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|Index||71 reviews in total|
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is actually my favorite Marx Brothers movie. The reason is due to
the fantastic showcasing of the Harlem Renaissance during the scene
where the Marx Brothers are hiding out from the Sheriff by going to the
part of town where the African Americans live. The result is a
performance of African Americans playing music and doing the Jitterbug
in an absolutely fantastic way, which even today is highly exciting and
entertaining to watch. I am not too sure about this, but this movie may
have been the first time that average Americans had the opportunity to
SEE what the Jitterbug looked like. The Marx Brothers were very bold in
bringing African American culture to a mainstream Hollywood film like
this, and it still is worth watching, just for that reason alone.
The film also has a great moment with Chico doing his special piano playing thing, followed by Harpo taking over and completely destroying the piano, turning it into a harp, which he then plays.
The dialogue is pretty witty - some scenes especially so. And overall it's a great movie and well worth anyone's time to watch.
A DAY AT THE RACES (1937) **** The Marx Brothers running amok at the horse races with some brilliantly funny dialogue and outrageous bits of physical comedy, respectively by Groucho, Chico and Harpo. One of their best.
Boring song numbers by Allan Jones but still it´s VERY VERY VERY
This was the first Marx Brothers film I saw and I have love it all
Not as good as the comic masterpiece A night at the opera.
rating: 4+ out of 5
The scenario just never seems to matter when it comes to The Marx Brothers.For me,as funny as their films always are to me,they have a tendency to run together and I can never remember off the top of my head what plot goes with what film.They were always just so busy doing what they did so well that you were just too busy laughing.They were very good at making you not care what the plot was about at all.They were also so musically inclined that they could hypnotize you with that too.Every film was a grand showcase for their talent,and A Day at the Races was certainly no different.It's another gem from these multi talented genius's.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A Day at the Races is a funnier film than A Night at the Opera, but it
is also seriously flawed. Judy Standish (Maureen O'Sullivan) is the
unlikely owner of a failing sanitarium that appears to have only one
patient, the rich Mrs. Upjohn (Margaret Dumont). Judy is in love with
Gil Stewart (Allan Jones, again), a radio singer who buys a horse named
High Hat without realizing he's a jumper, not a race horse. Mrs. Upjohn
suggests that Judy hire Dr. Hugo Z. Hackenbush (Groucho) to take over
the sanitarium, which Morgan (Douglas Dumbrille) wants to buy to turn
into a gambling casino. The only problem is that nobody knows that Dr.
Hackenbush is a horse doctor.
In one of the funniest scenes ever filmed, Chico, as the "Tootsie-Fruitsie" ice cream man, sells Groucho a whole library of books (concealed in his ice cream wagon) on how to win at the races. Another hilarious moment is when Chico gets Harpo admitted to the sanitarium as a patient. Groucho, upon examining him, finds him to be human, but just barely. Towards the end of the film. Mrs. Upjohn is examined by Dr. Leopold X. Steinberg of Vienna (Sig Rumann), whose goatee comes to a perfect point (Groucho: "And don't point that beard at me-it might go off!")
MGM was well-known for making the longest pictures in the industry, and there is a lot of unnecessary material here. The overproduced "Water Carnival" adds nothing to the movie, and the scene where the Brothers hide out in the "colored" neighborhood is offensive even by 1937 standards, despite the fine singing of Duke Ellington's Ivie Anderson.
Producer Iving Thalberg died during the filming, and Groucho felt that nobody else on the lot cared about the Marx Brothers (certainly not Louis B. Mayer, who despised him). The stupid plot device that ends the film would never have been approved by Thalberg. High Hat (with Harpo riding) is racing in the steeplechase against Morgan's horse. At the final jump, the horses land in a mud puddle, throwing both jockeys. Dazed, they climb back on, and Morgan's horse wins. Or does he? It seems that the jockeys climbed on the wrong horses, so High Hat's the winner! Nobody seems to care that Harpo actually lost the race. This lame ending spoils what could have been a truly great Marx Brothers film.
