A Day at the Races (1937) Poster

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Longest Of The Marx Brothers Features
ccthemovieman-18 April 2006
Well, here's one more zany uniquely-Marx Brothers film, one noted for being the longest feature movie they made at 111 minutes.

Even with the longer running time, it's still not the story but all the gags and musical talent of the Marx Brothers that is on parade here and is the selling point of the film. That was normal procedure for them. In this edition, the gag scenes were longer and the amount of music was much greater.

The major skits involve a race track tout (Chico conning Groucho) , a physical exam (Margaret Dumont, who else?), a delay of the big horse race and a bunch of other crazy skits. Some are good, some go on too long.

Maureen O'Sullivan, of Tarzan fame among other films, gives the film some beauty and Dumont is treated with more respect here than in the other Marx Brothers films. Groucho takes it easy on her because her character has the money that will save the day, so to speak.

This MB film has a ton of music, from Chico on piano, to Harpo with harp and flute solos plus a flute number with a group of black folks. Then there is Allan Jones crooning away to O'Sullivan with several ballads. Also, there are several group numbers featuring the aforementioned group of blacks . I liked their rousing gospel numbers best of all the music.

The ending of this movie reminded me of Horse Feathers, in which the most outrageous football game was ever filmed. Here, it was a horse race, unlike any you would ever see. It is so ridiculous, you just laugh out loud....and that's the idea of the movie.
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hilarious; 9/10
zetes25 June 2001
I haven't seen enough of the Marx Brothers' films to say which is their best and which is their worst. I have seen Duck Soup, which I would say has to be at least one of their best, seeing that I believe it to be one of the funniest comedies ever. I have also seen A Night at the Opera, which is also often considered one of their best, often the best. I myself found it much less funny than Duck Soup. I wanted to kill myself during the musical numbers of that film.

Now I've seen A Day at the Races, the Brothers' follow up to A Night at the Opera, a smash hit in theaters. Generally, Races is considered a weak follow-up to a great film. I disagree. I liked A Day at the Races much more than A Night at the Opera (but a bit less than Duck Soup). All three Brothers are firing bullseye after bullseye. Harpo could stand to do a little bit more. He may have had the funniest role in Duck Soup. He was an utter maniac with total disregard for human life. When the Marx Brothers left Paramount for MGM, their edge was dulled down a bit. Oh well, Races still succeeds.

Also, except for the boring opera voice, even the musical numbers work here. I love to watch Chico play the piano. That's hilarious. Harpo's harp number is less good, but still not bad. The ballet sequence is also quite good. There's one more musical number that's just fantastic: the poor black folk singing "Who's that man?" as Harpo runs around playing the flute. It's somewhat shocking to see a scene like this. It does not exploit them (it may seem to now, but it was probably quite inclusive and progressive in its day), and it's a smash.
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The Last Great Marx Brothers Movie
masercot25 January 2005
After this one, the quality fell off...dramatically.

This one has everything but Zeppo. Groucho and Chico work together like a well oiled insane asylum. The ice cream bit still makes me laugh and I've seen it upwards of twenty times. The timing is incredible. The examination room bit with Harpo ("Either this man is dead or my watch has stopped") is equally tight. There isn't a slow moment in the film.

What is unusual in this film is the big musical number with the African-American race track employees. Instead of people in black face or grotesque caricatures, real black singers and dancers are featured. Imagine seeing the Jitterbug fifteen years before white teens were performing it. It is not the only time the Marx Brothers have featured black musicians in one of their movies (At the Circus comes to mind)...

Margaret Dumont as Mrs Upjohn is wonderful. A Marx Brothers fan, like myself, tends to fall in love with the woman after many years. Her beauty and naivety eventually charm even the most cynical Grouchophile...

See it!
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"Getta Your Tuttsi Frutsi Ice Cream"
bkoganbing2 December 2007
When MGM had such a great success with A Night at the Opera, their first film with the Marx Brothers it was only natural that they reunite them with Allan Jones again. Jones is once again doing the Zeppo part and helps out with all the racetrack shenanigans they pull. And of course unlike Zeppo, Jones sings beautifully.

Allan's in love with Maureen O'Sullivan who owns a sanitarium that the wealthy Margaret Dumont patronizes. Douglass Dumbrille wants it real bad and will do everything in the best Snidely Whiplash to get it from O'Sullivan. Dumont will help out, but only if her personal physician, Doctor Hugo Hackenbush takes over the sanitarium. Problem is that Dr. Hackenbush is a fake.

