DVD review of A Night at the Opera (1935) starring the Marx Brothers (Groucho Marx, Chico Marx, Harpo Marx)
Director: Sam Wood
Black & White, HiFi Sound, NTSC
One of the all-time funniest Marx Brothers movies – which makes it one of the funniest movies of all time.
Synopsis: Groucho Marx is Otis P. Driftwood, too busy trying to fleece Mrs. Claypool (played by the fifth Marx brother, Margaret Dumont) to spend time running an Opera Company. Harpo is Tomasso, the abused valet to the pompous tenor, while Chico is Fiorello, self-appointed agent for the unknown, talented young singer Ricardo Baroni (Allan Jones), who is in love with Rosa Castaldi (Kitty Carlisle) – the obligatory singing love interest. When Groucho loses his job, the plot thickens – but with the brothers Marx, who needs a thick plot? Some of the classic comic routines “A Night at the Opera” gives you include:
- The Stateroom scene with all those people stuffed into that room. And don’t forget Chico and Harpo‘s adding to Groucho’s hard boiled eggs order. If you don’t understand that, it’s proof that you need to see the movie 🙂
- Groucho and Chico discussing the clauses in a contract (including my favorite part, the Sanity Clause – Chico: “Whatsa that?” Groucho: “That’s the Sanity Clause” Chico: “You can’ta fool me! There ain’t no such thing as Sanity Clause!” out goes that part of the contract, literally);
- Chico and Harpo working “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” into the overture of the opera (peanuts, getcher peanuts!);
- The dinner date between Groucho and Margaret Dumont (“looking at me is the price you have to pay”)
I rate it 5 clowns on a 5-clown scale.
Also available as part of the five-DVD set, The Marx Brothers Collection
Editorial review of A Night at the Opera courtesy of Amazon.com:
Absolutely one of the most hilarious movies ever made, this classic farce featuring the outrageous genius of the Marx Brothers is a chance to see some of their best bits woven together seamlessly in a story of high society, matchmaking, and chaos. In order to bring two young lovers together, brothers Groucho, Chico, and Harpo must sabotage an opera performance even as they try to pass themselves off as stuffed shirts. Featuring the classic sequence where Groucho piles as many people as possible into a ship’s stateroom, A Night at the Opera is a deliciously zany romp worth watching again and again. –Robert Lane
Trivia about the Marx Brothers’ A Night at the Opera:
- The famous “stateroom scene” was originally conceived as a way of getting a cheap laugh by having Groucho Marx, crowded out of his room, changing his pants in the corridor.
- The first story line for A Night at the Opera was about Groucho as an producer of an opera. That story was dropped but appeared many times in Hollywood as a story idea. Until Mel Brooks made The Producers (1968) and got an Academy Award.
- In the scene where Harpo, Chico, and Riccardo are impersonating the three aviators in front of the mayor, Groucho turns around to speak to them in a “foreign language.” What is actually being said is a direct response to the accusations of impostors, only the audio track is played backward. The first time Groucho actually says, “Did you hear what he said? He said you were frauds and impostors!” which is then followed by Chico and Riccardo protesting loudly, “How can he say a thing like that,” “This is ridiculous,” and other such comments.
- The opera performed as the movie’s climax is Giuseppe Verdi’s Il Trovatore.
- Sam Wood, freshman Marx Brothers director in this film, was a perfectionist. The scene in which Harpo hangs from the rope was filmed so many times that Harpo’s hands became cut and swollen from the rope.
- The first Marx Brothers film made without brother Zeppo Marx, it started a new trend of Marx Brothers movies featuring a Zeppo-like supporting character who carries the love story and sings the song.