The Marx Brothers take on high society. Two lovers who are both in opera are prevented from being together by the man's lack of acceptance as an operatic tenor. Pulling several typical Marx Brothers' stunts, they arrange for the normal tenor to be absent so that the young lover can get his chance.Written by
John Vogel <firstname.lastname@example.org>
MGM sponsored a Marx Brothers "Look-Alike" contest simultaneous to the film's release. See more »
Shadow of camera and crane visible as Driftwood enters the rehearsal area and greets the singers. See more »
The gentleman has not arrived yet?
No, he has not.
I'm afraid the dinner will be spoiled.
Otis B. Driftwood:
What difference does it make? It's too late to dine now.
Otis B. Driftwood:
Otis B. Driftwood:
Will you page Mr. Otis B. Driftwood, please? Mister Otis B. Driftwood.
Paging Mr. Driftwood! Mr. Driftwood!
[Driftwood's dinner companion giggles out loud]
Mr. Driftwood! Mr. Driftwood!
[...] See more »
one of those timeless crowd-pleasing comedies; a Marx brothers hit on many levels
A Night at the Opera is comedy that still hits about as out of the park as imaginable as a true entertainment vehicle. There's comedy, there's music, there's musical numbers, there's action, there's drama, there's romance, there's even fake beards and "Take me out the Ballgame" performed in an opera house "by accident" of course. It also gives a showcase for its main three jovial anarchists (Groucho, Harpo and Chico) as smashing as its production; it's a million dollars well spent, and when you aren't laughing you're at least smiling or enjoying a melodic tune or some good opera melodies. Whether or not it hits so strongly that it might top the quintessential Marx flick, Duck Soup, can be arguable for as long as one can type keys or stretch vocal chords. There's good arguments on either side, and while I myself might be inclined to say that Duck Soup is the "best film" of the Marxs, Night at the Opera might be as, if not more, plain fun.
And it's so unforgettable, with scene after moment after continuous gag that goes so far along that it becomes funny just seeing how long these guys can keep going. There's a scene mid-way through A Night at the Opera that might be just about perfect: Groucho has his tiny room. At first the gag is simply that the room is almost too small to even fit the luggage case he has (also fitting inside Chico, Harpo and the conventional leading-man opera singer stowaway). Groucho orders breakfast- an amazing and wonderfully long gag involving an order of hard-boiled eggs- and then the maids come in, and then others come in, and then more come in, and lines like "You know I had a premonition you were going to show up. The engineers right there in the corner. You can chop your way right through." Harpo is still asleep, of course, trying to cure his insomnia by sleeping on top of everybody else shuffling around... it all builds so much that it's like its own piece of frantic, combustible music, and it's one of those pure scenes in movies that one can never really top, only try and imitate and get OK in their own right.
There are others that strike up such strong laughs, exchanges of dialog that go on like verbal assaults in the form of an argument over a contract between Groucho and Chico ("Sanity clause" "I don't believe in it!"), or just the continuous string of syncopated insults and throwaway lines from Groucho that cut right to the matter and even find some new twists one would never think of outside of his mind. But it's not all just raucous and crazy behavior from the stars; there's also the opera itself, that big long sequence where the "plan" is unfolded and "WAR" is unleashed upon the production (my favorite is the bit where the various set pieces on stage keep falling down behind the singer, at one point falling right in front him), and a kind of sweetness that pops up often that keeps it from being too, uh... insane, like say Duck Soup could arguably be called.
Insanity, of course, is what the Marx's excel at, an organized chaos of comedy that is so seamless because of how energized and random some of the things happen with- but there is logic, as warped as it can be, like the other classic number when the brothers and opera singer carry out the beds one by one around the window or through the door evading the totally perplexed eyes of the officer. There's such a kind of graceful choreography to this that is slipped under the veneer or complete WHAT! moments that keep these movies so fresh so very long after. And it's a sweet movie too; a movie may be criticized for taking an extended break from the story, however loose it may be, and Night at the Opera can have that against it. But the break it takes, with the big musical number and dance and Chico and Harpo's playing on the piano and latter on the harp, is so touching and fun and inventive. You'll be smiling and just wrapped up in the childlike awe of these moments as opposed to grumbling and wondering "where's the story?"
Story? Marx don't need no stinking story! Between the three brothers, and on occasion even the slightly weaker but still crucial "normal" plot line with the love between the talented amateur singer and the star played by Carlisle, there's enough material at times for two movies. The real joy of Night at the Opera, and it happens often, is seeing these three guys go to work at the best of what they do: Groucho's remarks and verbal intelligence (or just damn bravery), Chico's slightly dim but well-meaning immigrant type, and Harpo as... Harpo, damn it, he doesn't need to be explained (well, maybe the water bit is a little strange, but par for the course). It's joyful and hilarious cinema on parade, even better on a big screen, albeit the noticeable random jump cuts are annoying in any format.
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