Of course you know Dr. Hackenbush is Groucho. I've said this on many occasions. But there are two schools of thoughts as to who had the best character names in films. W.C. Fields or Groucho Marx.

Jones has both Chico and Harpo as his sidekicks and of course like they had to save the opera in the first film, they have to save the sanitarium for Maureen O'Sullivan and to do it, they have to enter Jones's horse High Hat in the Steeplechase. What they did to delay the opera is nothing compared to the riotous stuff pulled to stall the race.

But I like A Day At the Races most of all because it is the best showing of Chico in that Tuttsi Frutsi Ice Cream bit where the ignorant immigrant takes in the greedy Groucho with his racetrack tips. The only one whoever really got the better of Groucho. Chico invented disingenuous it was the only way to deflect Groucho's razor wit. A lot of people in the audience identified with Chico in fleecing Groucho so thoroughly. It's my favorite Marx Brothers moment.

And if you watch A Day At the Races it might become your's as well.
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Three Men on a Horse
lugonian14 June 2006
A DAY AT THE RACES (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1937), directed by Sam Wood, capitalizes on the current trend of horse-racing movies done by the numbers during the 1937-38 cycle, notably MGM's own 1937 releases of "Saratoga" and "Broadway Melody of 1938" as well as "Stablemates" (1938). Starring those three Marx Brothers, in their second collaboration for MGM, following the enormous success of A NIGHT AT THE OPERA (1935), this horse opera, being the longest running feature film of their screen career, stop-watched at 111 minutes, did prove quite successful then, and because of its good track record, still remains a sure bet comedy today.

The first Marx Brother to be introduced in the story is Chico. He plays Tony, a chauffeur for Judy Standish (Maureen O'Sullivan), whose sanitarium is in financial trouble. Morgan (Douglass Dumbrille), the owner of a nearby racetrack and hotel, along with his associate, Whitmore (Leonard Ceeley) want to take over the sanitarium so to convert it into a gambling casino. He offers Judy the option of accepting $5,000 from them or face a mortgage foreclosure, but she prefers to wait the 30 days. Gil Stewart (Allan Jones) her fiancé, has purchased Hi-Hat, Morgan's race horse, for $1,500, gambling her life savings hoping to win enough money to get Judy out of debt. However, Mrs. Emily Upjohn (Margaret Dumont), an exclusive patient of the sanitarium, expresses her need for a doctor, even though there is really nothing physically wrong with her. Realizing that Mrs. Upjohn's financial support could save the hospital from ruin, Tony notifies Dr. Hugo Z. Hackenbush (Groucho Marx) of Palmville, Florida, who is well acquainted with Mrs. Upjohn, unaware he is a horse doctor, and making him chief of staff. Then there's Stuffy (Harpo), Morgan's jockey, with a natural flair for horses, who gets to ride Hi-Hat, who turns out to be a jumper, as well as quite fearful to the sight and sound of Morgan himself.

The Music and Lyrics by Bronislau Kaper, Gus Kahn and Walter Jurmann: "On the Blue Venetian Waters" (Sung by Allan Jones/ danced by Vivian Fay,recently restored to its original sepia tone); "Tomorrow is Another Day" (sung by Jones); "Blow That Horn, Gabriel," "All God's Chillin' Got Rhythm," "All God's Chillin' Got Rhythm" (reprise/finale), along with "A Message From the Man in the Moon" (sung briefly by Groucho Marx/ otherwise cut from final print, and heard instrumentally during opening credits). "Tomorrow is Another Day" is quite a good tune with Jones in fine voice singing to charming heroine O'Sullivan that shifts into a parade from the black community singing and dancing to "All God's Chuillin Got Rhythm" with the Marxes, headed by Harpo playing a flute like the Pied Piper, with one of the vocalists being future star Dorothy Dandridge.