The plot is something about Groucho running a sanitarium but that's not important. What is important is the comedy...the Marx Brothers were at their peak when this was made and they're fantastic. Their comedy bits are uproarious. But this is not as good as "Duck Soup" or "A Night at the Opera". Two big problems--the boring romantic pairing (and acting) of Maureen O'Sullivan and Allan Jones (some of the dialogue is horrid beyond belief) and some truly wretched musical numbers that go on forever. The Winter Carnival sequence is bearable (it's tinted blue in the print I saw, but it didn't help), but the song with the black singers and dancers is truly offensive. I realize it wasn't offensive back then but it is today. All the black people are so happy and cheerful and overacting that it's embarassing to watch. To make matters worse, the Marx Brothers actually smear grease on their faces so they appear in black face! Sad. Still, this gets an 8 for the comedy alone. See it on video or DVD where you can skip the musical numbers. Get rid of those and you have one hell of a movie.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It's hard not to go crazy with the Marx Brothers. Their movies are just hilarious nutty, even with today standards. Their jokes never really get old. The brothers are at the top of their game in terms of their own comic material and timing. The film has some of the trio's funniest and most memorable bits. They even got to fit in Groucho and Chico's famous "Tootsie Frootsie Ice Cream" sketch from their vaudeville days. You might as well, put me in a straitjacket, because I will always be dying with laughter when they're on the screen. This movie was made during the Marx Brother's biggest commercial success, post Zeppo. Directed by Sam Woods, the same director from their previous film, 1935's A Night at the Opera, the movie story pretty much follow closely to that of 'A Night at the Opera'. They're almost the same plot. Instead, of saving the opera; instead the Marx Brothers have to save a sanitarium owned by Judy Standish (Maureen O'Sullivan). Her sanitarium is under threat of being taken over by unscrupulous businessman, J. D Morgan (Douglass Dumbrille), who wants to demolish it and expand his real estate monopoly. The only hope for Judy is if she can keep the wealthy hypochondriac Mrs. Emily Upjohn (Margaret Dumont) as a permanent patient and sign papers to financial the place. The only problem, she only willing to stay if the sanitarium hires her favorite doctor, Dr. Hugo Z. Hackenbush (Groucho Marx). Unfortunately for Mrs. Upjohn and the sanitarium, Hackenbush is actually just a veterinarian con-artist who spent most of the film trying to avoid being caught out by either Morgan' cronies, the Florida Medical Board or Mrs. Upjohn. Meanwhile, Judy's boyfriend, Gil (Allan Jones) with his friend, Tony (Chico Marx) hopes to win the money for the sanitarium in a horse-race with a former jockey, Stuffy (Harpo Marx) and his mediocre horse. Who will win first? Morgan and his men or the Marx Brothers? Watch it to find out! Without spoiling too much, the Marx Brothers are pretty much, playing their stereotypical stage act selves in their roles. There's Groucho that has the anarchic wise guy with the drawn-on moustache. He has some of the funniest zingers, insults, and comebacks. Then there is Chico who plays likable Italian stereotype in every role. He has some funny bits, here. Last is Harpo, the mute, childish, slightly annoying one, there for kid appeal. Don't look for anything new from them. They just going what talent, got them to the show. The movie story isn't that great as well. It's often very complex, and doesn't mixed well with others sub-plots. It's hard to tell, where this movie is going for. Is it a horse racing movie or a movie about keeping a sanitarium open? While, the jokes don't feel dated. The concept seem old. Groucho, Chico, and Harpo helping out at a sanatorium seem pretty weird to think of today. It's even odd to note that the sanitarium in the film is right near the race track. How is that even possible? Anyways, the movie seem to get weirder as the movie puts a lot of variety acts between the comedy bits to serve as filler scenes such as a blue-tinted ballet sequence, Harpo playing the Harp, Chico playing the piano, and love songs from crooner Allan Jones. All are quite good, but was it really needed for the plot. No. The musical segment toward the end where Harpo leads a group of poor black folks in a rendition of "Gabriel Blow Your Horn" is questionable. This might be a hard watch for some people, due to the fact that the poor black folks in question played upon the most stereotyped portrayal of black people at the time. The movie portray them as poor, uneducated, jive-talkers with a love of jazz music. It doesn't help that brothers themselves get in on the offensive act by dousing their faces in oil in an attempt to blend in. The Marx Brothers' performing in black face will make some people cringe, due to how dated and offensive, it seems to be. The best thing to come from that part is Ivie Anderson and The Crinoline Choir seeing "All God's Chillun Got Rhythm"! She can indeed sing. Two more songs were filmed, but cut for timing. One was, "Dr. Hackenbush", by Groucho about what a great doctor he is. The other, "A Message from The Man In The Moon", sung by Allan Jones. Like their previous MGM feature A Night at the Opera, this film was a major hit. Despite the Thalberg films' success, MGM terminated the brothers' contract in 1937; Thalberg had died suddenly during filming of A Day at the Races, leaving the Marx Brothers without an advocate at the studio. After Thalberg's death the studio never gave the proper care to the Marx Brothers, and the three movies made at MGM afterward are considered to be far low-grade than the first two as a result. Most copies of the film are pretty good copies. There are hardly any grains or film dirt. The DVD release is in HD and worth checking out. It has tons of special features, worth watching. Overall: While, it's not quite as good as its predecessor, A Night at the Opera, this is still a highlight in the Marxian filmography. It's a must watch.
