle.
This time I think.
We go through the middle.

A touchdown is scored with the football crossing the line in a chariot. The score is now 13-12, Huxley winning. More than one football makes for quick multiple touchdowns. Huxley wins by their own rules at a score of 31-12.

As a reward for winning the game, in a brief scene at the film's end, tuxedoed Wagstaff, Baravelli, and Pinky all marry Connie Bailey at the same wedding ceremony. They all must pronounce the last words:

We do.

They all leap on top of their new bride to kiss her.

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