Monday, February 17, 2014

Ducks and Geese in Movies - Fowl in Film

Ducks and Geese in Movies
Short List of Animals in Film, Feathered Characters

Already having covered some chicken in film, it seems only fair to look at ducks and geese who've appeared in films that we love. I'm going to look at bird scenes instead of reviewing or the films. While Donald Duck is included, these are live-action feature films. 

In 1986, Howard the Duck, a Marvel Comics comic book character starred in his own film alongside Lea Thompson, Jeffrey Jones and Tim Robbins. Howard isn't a toy figure or a real animal. It's a great costume, though.

1) Friendly Persuasion 1956
Gary Cooper, Dorothy McGuire, Anthony Perkins, Richard Eyer, Robert Middleton and Phyllis Love and Samantha the Goose.

The screenplay was adapted by Michael Wilson from the 1945 novel. The film was originally released with no screenwriting credit because Wilson was on the Hollywood blacklist. 

His credit was restored in 1996. (Screen World Annual 1997 has information on blacklisted screenwriters whose credits were restored. Please see below.)

Gary Cooper and Dorothy McGuire are Jess and Eliza Birdwell, a couple with a great family name to start off. Their sons are Josh (Perkins) and Little Jess (Eyer). Samantha the Goose is Eliza's pet. The family members are pacifists amidst the escalating war.

When the father is away Confederate raiders storm the farm. Eliza tells them there is food inside and tells them to take what they want. They tear the place apart taking their farm animals. But when one of the soldiers grabs Samantha, she has had more than enough. 

She goes after them with a broom, telling them that goose is a pet not meant for a meal! Happily, maybe amazingly, the soldier apologizes. He didn't know the bird was a pet. After they've left Eliza tells her children not to let Jess know what happened. Even though Samantha is safe, she isn't proud of what she did.

The squawking, Samantha saving broom whooping scene is one of the most memorable bits in this movie.

2) Journey to the Center of the Earth 1959
James Mason Arlene Dahl, Pat Boone, Diane Baker, Thayer David, Peter Ronson, Alan Napier and Gertrude the duck. From a Jules Verne story.

Gertrude the Duck 
Image from movie trailer

This movie is a Steampunk lover's delight, particularly the early parts with its design and its gadgets. The Lost City of Atlantis is only one of the thrills you'll encounter in this film. 

Gertrude is the pet and great pal of Hans Belker (Ronson) and she accompanies him on his adventures. She wears a sporty black ring around one eye, walks with a no-nonsense waddle and she's got a penchant for danger.

Gertrude the Duck was apparently not in the original novel and there are certainly other differences. As the group flees from giant boulders, falls into traps and such we might wonder if Gertrude isn't the smartest one in the bunch. She didn't go on this trip voluntarily. 

But Gertrude isn't so big after all and she's no match for the bad guy who has followed the team of explorers into the cavernous underground "grotesque petrified jungle, crude subterranean caverns never beheld by human eyes." In a 2008 remake, there's no duck. I don't think Gertrude was acting anymore.

Bachelor Mother Ginger Rogers
David Niven Donald Duck Disney Toys
3) Bachelor Mother 1939 (Donald Duck)
Ginger Rogers David Niven, Charles Coburn and Donald Duck toys 

Ginger Rogers' character gets laid off at Christmastime. She's worked at a department store toy department where we saw her at the counter with wind-up Donald Duck toys. 

Duck illustrations also figure into the opening credits of the movie.

Hard to believe how new the character of Donald Duck was in 1939. He'd just appeared in some RKO short features. He made his first appearance in 1934 and first film appearance in 1938.

Just a couple of years before 1937 Disney produced its first full length animated feature, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The scene where David Niven tries to return a broken headless duck to the store is pretty funny. The film was remade years later with Debbie Reynolds under the title Bundle of Joy.

Donald Duck has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame which he received August 9, 2004. He's one of very few animated characters with stars. This may have been a combination of product placement and featuring a hot current trend in your movie.

4) His Kind of Woman 1951
Robert Mitchum, Jane Russell, Vincent Price

Now from a famous but fictitious duck, we move to a, well.... When there's
His Kind Of Woman
Art Poster Print
nothing else to do, and you can't mumble... I usually paraphrase John Cleese in times like these.

This next duck is no more. It has ceased to be! It's expired and gone to meet its maker! This is a late duck! It's a stiff! Bereft of life, it rests in peace! It..... Vincent Price is going to cook this goose. 