As already mentioned, A DAY AT THE RACES is quite long, in fact, everything about the movie is long: the song numbers, the comedy routines, the narrative, and the horse racing finale (so clever that it's been reused several times since then in other hydrazine), resulting to perfectly timed structures, although the water carnival ballet number performed by Vivian Fay near the beginning could have been shortened, in fact substituted into another movie categorized as a musical. One of MGM's debits is having this look more like a lavish scale musical than a Marx Brothers comedy, with the trio off screen for long intervals, with occasional cutaways during the ballet as a reminder that this is a Marx Brothers comedy and not a ballet musical choreographed by George Ballachine. After it is all over, Chico and Harpo get to do their traditional musical bits with piano and harp at length. Groucho doesn't do a song solo, which is unfortunate, because his style of singing and dancing always brings pleasure during these musical interludes.

With this being the seventh Marx comedy, it's evident that some of their routines are rehashes yet improvements from their earlier outings. At this point, could anything new be added to their comedy material? In fact, something has: Harpo's mimed message through constant whistling, facial and hand gestures, telling Chico about Groucho falling victim to Flo Marlowe (Esther Muir), as schemed by Morgan. The Groucho and Chico exchanges are highlights, the best being their seven minute Tootsie Fruitsie ice cream bit where Chico posing an ice cream vendor actually a race tract tout making a sucker out of Groucho by selling him racing tips that ends up being a stack of hardbound books taken from his pushcart. The madcap examination room sequence involving Harpo and Dumont are notable attention grabbers as well. In true Marx tradition, Margaret Dumont falls victim to their shenanigans, usually being the prime insult by Groucho through one of his classic re-marx: "Emily, I have a little confession to make. I really am a horse doctor, but marry me and I'll never look at any other horse." Sig Rumann should not go unnoticed as Doctor Steinburg, a pointed beard Viennese specialist who arrives to examine Mrs. Upjohn, thus preventing Hackbush from performing his own examination on Emily.

In spite of long stretches, A DAY AT THE RACES does have its doses of winning streaks thanks to the staff and performers combined, several recalls from A NIGHT AT THE OPERA. The film in general is not perfect, but worthwhile comedy thanks to the Marx Brothers expert horsemanship. Recommended viewing during the late evening hours before "hitting the hay." Formerly available on video cassette, a format that had been in circulation since the 1980s, which has since been discontinued in favor of the much improved DVD format, A DAY AT THE RACES can be seen intact whenever shown on Turner Classic Movies. (***)
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"Either he's dead or my watch has stopped."
The_Movie_Cat13 February 2001
Forty years after the release of A Night At The Opera the rock group Queen released an album with the same title. When, the following year, they released another called A Day at the Races, it was largely knocked for not matching the quality of its predecessor. The actual films follow this pattern, too, with Races, coming two years later, being held to be good but lacking in comparison. It's a fair assessment.

Everyone knows the Marx brothers, of course. There's Groucho (The anarchic wise guy with the drawn-on moustache), Chico (The likable Italian stereotype), Harpo (The mute, childish, slightly annoying one, there for kid appeal) and Zeppo (The normal-looking one who was always left as the straight guy). Zeppo didn't appear in either of these two films, of course, though gets his usual substitute - in Day it's Allan Jones as the stiff romantic lead.

Even today Groucho is still very funny and his rapid one-liners hit the target ("Take these bags and run up to my room and here's a dime for yourself" "Oh, no, no, no, no - this is Mr. Whitmore, our business manager." "Oh, I'm terribly sorry - here's a quarter.") but after many lines there's a forced silence, as if to anticipate the audience laughter. As a result it feels strangely artificial and muted, never more so than in his first scene at the sanatorium. Things do get better, particularly when he's appearing opposite Chico, with whom he understandably has a greater rapport. Groucho talking to Whitmore via phone and Dictaphone, using multiple voices, is another winner.

The need for a romantic subplot and occasional reliance on the traditional trappings of the American sitcom do hold things back. The Brothers would be held to have more art and attitude than Laurel and Hardy, though they're nowhere near as amusing. Perhaps this is because Stan and Ollie generally avoid the over-earnest sentimentality of a Marx Bros. Movie.

Another major sticking point is the song and dance sequences. There are three in total, all of them lasting over twenty minutes combined. That's twenty minutes where we could have had more verbal by-play from Groucho, who is a little neglected in sections. An elaborate routine (not all that well directed) during the first forty minutes slows things to almost a standstill, even before the film has really got going. It's really quite irksome and not what a Marx Brothers film is - or should be - about. Much funnier is Groucho doing the rumba. For someone so well known as a verbal comedian, it's notable how much of a gifted physical performer he is, too. Okay, he's not a full-on slapstick contortionist like some of his peers, but just seeing the way he walks into a room has me in hysterics.

