A Night in Casablanca

A Night in Casablanca (1946) starring the Marx Brothers (Groucho, Chico, Harpo), Sig Ruman

A Night in Casablanca, starring the Marx Brothers
Harpo vacuums the toupee off of Sig Ruman's head

Buy from Amazon.com A Night in Casablanca is the last Marx Brothers movie, and I’m happy to say,  one of their finest. The Marx Brothers had officially retired by this time.  However, they reunited on screen for the financial benefit of their brother  Chico. And I’m very glad they did.

The humor here is less manic than in their early films.  After all, the youngest brother,  Groucho, was 56 when they made A Night in Casablanca.  But their performances are as smooth and confident as ever. In a nutshell, Groucho plays the part of Ronald Kornblow, offered the job of Manager of the  Hotel Casablanca.   Ex-Nazis have murdered the previous 3 managers.  The villains are trying to find Nazi treasure hidden in the hotel. The obligatory love interest is suspected of having collaborated with the Nazis.  He tries to prove his innocence with the aid of Corbaccio (Chico), and Rusty (Harpo).  Rusty is valet to the villain, played by Sig Ruman. Sig was also the ‘heavy’, though not a villain, in  A Night at the Opera.

Some of the funniest moments in the Marx Brothers’ history  are in this film, including:

  • Groucho’s response to being run over.
  • Harpo holding up a wall.
  • Harpo “helps” his boss get dressed
  • And vacuuming up his boss’ toupee.
  • Chico and Harpo rearranging an ever-shrinking dance floor.
  • All three brothers participating in a funny ‘suitcase packing’ routine towards the end of the film. It’s similar to the moving beds routine in A Night at the Opera.

A very funny movie, and a fitting farewell from the Marx Brothers. It’s part of The Marx Brothers Collection. I rate it 4 out of 5 stars.

Editorial Review of  A Night in Casablanca, starring the Marx Brothers – € courtesy of Amazon.com

Harpo, Chico and Groucho in A Night in Casablanca

A Night in Casablanca may not qualify as a Marx Brothers classic, but it’s certainly the best of their latter-day comedies. This picture is funnier than all but a handful of their earlier ones,  wrote the usually cantankerous Pauline Kael, and she’s right.  The Big Store would have been the final Marx movie, but that disappointment, and an attractive new deal with United Artists, prompted the Marx trio to bring freshly anarchic energy to this post-war spoof of wartime intrigue, prompting Warner Bros. (producers of Casablanca) to threaten legal action over the title.  

To which Groucho responded, “I am sure that the average movie fan could learn in time to distinguish between Ingrid Bergman and Harpo.” As it happens,  Night bears only passing resemblance to the Bergman/Bogart classic, with Groucho playing the new manager of a hotel in Casablanca, where several previous managers have been murdered while a scheming villain (Marx regular Sig Rumann) plots to steal the hotel’s cache of Nazi treasure. Chico and Harpo are up to their usual antics (including piano and harp interludes, respectively), and they all give Rumann the runaround in the film’s funniest and most perfectly choreographed scene. The brothers made their final film together with  Love Happy three years later, but as any fan will tell you, A Night in Casablanca was the last Marx comedy that mattered. —Jeff Shannon

Plot Synopsis of  A Night in Casablanca, starring the Marx Brothers – € courtesy of Amazon.com

Harpo finds a harp - and plays it

In post-war Casablanca, Ronald Kornblow (Groucho Marx) is hired to run a hotel whose previous managers have all wound up being murdered. French soldier Pierre suspects the involvement of ex-Nazis, specifically Count Pfefferman, in reality the notorious Heinrich Stubel. But Pierre himself is accused of collaborating with the enemy, and attempts to clear his name with the help of his girlfriend Annette and cagey buddy Corbaccio (Chico Marx). They enlist the aid of Pfefferman’s beleaguered mute valet, Rusty (Harpo Marx), and discover a hoard of war booty the Nazis have cached in the hotel.

Trivia for  A Night in Casablanca  (1946) starring the Marx Brothers

  • A Hollywood legend claims that Warner Brothers threatened to sue the Marx Brothers for using the word Casablanca.  Groucho Marx wrote a letter to Warner Brothers in which he threatened to sue them  for using the word ‘Brothers’. “Professionally, we were brothers before they ever were”.  However, film critic Richard Roeper claims that the story is fake. Warner Brothers never threatened to sue, and Groucho wrote the letter as a publicity stunt for the movie.
  • Introduced the song Who’s Sorry Now? which became a bigger hit than the movie.
  • Originally intended as a direct spoof on Casablanca (1942).  They changed it a more original story.
  • Rick never says, “Play it again Sam,” in Casablanca (1942).   Contrary to a popular rumor, the line does not appear in this film, either.
  • Hoping to take charge of their film careers, the Marxes financed this movie themselves. Using Loma Vista Films. They even did a brief pre-filming tour of scenes from the movie, hoping to sharpen the script’s comedy. They had done the same with A Night at the Opera (1935) and A Day at the Races (1937),
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