At the very least, Vincent Price is going to manhandle and tickle this goose. Did he ever cook it?

Price, as Mark Cardigan, is getting ready to cook a bunch of what looks like small geese or ducks. He picks one up and, as a conversation goes on and on and on, his handling of that bird becomes as interesting as their discussion.  

The Most Mysterious handling of a raw duck in a film in 1951 award certainly goes to Vincent Price. That was something else. By all rights, Alfred Hitchcock would have been there to present the award.

Mr. Price was a gourmet chef in real real life and he was having some fun with his screen persona in this movie.

His Kind Of Woman Vincent Price, Master Chef

"The His Kind of Woman mutual admiration society also included the erudite and amusing Vincent Price thoroughly enjoying himself in a self-mocking performance as the film's vain, Shakespeare-spouting thespian. 
"'Jane as a lovely, funny girl with a great attitude,' said Price, 'and Bob was just hilarious.' Many a time Price a gourmet cook, hosted the other two for lunch, serving fabulous meals he had whipped together from scratch. 

"Some days they would all remain on the perfectly pleasant Morro's Lodge set during the noon break, spread a blanket on the faux sand beach and have a family picnic, Reva delivering baskets of chicken and potato salad, bottles of wine and beer. 'We had a lot of fun on that picture," Vincent Price recalled. 'At least in the beginning before it got so ... crazy.'" 
-- Robert Mitchum: "Baby I Don't Care" by Lee Server

"What would you think of roast goose stuffed with apples?"
Rudy from The Shop Around the Corner gets to have goose for Christmas in the James Stewart Margaret Sullavan film.

5) The Marx Brothers: Duck Soup, The Cocoanuts, You Bet Your Life

The phrase duck soup meant it was simple, easy peasy. In their first film The Cocoanuts 1929, Mr. Hammer (Groucho) has an exchange with Chico. He doesn't speak English very well. Here's a segment of the Viaduct/Why a Duck sketch from The Cocoanuts:

Hammer: Well, we'll Passover that...You're a peach, boy. Now, here is a little peninsula, and, eh, here is a viaduct leading over to the mainland.

Chico: Why a duck? 

Hammer: I'm alright, how are you? I say, here is a little peninsula, and here is a viaduct leading over to the mainland. 

Chico: Alright, why a duck? 

Hammer: I'm not playing "Ask Me Another," I say that's a viaduct. 

Chico: Alright! Why a duck? Why that...why a duck? Why a no chicken? 

Hammer: Well, I don't know why a no chicken; I'm a stranger here myself. All I know is that it's a viaduct. You try to cross over there a chicken and you'll find out why a duck.  

Harpo Marx communicated with a honk from an old automobile horn. Kind of goose-like now that you think about it.  Honk, Honk in his honor.

Why a Duck? is the name of one of the books about the Marx Brothers that I own. It's by Richard Anobile, with an introduction by Groucho Marx.

You Bet Your Life was a comedy quiz show hosted by Groucho that aired on radio and television. If contestants said the Secret Word of the night, Hooray for Captain Spaulding would play and a duck would drop from the ceiling. Much of the humor still holds up today.

Costume Designer Edith Head is on You Bet Your Life.

6) Theodore Case Sound Test: Gus Visser and his Singing Duck

This short film from 1925 is a part of the National Film Registry. You can see it on a recent post on this blog, Film Registry, linked below. What a talented duck! Theodore Case made several early sound recordings with other birds, a squirrel and even a ukulele, close to our hearts as my husband has apprentices learning to build them.

Interestingly Mr. Case also made a recording with the Vaudeville comedy team of and Gallagher and Shean in 1925. Al Shean was an uncle of the Marx Brothers.

7) Duck and Cover 1951

Duck and Cover was a 1951 educational film put out by the US Government.

This film had nothing to do with ducks or waterfowl of any kind. Duck used as a verb.

It was to educate people, children in particular, what to do in the case of a nuclear attack. 

The phrase was memorable and the film is historic. Created as part of the Civil Defense branch public awareness campaign, Stewart the spokesturtle. 

8) Mentions/Appearances in movies and TV: Duck, Duck, Duck.... A Honk and a Quack 

When Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant's characters are arrested in Bringing Up Baby, to get in good with the guards, Cary Grant puts the finger on, "Mickey the Mouse" & "Donald the Duck." These two Disney characters were very popular in 1938 when Bringing Up Baby came out. This film also featured a dog and a couple of leopards.