The film adheres to a formula as usual, with Chico again coming across a piano and Harpo again coming across, yes, you guessed it. It's another musical interlude that is too self-consciously cute, and, at six minutes, too long. The best musical segment is a later sequence where Harpo leads a group in a rendition of "Gabriel Blow Your Horn". This is marred only by t he fact that the group in question is the most stereotyped portrayal of black people ever laid to celluloid. After much hand shaking and eye rolling, the brothers themselves get in on the offensive act by dousing their faces in oil in an attempt to blend in. Like Laurel and Hardy's "Pardon Us", this is a film that cannot be judged by contemporary sensibilities... it's just the way things were.

Sometimes the mania can be a little forced and artificial - witness the "examination" scene, where the brothers - Harpo particularly - do zany things just because they're zany and not because of any consequence of plot. The ending is satisfying, though, with a well-presented sabotage of the horse race and the eventual song to play out. This isn't a perfect film by any means - judging it via the rather trite metaphor of a cake mixture, then the ingredients aren't quite right. With two additional songs that were removed, there's clearly too much music in the film. There's also slightly too much Harpo and there was room for more Groucho. The romantic subplot should have been scrapped and there are long stretches that unfortunately discard the need for dialogue. Yet while the cake isn't baked to perfection, the basic ingredients are there, and this is still, if not wholly satisfying, a worthwhile view. 6/10.

POSTSCRIPT 2012: "Now listen, it was nobody's fault but mine." Words that Groucho should never speak. It's almost 11 years to the day since I reviewed this movie, and, as I'd only seen A Night At The Opera beforehand, I really had nothing to compare it to. It was a little bold on my part, reviewing a Marx Brothers movie when I really didn't know the Marx Brothers.

Generally I'd still agree with most of it, except for the examination scene, which is at least an attempt to claw back what they once were, albeit an unsuccessful one. For this is the end of the Marx Brothers, an out of character endeavour that's way too plot-heavy to register. Their longest picture, it drags terribly, and the "boys who just want to help others" is the anathema of the gang who sent Freedonia to war, or cheated in college football games. It's the Marx Brothers stripped bare and declawed, retooled as cutesy foils to a dreary romantic plot, often support in their own film, narratively speaking.

There's still a certain amount of class to the production and enough funny moments to maintain my initial 6/10 rating, but the MGM track record for Marx Brothers movies is a poor one, letting just A Night at the Opera (Q.V.) stand as a genuinely worthwhile work. Should you care, I take up the story in a review of Go West...
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Good Marx Brothers Feature
Snow Leopard11 October 2004
Overall, this is a good Marx Brothers feature that is sometimes a little uneven, but that looks pretty good as long as you don't compare it with their very best pictures. The basic setup is amusing, and it provides some good material for the cast to work with. Groucho, Chico, and Harpo all get their moments, with Margaret Dumont once again joining in the fun.

The sanitarium setting and Groucho's attempt to run it are used pretty well.

There is a very funny scene when one of the heavies tries to check on Groucho's credentials, and another one when Dr. Hackenbush has to compete with an outside expert (Sig Ruman, who is always fun in this kind of role) for Dumont's confidence.

Not all of it works quite that well, and one or two of the musical numbers could have been skipped with no loss at all. But there are plenty of good moments and creative sequences, and a satisfyingly chaotic finale as good as those in any of their films.
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A Day at the Races
Coxer9912 June 1999
Superb comedy that puts our heroes in a sanitorium to help out owner O'Sullivan and an ailing Dumont. Groucho is the doctor brought in to help things along and it equals hilarious results. He and Chico share a wonderful sequence at the racetrack with Chico, in need of quick cash, looking for a sucker to con...Groucho just happened to walk by. The telephone scene between Groucho (as numerous voices) and Leonard Ceeley is also priceless. Allan Jones appears as O'Sullivan's love interest and even sings a bit. A bit too much for me, but he still sings lovely. The long dance numbers are uninspired and lose the comic flavor after a few minutes. We get it back in the wooing scene between Groucho and beautiful Esther Muir and in the rollicking good finale. The film, under Wood's direction, is well paced, with exception to the barnyard musical numbers. They drag it down for a bit. A comedy classic nonetheless.
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Good Marx movie
SnoopyStyle2 January 2015
Judy Standish (Maureen O'Sullivan) owns the failing Standish Sanitarium. Her rich most important patient Mrs. Upjohn (Margaret Dumont) is leaving. Judy's boyfriend Gil Stewart (Allan Jones) spends all his money to buy a horse and win big for her. She is dismayed that he abandons his singing. Tony (Chico Marx) overhears Upjohn's praise for Dr. Hackenbush (Groucho Marx) and sends for him who turns out to be a veterinarian. Banker J.D. Morgan (Douglas Dumbrille) is trying to buy out the sanitarium with the help of the scheming manager Whitmore (Leonard Ceeley). Gil gets Stuffy (Harpo Marx) to ride his horse Hi-Hat.

