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|Index||66 reviews in total|
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
*** 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.
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.
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.
I'm afraid that the Marx Brothers don't do it for me. It was the 14 year old Dorothy Dandridge who had a small part in this film that wooed me over to it. Apart from Maureen O'Sullivan, there was nothing going for this film.
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