Scrooge / Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol: Get me the biggest goose in the window! Which is your favorite version of Dickens' Christmas Carol?

In 1916, there were at least two versions of the story produced. Paramount made A Christmas Carol.

Bluebird Studios made The Right to Be Happy featuring Rupert Julian, John Cook and Claire McDowell.

The Right to Be Happy 1916 Bluebird

If memory serves, someone actually says, "Lord love a duck!" in Foreign Correspondent.

Cary Grant Father Goose Original glossy Photo
The Magnificent Ambersons, a 1942 Orson Welles film, has talk of "The queer looking duck." Which is, I believe, right from the 1918 novel by Booth Tarkington which won the 1919 Pulitzer Prize.

Laura (1944) Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb): "I don't use a pen. I write with a goose quill dipped in venom." He's also seen sitting in a bathtub typing on his typewriter. Lydecker is referred to as an imperious, charismatic newspaper columnist an imperious, decadent dandy who became Laura's mentor. He provides the memorable first lines of the movie, "I shall never forget the weekend Laura died...."

Freaks: There is debate about the creature that Cleopatra becomes at the end. Is she part duck? How it happened is complete speculation. Costume originally created for Lon Chaney in director Tod Browning's West of Zanzibar (1928).

In Suspicion (1941), when Lina McLaidlaw Aysgarth (Joan Fontaine) is upset by her husband Johnnie's (Cary Grant) behavior, he and buddy Beaky (where did he get that bird-like nickname anyway?) (Nigel Bruce) try to cheer her up by making faces, tickling her and making sounds like a duck.

Question about The Birds:
Are any of those birds stuffed?
Alfred Hitchcock: 

"No. I'll tell you what we did. We rented 500 ducks and sprayed them gray. We started off with chickens but the neck movement gave them away.
-- From the book, Alfred Hitchcock: Interviews

In 1994's Four Weddings and a Funeral, Anna Chancellor's character Henrietta was called Duckface by the friends of her (former) boyfriend, Charles (Hugh Grant).

The Vicar of Dibley: In the Series 2 episode Celebrity Vicar, as part of a show to raise money for a new nursery school, Owen Newitt (Roger Lloyd-Pack) did a stage act with a performing duck.

While Cary Grant, Leslie Caron and Tevor Howard were in a film called Father Goose I don't recall there being a goose in it. If you saw one, let me know. 

What other prominent duck or goose actors
or other scene-stealers are missing? 

Majestic 3-Dimensional White Swan Costume Kids can climb into this majestic three-dimensional white Swan! Maybe it's Swan Lake, you want to let out your inner Bjork or it's holiday time for a Princess : 7th Day of Christmas?

Henry Fonda and Joan Bennett in Wild Geese Calling 24x36 Poster

The Bennett Sisters did their share of films with Goose, Geese in the title.

Constance Bennett appeared in two silent films in 1925:
The Goose Hangs High, a comedy other stars include Myrtle  Stedman, George Irving, Esther Ralston and Gertrude Claire.

She was in the well-known Goose Woman alongside Louise Dresser and Jack Pickford. There's  a scene where a feisty goose follows Dresser's character down the road to the scene of a murder.

As seen in the poster above, Joan Bennett was in Wild Geese Calling with Henry Fonda..

Geese vs Ducks, what's the difference?
Here are a few differences
Geese tend to be larger than ducks
Geese Honk
Ducks Quack

Final sequence from ... "Werner Herzog's classic film Stroszek (1977). The location for the closing sequence is in a strange fun-house where chickens dance, play the piano, a duck plays the drums and a rabbit is blowing the horn on a fire-engine!"
-- from description

Blacklisted Writers (re: Friendly Persuasion)

"Because of the blacklisting outrage brought on by the so-called McCarthy Era several screenwriters were denied final credit on films they worked on, starting in 1947 and continuing into the 1970s. 

"The Writers Guild of America recently voted to reinstate the correct writer credits on several motion pictures. The following are the corrected credits listed according to the corresponding volumes of Screen World in which they originally appeared..."
-- Screen World:1997 Film Annual: Volume 48 Expanded Format

Vincent Price standing in lake hair standing up
Very aquatic

Related Pages and Resources:

The National Film Registry : Incl. Gus Visser and His Singing Duck

The Top 5 Hitchcock Chicken Scenes

Animated Characters on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

Alfred Hitchcock: Interviews (Conversations with Filmmakers) by Sidney Gottlieb

There are some public domain images on this page

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