Groucho is as snappy as ever. Harpo's physical gags are hilarious. There are some fun long setups like the ice cream bit. When all three get together in the examination, it's a great skit. As always in their movies, there are old fashion musical numbers. Those are not my taste but it's expected. I personally like the musical segments where they inject comedy into them. There is even one with a big cast of black singers and dancers. There are some big laughs although the movie is a bit long.
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Too much influence by the MGM standard that specifies that all movies must be made digestible for everyman
policy1344 October 2005
Warning: Spoilers
The Marx Bros. had such a hit with "A Night at the Opera" that MGM wanted to cash in as soon as possible with another movie that is basically more of the same. That isn't to say that this movie doesn't have enjoyable parts but there is too much emphasis on the rather tired plot of the good woman (here played by the MGM "Jane", Maureen O'Sullivan) trying to save her business from the despicable villain Morgan (Douglas Dumbrille).

Another disappointment is that we don't get to see the usual sparring of Groucho and Margaret Dumont (I think they share only a couple of scenes including the rather ridiculous "Examination") which had been such a staple in most of the Paramount films. Here, Dumont portrays a hypochondriac and there is only so much you can find amusing about that. The one scene that is hilarious between them is when Groucho shows the pill she apparently has been prescribed and tells her how much water is needed to swallow it: "5 or 6 gallons should do it". Never mind. Such a joke always falls flat when having to describe it.

As for the musical numbers, there aren't so many of them but they have totally been grinded through the MGM machine which states: "Make it big and give it class". The rather tasteless musical number with the Marxes in blackface is a product of a more unenlightened time and should therefore be seen as such and nothing more.

The Marxes are of course the same as they always were and there is only so many times you can see them and still find them funny, except maybe Groucho but one of the rather ridiculous scenes is between Harpo and Chico where Harpo makes Chico play a bizarre game of charades to figure out what is going on and it is sort of unnecessary. I have already mentioned the "Examination" scene but one thing is sort of funny about it and that is the great Sig Rumann who again gets to play the totally perplexed character he made a specialty and Groucho saying: "Stop pointing that thing at me unless you intend to use it" (referring to his beard).

The horse race is somewhat funny but is bogged down by the rather poor editing job that many 30's movies suffer from and of course there is a happy ending where all the main characters march down the street singing which is also a typical MGM staple.

So all things considered it is moderately funny but there aren't really any really hysterical scenes as in their former films and the age of the premise and the brothers themselves are also starting to show. That they would make 5 more or so movies as a team is of course surprising but it has been well documented why they did it (see biographies).
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Supporting actors in their own movies
junkof9-114 September 2008
I love movies from the 1930s and 1940s and TCM is my favorite channel, so I've seen most of the Marx Brothers movies over the years. My comments here about A Day at the Races could apply equally to any of the movies they made at MGM.

Something I was struck by is the stark differences between their early features - Animal Crackers and Duck Soup to name two - and later releases like A Day at the Races. The difference, I realized several years is in early releases done at Paramount the Marx Brothers are "best actors" - the focal point of the story. Once they moved to MGM the brothers became "supporting actors" and their gags were subordinated to romantic subplots and over-earnest sentimentality.

