A Night at the Movies (1937) Poster

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Amusing, but not Benchley's best
wmorrow591 July 2004
This short comedy was recently selected for inclusion as a special feature in the new DVD release of the Marx Brothers' A Day at the Races. Based on the evidence at hand, viewers unfamiliar with Robert Benchley may find it hard to believe that the guy was a first class wit on par with Groucho himself, in his own understated way, but you'll just have to take my word for it. Better still, take a look at some of the comic articles he wrote for magazines and newspapers, most of which have been collected in book form. Benchley's nonsense pieces and essays on the frustrations of day-to-day life are still funny, and often hilarious.

Benchley's short films are generally pleasant, but only occasionally rise to the level of his written output. Many of them focus on the foibles of bourgeois domestic life, and come off rather like the later TV sitcoms of the '50s. However, the filmed versions of Benchley's double-talk lectures sometimes scale the heights of inspired insanity he regularly reached in his magazine pieces, and one very early talkie from 1928, The Sex Life of the Polyp, is one of my favorite Benchley shorts, a perfect little gem of comic absurdity.

As for the item at hand, A Night at the Movies is a pleasant but unremarkable effort devoted to the petty irritations encountered by Mr. and Mrs. Average during an evening at the local Bijou. There is confusion with the tickets, difficulty finding seats, a tall fat man who sits directly in front and blocks the screen, someone with a persistent cough, and a moment of strangeness involving a small boy with an eerie stare. (Today, of course, a major problem would be pagers and cell-phones going off during the show.) For modern viewers this short may be more valuable as social history than as comedy, seeing as how it was made in an era when men in public places had to find a place to stow their hats, and dancers performed at movie theaters between the features. On that level this film is an interesting time capsule.

This modest comedy short may not look like much alongside the Marx Brothers, but don't dismiss Robert Benchley. You'll just need to look elsewhere for his funniest and freshest work.
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A Night at the Movies is an amusing Robert Benchley short
tavm12 August 2007
A Night at the Movies is an amusing Robert Benchley short about him and his wife having trouble knowing which way to go for their movie, getting confused about whether the tickets were for the feature or a car that's being offered in the building, having to switch seats because of a kid that keeps staring and a man ahead of them blocking the view, and a few other things that I won't reveal here. Mr. Benchley looks constantly bemused throughout and it's pretty fun seeing him flustered at every turn. This Oscar-nominated one-reel short is available on the DVD of the Marx Brothers' A Day at the Races. Worth a look for any fan of vintage short comedy.
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Whimsical One-Reeler
Ron Oliver17 April 2006

Trying to quietly spend A NIGHT AT THE MOVIES isn't so simple for hapless Robert Benchley.

Nominated for the Best One-Reel Short Subject Academy Award, this was one of a series of little films to feature the gentle humor of Robert Benchley (1889-1945). Watching him deal with the unexpected difficulties of simply enjoying a movie elicits much quiet amusement.


Often overlooked or neglected today, the one and two-reel short subjects were useful to the Studios as important training grounds for new or burgeoning talents, both in front & behind the camera. The dynamics for creating a successful short subject was completely different from that of a feature length film, something akin to writing a topnotch short story rather than a novel. Economical to produce in terms of both budget & schedule and capable of portraying a wide range of material, short subjects were the perfect complement to the Studios' feature films.
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Fun Short
Michael_Elliott24 February 2009
Night at the Movies, A (1937)

*** (out of 4)

Oscar-nominated Robert Benchley short has a couple (Benchley, Betty Ross Clarke) going to the movie where all sorts of trouble starts. Benchley has to put up with losing his tickets, sitting behind a tale man and then getting lost while trying to find an exit. This comedy doesn't feature too many laughs but it's still highly entertaining just because it's fun seeing someone else go through various trouble that could happen at a movie theater. Benchley's style of comedy does aim for laugh-out-loud moments but instead just mild smiles seeing stuff that I'm sure we've all gone through and it's rather funny how this film, now seventy-two-years old, is still relevant today. I've seen quite a few of Benchley's shorts but I've read that none of them could compare to his comic writing but as of this date I've yet to read anything from him.
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Mirroring Contemporary Life (Then) & Giving Historical Perspective (Now)
John T. Ryan8 March 2015
AS VALUABLE TODAY as both a fine example of what the old short subjects were to the movies in Hollywood's Golden Age, as well as a sort of historical piece who's unintentional chronicling of the movie house of that era, A NIGHT AT THE MOVIES is an all around gem of a mini-movie. One can learn more about life in that period between World Wars from it than many a history book on domestic life in the USA.

THE PRODUCTION TEAM takes great care in putting everyone's favourite everyman, Robert Benchley, at the center of what seems like a very simple, uncomplicated premise; being that of going to the local movie palace to see a highly rated, new release. It is a first run picture and would be playing at the big theatre, downtown; rather than at the local show in the neighborhoods.

THIS WAS LONG before anyone had thought of a Shopping Centre Multi-Plex, or even a Shopping Mall, for that matter. It was a time when moviegoers expected and received a sort of "royal" type of treatment and received same. The importance and seriousness of the occasion is emphasized by the manner of dress one sees in the many patrons who fill the theatre. One's "Sunday Best" was the order of the day when attending any public performances; be they a baseball game, football, boxing, wrestling, a concert in the park or the movies.