If you insist on NOT being offended by a horribly politically incorrect portion of the film, then either don't watch the film or try to see it on regular network TV (where the offensive segment is usually excised). Harpo Marx has a song and dance number with a group of Black people that is sure to offend almost everyone. However, from a historical sense, it is quite a scene! Now, for the rest of the film. This movie is about as funny as A NIGHT AT THE OPERA but it fortunately has less singing. Groucho is at his best as Dr. Hackenbush, the vet who is mistaken for a human doctor and becomes the head of a sanitarium. It's high energy and silly and sure to please fans of the Marxes.
A Day at the Races is a bit of a strange yet magical bird of a comedy.
There's that ten minute musical sequence (or I should say two of them
but they end up connecting, sort of), which is equal parts
the-bland-Prince-sings-to-Disney's-Snow-White (remember that, nope, me
neither) and just 'um, a musical number with black people that's not
insulting to them in the 1930's and on its own separate from the movie
is exhilarating but has a moment of blackface... this is ODD, and I say
this while watching a MARX BROTHERS MOVIE.' It's the one thing in this
that brings the movie to a screeching halt, and this includes a rather
long and elaborate dance/musical set piece in a nightclub which
includes ladies dancing around a fountain, Groucho doing an intricate
(and hilarious) dance with Margaret Dumont while he's actually talking
to the other lady, and includes Chico and Harpo playing piano and then
harp (the latter by some miraculous comic accident) that's part of the
suspense of the scene. So that actually works.
But aside from that, it's one of their best films despite the fact (or in spite of the fact?) that it has an actual plot, for the most part. Normally the Marx's don't work too well with plots, they operate on creating anarchy in the loosely-knit together scenes and scenarios given to them (not that the writers ever tried to stretch TOO far, they didn't have to, which was fine). Here it's set amid horse races and a horse doctor (Hackenbush, Groucho of course) who is thrust into having to pretend to be a real doctor while also dealing with a race- betting chizzler (Chico with his many, many, many books in an ice cream box), and Harpo as a wayward jockey. Oh and there's a couple who may have to owe some money and some other characters and blah blah blah.
It may not sound like a terrific film, and if there's another small mark I can make against it from being a super-mega-all-time-classic instead of just being really-really-really good is that a few times the Groucho lines weren't hitting as *fast* as they usually do, with the pep that they came with the Duck Soup/Animal Crackers days. But this is a nitpick when seeing these guys play off one another - the scene where Groucho checks out Harpo ("Either he's dead or my watch stopped"), or get into elaborate comic set pieces (when Groucho just completely acts a fool as Hackenbush, with the help of Chico and Harpo, when examining Margaret Dumont in front of other doctors). They're pros given good material and elevate it into the world of smart, devilishly-clever delivered lines and Harpo with that finale involving the horse race (where will the horses, and their jockeys, or people looking for parking, end up next!)
A Day at the Races is a near classic, though that still makes it a notch above most comedies made in the 1930's. It has its lulls, but somehow, almost despite the usual limitations of an 'okay' roster of supporting actors (no one's outright bad, they're just... there, with the exception of Dumont and the one blonde Groucho gets to play off of in that hotel room scene). The way I might compare it is if you're a fan of Bruce Springsteen and you go to one of his concerts, and there's that section he does the slower folks stuff (some may like it, I don't), and it's a drag... and then there's the rest of the four hours of the concert where he rocks out with his anthems and gems.
Call me a feminist but "That's not funny"
Not exactly LOL amusing. Maybe its an age thing. The film is after all 63 years old. Sure, I smiled but missed splitting my sides a la Something about Mary or Galaxy Quest.
For my money Hellzapoppin was a far brighter film. The dance sequences, particularly with the jolly negroes are spurious. They may have been bold and inclusive when the film was made but they seem stereotypical now.
The pizza I ordered to go with the movie was good though.
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