This change also affected my perception of the song and dance numbers. When the brothers were the leads the predictable formula - Chico comes across a piano and Harpo finds a harp - feels more integrated into the "plot". Whether in A Night at the Opera, The Big Store, or A Day at the Races the musical interludes feel self-consciously cute - an interlude that stops the storyline (opera singers or horse owners) while the music plays.
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An Underrated Classic
verbalcheese14 June 2002
Though I'll admit it is not on par with the great A Night at the Opera, it is close enough to be considered one of the better comedies of alltime. The same comedic formula that worked so well in the previously mentioned film is applied in A Day at the Races. They even had the same director. Sometimes I wish the Marx Brothers would get more credit than they have received, especially in comparison to the ridiculously stupid 3 Stooges. In any event, Grouch Marx will always be one of my heroes.
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Buy the video - and keep fast forward handy
Jeremy Dimmick30 October 1999
Having picked them up after their Paramount period, MGM seems to have decided it didn't trust the Marx Brothers. Just as with most modern studio products there's a feeling of a package designed by committee, in which everyone is guaranteed to dislike something. Did MGM execs seriously think people who didn't find the Marxes funny would come along to see the production numbers?

It's a movie of loosely strung-together set-pieces (of course), and one wants to watch individual scenes rather than sit through the whole show. Groucho's mastery of verbal and physical comedy remains immensely compelling and Harpo is an excellent clown, but the plot is rather tiresome as well as being (of course) total nonsense, and the male romantic lead (Allan Jones) is a prize bore to end all prize bores. There's a surplus of production values at the expense of pace, and the musical sections seem to have wandered in from several other films, none of them awfully good.

MGM simply hedged too many bets, and it's already clear the formula hasn't much of a future. One has to treasure this film for enshrining some iconic comedy routines, but it feels less like a shrine than a sarcophagus.
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"For you, I'd make love to a crocodile."
utgard1416 August 2015
Classic Marx Bros. comedy with the boys trying to help lovely Maureen O'Sullivan keep her sanitarium open while evil Douglas Dumbrille tries to turn it into a casino. Groucho plays Dr. Hugo Hackenbush, a veterinarian posing as a human doctor to bilk wealthy hypochondriac Margaret Dumont. Their scenes together are priceless, as they always were. Maureen O'Sullivan is perfection in everything and here she brings out a kinder, gentler side of the Marx Bros. Leonard Ceeley is great as Dumbrille's co-conspirator who runs afoul of the Marxes and lives to regret it. Esther Muir is a riot as a blonde floozy who gets more than she bargained for while trying to seduce Groucho. A terrific Marx Bros. film with many memorable lines and scenes, including 'Tutsi Frutsi Ice Cream.' It's a little long but never dull. The musical numbers were never my favorite parts of the Marx films unless they were comedy songs that were part of the story, as in Animal Crackers or Duck Soup. Here, though, there is a great number called "All God's Chillun Got Rhythm." I'm sure it will be controversial to sensitive types today but it's a lively, upbeat number that always puts a smile on my face. It's one of the best musical numbers from any of the Marx films and just one of the many reasons I recommend you see this one.
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Overextended but fun
gridoon201828 December 2009
"A Day At The Races" is generally considered the last great movie that the Marx Brothers gave us, and I also agree that it's better than anything that followed, though all their 1938-1949 movies have their moments and are most definitely worth seeing for their fans. The secret of this film's success is that, although it remains loyal to the MGM formulas (let's face it, the pre-1935 Marxes would hardly care about a young couple in love, much less devote themselves completely into helping them out), it retains most of their anarchic and destructive spirit: from the biggest (Margaret Dumont's unorthodox "examination") to the smallest (Harpo and Chico paying one of their debts by using and re-using the same 5-dollar bill!) comedy bit, there are many hits and almost no misses here. Where the film does miss slightly is in the musical numbers: these are entertaining in their own right, but they feel tacked-on, as if they've come from a different movie altogether. Plus, there are too many of them, and they go on too long, making "A Day At The Races" the longest - by far - Marx Brothers movie (and to think that there were two more full numbers eliminated before release!). Still, this is good zany fun that mostly lives up to its reputation. *** out of 4.
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Getting A Tootsie Fruitsie Ice Cream
DKosty1232 January 2008
The Marx Brothers, Margaret Dumont & Irving Thalberg are together here. The trouble is that Thalberg died early on while this was being developed. It seems to have cast a bit of a shadow over the film.

While the Marx routines are finely honed, this film has some inane music & the plot becomes very obtrusive to the point of distracting the audience from the laughs. Sam Woods directed & this film, while not as good as Opera, or Duck Soup & another notch below Horse Feathers, is still entertaining.

