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this is probably the best of the Marx Bros films.
but one must pay close attention to the subtleties of dialog and imagery.
there are scenes loaded with subtle humor and if you're not paying attention or savvy on the "vernacular" of the times, you'll miss them.
Groucho is at his best with the twists and turns of language his demonstrates like a master surgeon...well since he is a doctor in the film....
anyway, many other posters on this film blog have listed the best scenes, so i shall not repeat...repeat.
the typical musical diversions are not necessary but for the demands of the studio to make the film have mass appeal.
but of course Chico on the piano is always fun to watch.
and this time Harpo pulls a good with the "piano cum harp." and Miss Dumont certainly puts up with a lot. but in her typical good sport fashion.
this film is not to be missed.
I rate A DAY AT THE RACES a 10 only compared to other non-Marx comedies (as critic James Agee remarked, the worst the Marx's might do would be better worth seeing than almost anything else). As a Marx Brothers movie it's bogged down by long, pointless musical numbers (I'll contradict myself in a moment) and a sappy romantic subplot (remnants of the formula Irving Thalberg devised for the boys in NIGHT AT THE OPERA, but with Thalberg dead it's all formula now and not much else). Then about two thirds of the way through something nearly miraculous happens. The brothers cut lose with the fabulous examination scene, exhibiting all the anarchic genius that made them great, and then following Allan Jones' cloying rendition of "Tomorrow is Another Day" Harpo grabs a flute and goes tootling off to some sort of African American shanty town where he encounters Ivie Anderson, The Crinoline Choir, and Whitie's Lindy Hoppers and the movie just explodes with energy. Many people, as has been pointed out, would consider this sequence "politically incorrect" but since political correctness is mostly the knee-jerk application of 21st century standards to earlier eras that the critics know nothing about I say screw 'em. For maybe ten minutes or so the screen is filled with so much warmth, talent, and exuberance that it nearly brings tears to my eyes. Sure it's got nothing to do with the story and little to do with the Marx Brothers but it is greatness unto itself and it may be the best scene in the movie. And by the way, for those who insist on judging this movie in racial terms the message seems to be that rich white men (Douglas Dumbrille and his flunkies) are evil and heartless and poor black people know that life is about singing and dancing and having fun. Sounds good to me.
The Marx Brothers (Groucho, Chico and Harpo, Zeppo left after "Duck Soup) "A Day at the Races" (1937) surpasses "A Night at the Opera" because of its sheer amount of good scenes. For instance, in this picture you have: The Tutsi Fruitsy Ice Cream skit, Chico and Harpo trying to interrupt Dr. Hugo V. Hackenbush's (Groucho) romancing femme fatale (Esther Muir), Groucho's telephone conversation with Whitmore (Leonard Ceeley) and of course the medical examination of Emily Upjohn (Margaret Dumont) by Groucho. One of the reasons I like this film so much is the way it ends up getting rid of the plot and boils down to a series of extremely funny sketches. Not to be missed.
"A Day at the Races" ranks as only the third best Marx Brothers film,
in my opinion, behind "A Night at the Opera" and "Duck Soup." It does,
however, have the potential of being their best movie. Groucho gets
some of his funniest lines, the most famous being "Either he's dead or
my watch has stopped," but my personal favorite being "Say, you're
rather large for a pill yourself." See the film, and you'll find out
what that means. The sequence in which Chico keeps selling more books
to Groucho proves to be one of the Brothers' all time funniest. Chico
and Harpo's interactions are also very entertaining, as usual. One
thing that brings down the film's overall quality, however, is the long
and useless musical numbers performed about 3/4 of the way through the
film. These drag on for far too long to keep the attention of the
audience. Also, the film slows down a bit in the middle with long,
sustained sequences which really do not benefit the movie. Despite
those shortcomings, this is still one of the funniest movies I've ever
seen, and it's still way better than most of today's crude and
sex-filled comedies. Recommended to Marx Brothers fans and those who
like comedies in general.
***1/2 out of ****
Those crazy brothers are at it again in A Day at the Races, a formulaic follow-up to one of their biggest hits A Night at the Opera. However, this one falls short of matching the witty one-liners or funny sight-gags found in the previous effort. This one follows the same plot line as most of the other ones with Groucho fooling Margaret Doumant into doing anything for him and Harpo and Chico working together to keep something afloat or in business, in this case a sanitarium. There is a romantic subplot with the beautiful Maureen O'Sullivan but the male lead is very stiff and not so likable. What keeps this one together mostly is Groucho who manages to make you laugh in nearly all the scenes he is in. Everyone else is mostly sub par. All in all, this is a fine effort that is certainly one of the Brothers' better efforts, but shows the slow decline they experienced leading to the end of their careers. See it if you're a fan for sure, but don't expect it to be an absolute classic.
