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30

WEDNESDAY

Not even W.C. Fields could follow the Marx Brothers. When the future legends shared a Vaudeville stage in 1915, Fields lasted three shows before concocting an imaginary illness and fleeing. “Very few people were interested in seeing some guy juggle after the stage had been full of our act,” said Groucho, with characteristic smugness. But cut Fields some slack, because the Marx act was utter pandemonium. Their first two movies, 1929’s The Cocoanuts and 1930’s Animal Crackers, were made shortly after the invention of sound, but they still crackle with demented energy. The big-budget MGM films, 1935’s A Night at the Opera and 1937’s A Day at the Races, get most of the praise, but the 1933 Paramount flick Duck Soup is the duo’s best: With no sappy love story to get in the way of the madness, it’s pure comedy. Animal Crackers, Horse Feathers, and Monkey Business screen today as part of “The First AFI Silver Marx Brothers Revue,” beginning at 5 p.m. (see Showtimes for a full schedule of films) at the American Film Institute’s Silver Theatre and Cultural Center, 8633 Colesville Road, Silver Spring. $5–$8.50. (301) 495-6700. (Dave Nuttycombe)