48 user 23 critic

At the Circus (1939)

Not Rated | | Comedy, Musical | 20 October 1939 (USA)
The Marx Brothers try to help the owner of a circus recover some stolen funds before he finds himself out of a job.



(screen play)

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Complete credited cast:
Mrs. Suzanna Dukesbury
James Burke ...
Jerry Maren ...
Little Professor Atom (as Jerry Marenghi)


Jeff Wilson, the owner of a small circus, owes his partner Carter $10000. Before Jeff can pay, Carter lets his accomplices steal the money, so he can take over the circus. Antonio Pirelli and Punchy, who work at the circus, together with lawyer Loophole try to find the thief and get the money back. Written by Michael Zolk <mzolk@ix.urz.uni-heidelberg.de>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

circus | money | strongman | lawyer | aunt | See All (72) »


NOT SUITABLE FOR GENERAL EXHIBITION (Australian one-sheet poster) See more »


Comedy | Musical


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

20 October 1939 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A Day at the Circus  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Buster Keaton worked on the film as a gag man. His career was on the downside and he was forced to work for scale. His complex and sometimes belabored gags (recalled in the book "Groucho, Harpo, Chico and Sometimes Zeppo") did not work well with The Marx Brothers' brand of humor, and was a source of friction between the comedian and the brothers. When Groucho called Keaton on the inappropriateness of his gags for the team, Keaton responded, "I'm only doing what Mr. Mayer [MGM chief Louis B. Mayer] asked me to do. You guys don't need help." See more »


When the little boy is "playing" his trumpet solo (and Harpo is using the bulb of his bicycle horn as a wah-wah mute), not only are the boy's fingerings incorrect, they are out of synch with the sequence of notes. Harpo's use of the "mute" is likewise out of synch. See more »


Peerless Pauline: I've waited so long to find someone like you.
J. Cheever Loophole: Oh, someone *like* me, I'm not good enough for you, eh?
See more »


Referenced in Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Undead (1997) See more »


Rock-a-Bye Baby
(pub. 1765) (uncredited)
Sung a bit by Chico Marx; played on harmonica and flute by Harpo Marx
See more »

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User Reviews

Possibly their best; up there with Duck Soup, anyway
21 December 2001 | by (Saint Paul, MN) – See all my reviews

I wrote this right after I saw it, without having read other comments on it. I have to say I'm appalled by the critical injustices done to this film. No joke flops in this Marx Brothers masterpiece. All three of the remaining brothers, Groucho, Harpo, and Chico, have a plethora of great scenes. Groucho has possibly his best line of his entire career. I won't ruin it for you. Chico's best moments are as Chiccolini in Duck Soup, but he is nearly as funny here. The scene in the midget's room is as funny a set piece as ever existed. Chico also has a great piano scene. Harpo is hilarious as well, playing a card game with a seal, and he delivers his best harp number. Usually they're awful, but the one here is great. He plays ambassador to the races again in this film, as he did in A Day at the Races. He dances around with a group of black people who show up out of nowhere. These scenes might be dated, but they're excellent in their context. I'd call them both scenes of great beauty, showing harmony between the races. Margaret Dumont, the fifth Marx Brother - well, maybe we out to call her the fourth; she's in more of them than Zeppo is! - is as funny as usual. The only let down is the romantic subplot, but you probably come to expect that from Marx Brothers' films. Perhaps the one here will be funny to you. The guy is one of the biggest dorks in history. His girl isn't too bad though. She has a great musical number with a horse. But even the two together have a decent scene where they sing to each other while they are desperately trying to lose a waiter who's intently watching their courtship. At the Circus contains maybe the best climactic sequence of their career, with the three brothers, Dumont, the villain, and a gorilla swing around on the trapeze swings. The final shot is a doozy, as well. 10/10.

17 of 26 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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