"A Day at the Races" follows the smash Marx Brothers hit, "A Night at
the Opera," their first film at MGM under their advocate, Irving
Thalberg. Thalberg took the brothers on after they left Paramount. He
insisted on stronger scripts, a love story, musical numbers, and that
the brothers try their bits out in front of a live audience to see what
got a laugh and what didn't. Many people prefer the Paramount films;
they probably are funnier, with the exception of "A Night at the
Opera," my all-time favorite.
At MGM, the characters the Brothers played were also softened. Here, Chico and Harpo are trying to help the beautiful Judy Standish (Maureen O'Sullivan), who is trying to keep her sanitarium afloat. To that end, to please a wealthy hypochondriac, Mrs. Upjohn (Margaret Dumont), Dr. Hackenbush (Groucho) is brought in so that Mrs. Upjohn will stay at the sanitarium. Hackenbush doesn't mention that he's a veterinarian. On the romantic side, Judy's boyfriend (Allan Jones) has invested in a horse, High Hat (with Harpo as the jockey) and is hoping he wins the big race so he can give Judy the money.
The most famous bit in this film is the Tutsi Frutsi ice cream sketch, which is a riot. Then there's the physical exam of Mrs. Upjohn and the horse race, both hilarious. Jones sings beautifully, but the best music is the big gospel number and the accompanying dancing - just wonderful.
I was fortunate to have been around during the huge Marx Brothers revival in the 1970s, and as a result, I saw a lot of their films in revival houses. They really need to be seen with an audience; the pace is better, for one thing, because laughter comes when it's supposed to, and there's no beat for the laugh. At Paramount, MGM, or RKO, the Marx Brothers are always funny even if the scripts aren't always top drawer. Highly recommended.
A Day at the Races(1937) is not as fully free spirited as the early Marx
Brothers films but at the same time not a by the numbers movie like the late
Marx Brothers. A funny comedy that was the followup to the brilliant A
Night at the Opera(1935). Groucho is terrific as usual in the role of Horse
Doctor, Dr. Hugo Z. Hackenbush. He fills the movie with line after line of
Groucho Marx is the true king of the one liners. One of my favorite scenes is when Groucho uses different voices on the telephone to prevent some people from finding out his true occupation. Another classic scene is the tootsie fruitsie Ice Cream sequence. Groucho and his brother, Chico do a excellent comic spar for this one scene.
Margaret Dumont provides the exact opposite personality to Groucho Marx. She plays here yet another rich old lady whose being courted by a character played by Groucho Marx. I also love the classic scene of Dr. Hackenbush along with Tony and Stuffy performing a physical on Mrs. Upjohn much to her chagrin. What separates this from earlier Marx Brothers films is that the plot of A Day at the Races(1937) and later films revolve around saving a company from closing down.
What brings the movie down is the singing of Allan Jones who bores the viewer when he's in the film. The Marx Brothers films were much better when Zeppo Marx played the straight man because he wasn't as annoying as Allan Jones. Contains scenes that were on the level of the classic sequences from the Marx Brothers during their Paramount days. A Day at the Races(1937) gets high amounts of laughter from me every time I watch the film.
With their seventh film, A Day at the Races, the Marx brothers return
with yet another entertaining show. The story, this time, is about Judy
Standish (Maureen O'Sullivan), the owner of a sanatorium in financial
distress. In order to save the sanatorium from the evil creditors, the
dubious horse doctor Hugo Z. Hackenbush (Groucho Marx) is hired, since
one of the rich patients Mrs. Upjohn (Margaret Dumont) is hopelessly in
love with him. Certainly, it is not the most original plot ever it is
quite similar to the one in most Marx films I have seen nor is it the
best, but after all, it is merely a vehicle for a number of sketches,
and as long as those are good enough, it is fine by me.
In fact, for those who have seen a fair share of the Marx brothers' films, a lot of things will be familiar. Margaret Dumont is the naive, hysterical lady who never understands what is going on. Chico is the charming Italian who is trying to save the lady in trouble and gets his moment with the piano. Harpo is the mischievous and silent helper, who, of course, gets to play the harp. Groucho is the quick guy with the killer one-liners, strange posture, and who has a keen eye for most girls, except for Dumont. But the beauty of it is that it works; since the sketches are different, it does not matter much.