THE FACT THAT everything seems to happen to poor Bob Benchley is at the center of this one. No matter what the situation from buying the tickets for he and his spouse, being seated or what have you, they all revolve around Benchley's very urbane appearance and very refined and dignified manners. It is a case of the most refined of the Homo Sapiens being in competition with a bunch of Paleolithic Neanderthals.

THE FACT THAT Mr. Benchley was not primarily an actor, but rather a gifted writer who was coaxed to step before the cameras and deliver his own words, seems to have added to his on screen personality and appeal to his audience. While certainly no virtuoso of an accomplished thespian, his sort of amateurish characterization of this very genteel individual's coping with the trials and tribulations of modern life were well served in this series of shorts.

THIS BASIC PREMISE had been done before. In the 1929 silent two reeler, MOVIE NIGHT, it is Charley Chase who is put through the running of the gauntlet of multiple mishaps at the cinema. This was a Hal Roach Production, written by Chase & Leo McCarey and directed by Lewis R. Foster.
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A terrific short
gridoon201812 September 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Robert Benchley is a name hardly ever mentioned today, and yet it appears from the late 1920s to the mid 1940s (when he died) he was a highly prolific and highly regarded actor-writer, specializing in comedy shorts. His only two that I've seen so far are "A Night At The Movies" (which was nominated for an Oscar) and "How To Sleep" (which actually won an Oscar) - both of them are included in the DVD special features of "A Day At The Races" and "A Night At The Opera", respectively. Of the two shorts, I think "A Night At The Movies" is the better one ("How To Sleep" is amusing....and that's that). This really is a terrific short that I have watched more than twice already. The film is basically a comic demonstration of Murphy's Law: everything that CAN go wrong, WILL go wrong, with Benchley making the perfect frustrated Everyman. And it may be surprising to realize that practically the entire Benchley list of the things that can go wrong in a typical couple's trip to the movie theater are still relevant today, 75 years later! This short has hardly aged at all. *** out of 4.
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Benchley takes on the movie theater.
MartinHafer19 September 2016
Robert Benchley stars in yet another short film about a poor schnook who seems to always get getting the short of things in life. In this case, the schnook (Benchley) and his wife want to go to the movies but 1001 little annoyances occur. The summary says that Benchley leaves the ticket in the car...that is NOT the case. Apparently, there was a prize drawing and he accidentally dropped the movie tickets into the slot for that and tried to use the raffle tickets to get into the theater. Then, annoyances about--such as an incredibly large man who sits in front of him and, ultimately, his accidentally walking up on stage and embarrassing himself. All in all, it's pretty typical of a Benchley short with very few belly laughs but plenty of fun, gentle entertainment as he plays his put-upon character. Worth seeing but far from a must-see.
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While not one of Benchley's best shorts, it's reasonably good
Robert Reynolds13 August 2015
Warning: Spoilers
This is a short in the series of short films starring Robert Benchley. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Live Action Short, One-Reel, losing to The Private Life of the Gannets. There will be spoilers ahead:

In this short, Robert Benchley and his wife (played by the actress Betty Ross Clarke) are first seen trying to decide what movie to go see that evening. They discuss a couple of films, each of which has been seen by one of them. They ultimately go to see the one he has seen, which is just as well, as the short is basically one problem after another, the majority of them self-inflicted by Benchley, which means he largely misses the film.

Benchley has problems paying for their tickets, he has problems when they are given their tickets (an automobile is being given away and they get two sets of tickets, one for the film and another to go in a box for the drawing). Then Benchley has trouble following the directions of various ushers. They finally get to the right one, only to find after presenting their "tickets" that Benchley has put the theater tickets in the box for the drawing and presented the prize tickets to the usher. After much fuss, they are finally allowed into the theater.

There follows various problems in the theater. This part of the short doesn't really work for me, partly because the Pete Smith short Movie Pests covers part of this in a much funnier fashion. A series of events culminates in Benchley accidentally winding up outside the theater, trying to find his way back in. He eventually gets back inside, to experience the crowning embarrassment, at least for his wife.

This short is available as an extra on the DVD release of A Day At the Races and also as part of a DVD set collecting all the Benchley shorts and is well worth seeing. Recommended.
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A night to remember
Warning: Spoilers
"A Night at the Movies" is a 10-minute black-and-white sound short film from almost 80 years ago. The director is Roy Rowland and the lead actor is Robert Benchley, quite a star back then. This little movie is a comedy about a couple going to the movies together. But because of the husband's clumsiness and lack of coordination on so many occasions, it becomes quite a messy day at the theater. The chaos already starts before they enter the showing room. The humor here is much more subtle than what the 3 Stooges did back then for example. It is more the approach that Karl Valentin and Liesl Karlstedt gave film in the first half of the 20th century. This one here was nominated for an Oscar, but lost to a documentary on birds. I personally think the nomination may already have been too much. I did not find this a memorable watch, too funny or an entertaining experience. Thumbs down.
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