Once again, the Marx routines in this were tried in front of live audiences. This film gets too long which is to include a plot which really adds little to the picture, plus in this one, the music tends to stop the action in its tracks. Groucho said it best in an earlier film when he said "You know I have to stay here, but you folks can go out to the lobby until this blows over." This film gets so slow, I wonder if the lobby might have been moving faster.
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Having Fun with the Marx Brothers at the Races
wes-connors22 August 2007
The Marx Brothers (Groucho as "Dr. Hackenbush", Chico as "Tony", and Harpo as "Stuffy") and Alan Jones (he's Gil) must help Maureen O'Sullivan (she's Judy) save her financially troubled sanitarium. Their fortunes rest, finally, on the back of race horse "Hi-Hat" - will he win the "Big Race" and save sanitarium Standish?

The situation is very, very funny - placing the Marx Brothers in a sanitarium. In one of the funniest scenes, Dr. Hackenbush examines the ailing hypochondriac Margaret Dumont; he was mistakenly hired, however - he's a veterinarian! The Brothers' impeccable comic timing is on good display. Unfortunately the film's routines go on too long, with the musical production numbers a considerable drag. This is the "Marx Brothers" film formula with the weaker elements showing up a noticeable strain.

******* A Day at the Races (1937) Sam Wood ~ Groucho Marx, Chico Marx, Harpo Marx
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wezzel31 July 2002
This is, so far, the only Marx Brothers movie I've seen. I was hugely disappointed by it. The movie contains some funny jokes (the bookselling scene-hilarious!!), but it gets completely ruined by the musical numbers. They seem to go on forever, destroy the fast pacing of the first half of the movie and leave you with a sour taste in your mouth.
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BLASPHEMY!! I didn't like it (well, a lot of it)
Into_The_West10 June 2006
To say you don't like A Day at the Races is blasphemous. You can note it as the first sign of their decline, or the last film they made that actually clicked, but that it doesn't work, that's taking your life in your hands. Yet, I will.

I cannot call A Day at the Races a movie with no great comic moments. I can't say that about any Marx Bros. movie, even the execrable Big Store. The question is how often do they come, and how often do you find yourself clicking the "skip" button on the DVD remote.

The film has three unequivocally great bits: Tootsie-Frootsie Ice Cream, Chico and Harpo keeping Groucho from being found in flagrante delicto by Margaret Dumont, and Margaret Dumont's medical examination. What surrounds these, at least up to the 1 hr., 20 min point, is lesser Marx, but generally good excepting those scenes when Jack Jones's father and Mureen O'Sullivan are present, or ballets, or songs, or spirituals or....

A lot of it isn't the material or the brothers' delivery of it. We have another gooey and extensive Allan Jones romantic subplot, this time featuring Tarzan's mate (and Mia Farrow's mother), Maureen O'Sullivan. And the musical bits outside of Harpo and Chico's solos are just too long and don't seem to have a real function in the film except to satisfy what was assumed to be the public's thirst for MGM musical numbers.

But a lot of it is how the brothers are used. Groucho is much too much an avuncular type, going for pathos with lines to O'Sullivan like, "What if I'm not the doctor you think I am?" (Groucho is a vet when everyone thinks he's a renowned M.D.) It's not that Groucho can't do pathos. It's just that Groucho doesn't demean his abilities even if one would think he should. Can you imagine him saying, "I'm not the explorer you think I am" to Margaret Dumont in Animal Crackers?? What's more, Harpo seems unusually underused here. He has lots of scenes with Chico, or with Chico and Groucho, but virtually nothing alone, unlike in A Night at the Opera, or any of the Paramount films. When you don't have Harpo with his own bits, even briefly, that takes a lot away from a Marx Bros. film, too.

One plus to note in the film, however, is Margaret Dumont. On a web page, as evidence of Ms. Dumont's legendary inability to understand any of the material she ever acted in, it quotes Maureen O'Sullivan as saying that Dumont had referred to Mrs. Upjohn (her character in Races) as a "serious part, not like the others." Well, it is serious in the sense it's a far more three dimensional character than Mrs. Potter, Rittenhouse, Teasdale and Claypool. In those roles, the material basically gave Dumont the opportunity to play straight man to Groucho, no mean feat, and no one could have done it better. But Mrs. Upjohn is not merely stuffy, or snooty, or naive--she's neurotic. Her need to be reassured she's sick when she isn't is a grand comic bit on its own, as is her attraction, then disaffection, then attraction again to Groucho (it's the only film where Groucho proposes to her seriously and she accepts). She won a Screen Actors Guild award for this and it's not too difficult to understand why.