Speaking of sketches, A Day at the Races definitely has some of the funniest that the brothers have done. There is a hilarious scene in which Groucho is trying to fool the evil Whitmore (Leonard Ceeley) over the telephone regarding his credentials as a doctor. Another highlight is when Groucho is trying to get a tip from Chico at the race track but ends up with a library. And overall, the sharp dialogue is truly excellent (take, for instance, Dr. Steinberg's (Sig Ruman) claim that Mrs. Upjohn "looks as healthy as any woman I ever met," to which Groucho replies that "you don't look as though you've ever met a healthy woman"). Actually, one of the musical numbers, where Groucho is trying to pick up Flo (Esther Muir) while fending off Dumont, is very amusing as well.
While the musical numbers are always my least favourite part of the Marx films, A Day at the Races offers some of the best ones. The classical dance segment is at least pretty, and perhaps offers the best visuals I have seen in these films, with stark black and white reflections in the water at which the scene takes place, and the lindy hop number is very energetic. Only Allan Jones' "Tomorrow Is Another Day" is somewhat of a drag. That being said, they still hamper the pace of the film severely, and without them the film would be half an hour shorter without losing much in terms of comedy or plot; they were perhaps needed in the vaudeville show, but might just as well have been lost in the translation to film. Still, music or not, A Day at the Races finds the Marx brothers at their comedic peak and, to me, even surpasses classics such as A Night at the Opera.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Marx Brothers invade the world of thoroughbred racing...and create
a lot of laughs in doing so.
Maureen O'Sullivan of Tarzan fame is Judy, and she owns a sanitarium that is in serious financial trouble. One of the patients, a wealthy widow named Emily Upjohn (Margaret Dumont), has the funds necessary to help Judy, but she is planning to leave since the doctors cannot find anything wrong with her. She declares she will meet up with the doctor who did find something wrong with her, Dr. Hugo Z. Hackenbush (Groucho).
Seeing a chance to help Judy, Tony (Chico) says that Hackenbush is coming to the sanitarium, which keeps Dumont from exiting the facility.
Judy also has help from her boyfriend Gil (Allan Jones), who has invested in a racehorse named Hi Hat. His goal is to turn Hi Hat into a race winner, theoretically accumulating enough prize money so the sanitarium can be saved. The problem is that Hi Hat is not that good a racehorse.
Hackenbush gets the notice to head to the sanitarium. He is a doctor, but a horse doctor. Of course, this creates mayhem that only the Marx Borthers could pull off.
The protagonists all have their adversaries to deal with. A man named Morgan is out to take over the sanitarium and create a casino. Gil is short on cash to pay for expenses relating to Hi Hat, so the horse is in danger of being taken by the sheriff. Fortunately for Gil, Tony and Stuffy (Harpo, playing the role of the jockey) are ready to help if necessary.
The Marx Brothers are great as usual in this picture. Groucho's one liners are consistently funny. Chico plays the kindhearted con artist very well, and he has his share of good lines, too. And Harpo just makes you laugh without ever speaking, and is great at it.
The film also becomes part musical at a couple of points. Jones sings, Harpo plays the harp (what else?) and Chico plays the piano, and all three do a good job.
There are a lot of memorable scenes in the movie. The race tips scene is a good one, as is when Tony and Stuffy try to sabotage Hackenbush's date with a woman. There are plenty of laughs at the track as well (which is actually Southern California's own Santa Anita Park). As of this writing, I have seen five Marx Brothers films, and this is my favorite. It is a good one, so if you want to laugh, watch "A Day at the Races."
Judy Standish (Maureen O'Sullivan) is counting on the Marx brothers and a horse called Hi Hat in saving the sanitarium.Groucho is Dr.Hackenbush, who is actually a horse doctor, but they don't know that.Chico is Tony, a helper at the sanitarium and Harpo is Stuffy, the jockey.A Day at the Races (1937) is great fun for all the Marx fans, like me.It's full of some incredible gags that will make you crack up.The movie includes Harpo playing the harp, Chico with the piano and Groucho dancing.One funny scene is where Chico convinces Groucho to bet on an other horse, not the one that was going to win.Groucho has to buy all those books from him to find out the name of the horse.Then there's Harpo with his mime act and Chico has to guess what he's trying to say.And of course the great Margaret Dumont as Emily Upjohn.The brothers took the dignity of Maggie, stripped her in a way in so many movies it's a wonder she didn't get upset.Maureen O'Sullivan is marvelous.She made a great Jane for Tarzan and she made a great leading lady in a Marx brothers movie.Allan Jones makes a great replacement for Zeppo.Groucho was one of the kind.He was a wise-cracker and a hustler, at least in the movies.I never knew the real Groucho.Chico with his Italian accent and Harpo with no accent, all the brothers left a mark in the movie history.And that's a mark that's gonna stick.
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