The Marx Brothers take on high society. Two lovers who are both in opera are prevented from being together by the man's lack of acceptance as an operatic tenor. Pulling several typical Marx Brothers' stunts, they arrange for the normal tenor to be absent so that the young lover can get his chance. Written by
John Vogel <email@example.com>
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. After this was not liked by test audiences, the scene was improvised on the spot. A total of 15 people were in the scene: Driftwood (1); the stowaways Fiorello, Tomasso and Riccardo [who were in the trunk] (2-4); two chambermaids (5-6); an engineer who comes to turn off the heat (7); a manicurist (8); the engineer's burly assistant (9); a young woman looking for her Aunt Minnie and asking to use the phone (10); a cleaning woman (11); and four staff stewards bearing trays of food (12-15). They all tumble out when Mrs. Claypool (Margaret Dumont) opens the door. See more »
During the overture to "Il Trovatore" when the orchestra members turn their pages and immediately launch into "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" you can see that their score consists of two pages of sheet music side by side. If they were really following it they should have continued playing the correct music from the opera on the left-hand page before they came upon the baseball anthem, which sits atop the right-hand page where Tomasso placed it earlier. See more »
The best Marx Brothers film, the best comedy, the best everything
"A Night at the Opera" is one of those films you can see dozens of times and laugh just as hard as you did the first time. The brothers get mixed up with an opera company and a divo and diva in love - Allan Jones and Kitty Carlisle, and trying to get the two to perform together.
The one-liners come so fast - you keep thinking you'll remember them, but one is funnier than the next. I do remember what Groucho says when he sees the gypsy Azucena in the opera, however. "How would you like to feel how she looks?" The stateroom scene is, of course, a classic, and my favorite part is when Groucho tells the housekeeper, "I want two pillows on that bed" and Harpo sound asleep and being moved everywhere, including onto a tray of food.
But nothing beats the last half hour - the performance of "Il Trovatore" with Harpo using the stage ropes like Tarzan, and Chico playing baseball in the orchestra while Groucho sells peanuts. They have replaced part of the overture with "Take Me Out to the Ball Game."
Allan Jones plays the tenor Ricardo Baroni who is hoping for his break. Why they cast the blond Jones as a tenor named Baroni - well, there you go. He sings very well and is quite handsome. Kitty Carlisle is the diva waiting, petite and pretty and singing music out of her vocal type, with the exception of "Alone." "Stridono lassu" and Leonora in Trovatore were both much too heavy for her. She does sing well and what a woman - she's still alive and recently performed at a New York supper club recently at the age of 95.
The only problem with any Marx Brothers film is that when they aren't in front of the camera, suddenly their films become very slow. Because I was trained in opera and have some interest in it, this was less the case than with some of their other films. They were too magical, too energetic, and too darn funny to ever share a spotlight with anyone else. Thank goodness they did, though, as they left us with many treasures. This is one.
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