As stated before, there's no Marx Bros. film that's worth total rejection, and there's plenty of good Groucho insults and Chico con games here. It just would have been nice had the film been shorter, had less plot, less music, more comedy, and above all, more Harpo.

So I say watch until the examination screen, skip the musical numbers (except Groucho dancing with Esther Muir), mute it whenever Irene Hervey's ex and John Farrow's wife are present, turn it off and be happy
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The Marx brothers at their comedic peak
Magenta_Bob14 January 2012
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.
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Who's Running the Sanitarium?
Hitchcoc9 January 2015
How does one begin? Groucho is Dr. Hugo Hackenbush, a veterinarian who has human patients. Chico is a sort of con man and Harpo is a jockey. In order to save the day, a horse with a minimal reputation must be taught to run and save a sanitarium. It's ironic that the Marx Brothers would be in such close proximity to such a place. In addition to Groucho's frantic repartee, there is another wonderful performance by hypochondriac Margaret Dumont who in a hissy fit is about to turn her back on the sanitarium because her doctor has said there is nothing wrong with her. Meanwhile, there is the usual cast of nefarious bad guys who have an investment in stopping the horse from being successful. The boys must hide the horse and figure out a way to get him to run. In the middle of all this is music by Harpo, a group of black gospel singers from that part of town, and the romantic efforts of Groucho toward Dumont who cluelessly goes about her business among this craziness. Of course, there are ridiculous racing scenes that add to the comic soup. Like all Marx brothers movies, it's a series of bits and comic schtick, but sit back and enjoy.
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Horseracing, Marx Brothers Style
aefrench24 April 2010
Warning: 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."
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Fun with the Marx
Petri Pelkonen11 August 2006
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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Extremely amusing.
Robert J. Maxwell3 August 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I think this may have been their second picture for MGM, made under Thalberg, who died during filming. It was a personal loss to the Marx Brothers because Irving Thalberg was a personal friend as well as a tasteful if commercial executive. It didn't damage their performance.

The MGM films don't show the reckless antinomian impulses of their earlier Paramount films but they have better production values and what they lack in anarchy they make up for in structure. This is a very funny movie if you're in the mood for this kind of comedy.

It has some classic set pieces and some memorable Marx-Brothers lines. I'll just mention a few in passing, without getting into the story because the story, as usual, doesn't amount to much and ends in a silly horse race.

1. The scene involving Chico as a tout at the race track and Groucho seduced by his siren call, always discovering that each item he buys from Chico requires the purchase of yet another item for decoding purposes.

2. The medical examination of Margaret Dumont by Groucho, a veterinarian posing as a doctor, under the scrutiny of two real doctors, including a skeptical Sig Rumann. The farcical goings on destroy the set when they wind up with the overhead sprinklers turned on. "Are you MAD?" Dumont screams. "No, we're not mad, just terribly hurt," Groucho mutters and the brothers exit the examining room on horseback.

3. "All God's Children Got Rhythm." It takes place in an African-American shanty town, a musical number in which the darkies are led around by Harpo playing a pennywhistle. Yes, it's racist, but the performances by the black cast can't be faulted. (They include a young Dorothy Dandridge.) The jitterbug numbers are brief but stunning. The three couples are really excellent dancers, and it's not just a matter of radiating some inner agency. Sometimes a dancer pauses, holding a pose for a beat, the way Fred Astaire (but not Gene Kelly) did. Their timing is exquisite. The troupe we see are "Whitey's Lindy Hoppers," organized in the mid-30s by the head bouncer at the Savoy Ballroom in New York. "Who dat man?"

4. Finally, I won't really try to describe the scene in which Groucho tries to seduce the blond Thelma Todd and is constantly interrupted by Chico and Harpo in various disguises, except to note that when Todd enters Groucho's hotel room, she hands him her coat. "I always take the wrap," he says, throwing it on the floor. "Thank you," says Todd. "Thank YOU!" (Can't help chuckling as I think about it.)

See it if you can.
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