The Marx Brothers' 1933 movie, Duck Soup, is set in the fictional country of "Freedonia." Using this connection, "Freedonia Marxonia: Marx Brothers Film Festival and Symposium" began in 1987 at The State University of New York at Fredonia when marketing major Douglas Canham, class of '87, proposed the idea of an annual Marx Brothers festival to then university president, Dr. Donald MacPhee. The objective of the annual festival was to incorporate academics and fun, while involving the university and the village of Fredonia.
Screenings of Marx Brothers' films, look-alike contests, duck soup tasting competitions, speakers, artwork submissions, and postal cancellations were part of the festival from 1987 to 1990. The event received international media coverage.
The festival was not held from 1991 to 2008, but in 2009, it returned with the sponsorship of Mr. Canham. From 2010 to the present, it has been supported by the Hahn Family Freedonia Marxonia Fund of the Fredonia College Foundation. In 2014, materials and event planning were transferred to the university's Reed Library. Freedonia Marxonia's main activities are held over two days close to Groucho Marx's October 2nd birthday. All activities are open to students, faculty, staff, and members of the community.
In 2017, the theme was "Broadway and the Marx Brothers," focusing on the Marx Brothers' three Broadway musicals: I'll Say She Is (1924), The Cocoanuts (1925), and Animal Crackers (1928). The 1929 film version of The Cocoanuts was screened. Noah Diamond, Marx Brothers expert and creative force behind the 2016 Off-Broadway revival of I'll Say She Is, was the guest speaker.
2016 - "Creative Contemporaries of the Marx Brothers," focusing on playwrights and visual artists of the 1920s and 1930s. Animal Crackers was shown. Fredonia alumnus, playwright, and Marx Brothers fan Tom Dudzick was the guest speaker.
2015 - "Music and the Marx Brothers," focusing on the composers for Marx Brothers' works and musical artists of the 20s and 30s. A Night at the Opera was shown. The creator of Freedonia Marxonia, 1987 Fredonia alumnus Doug Canham, was the guest speaker.
Harry B. Hickey was the mayor of the village of Fredonia, New York in 1933. Mayor Hickey sent a letter to Paramount Studios complaining about the use of the village's name in Duck Soup. Groucho responded, suggesting that the village change its name, as it was hurting the movie.
from Dunkirk Observer, March 20, 1933
Designed by Thomas Malinoski,
Director of Publication Services at the
State University of New York at Fredonia, 1987
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