- The best Marx Brothers film, the best comedy, the best everything 1/1/2007 12:00:00 AM by blanche-2
"A Night at the Opera" is one of those films you can see dozens of times and laugh just as hard as you did the first time. The brothers get mixed up with an opera company and a divo and diva in love - Allan Jones and Kitty Carlisle, and trying to get the two to perform together.
The one-liners come so fast - you keep thinking you'll remember them, but one is funnier than the next. I do remember what Groucho says when he sees the gypsy Azucena in the opera, however. "How would you like to feel how she looks?" The stateroom scene is, of course, a classic, and my favorite part is when Groucho tells the housekeeper, "I want two pillows on that bed" and Harpo sound asleep and being moved everywhere, including onto a tray of food.
But nothing beats the last half hour - the performance of "Il Trovatore" with Harpo using the stage ropes like Tarzan, and Chico playing baseball in the orchestra while Groucho sells peanuts. They have replaced part of the overture with "Take Me Out to the Ball Game."
Allan Jones plays the tenor Ricardo Baroni who is hoping for his break. Why they cast the blond Jones as a tenor named Baroni - well, there you go. He sings very well and is quite handsome. Kitty Carlisle is the diva waiting, petite and pretty and singing music out of her vocal type, with the exception of "Alone." "Stridono lassu" and Leonora in Trovatore were both much too heavy for her. She does sing well and what a woman - she's still alive and recently performed at a New York supper club recently at the age of 95.
The only problem with any Marx Brothers film is that when they aren't in front of the camera, suddenly their films become very slow. Because I was trained in opera and have some interest in it, this was less the case than with some of their other films. They were too magical, too energetic, and too darn funny to ever share a spotlight with anyone else. Thank goodness they did, though, as they left us with many treasures. This is one.
- Great Marx Brothers Entertainment 6/18/2001 12:00:00 AM by Snow Leopard
"A Night at the Opera" is great Marx Brothers entertainment. It has comedy, music, and a good cast - everything except Zeppo, who by this time had left the act. It fully deserves its reputation as one of the two best Marx Brothers films, along with "Duck Soup".
"A Night at the Opera" is probably slightly less funny than "Duck Soup" (it is no criticism to say that of any film), but it has more of a story to connect the great comic bits. There is a good supporting cast in both films - here Sig Ruman is especially funny, in addition to the perennial Margaret Dumont. It also has several fairly long musical interludes - some are operatic, but the most entertaining is Chico and Harpo's impromptu shipboard entertainment.
Of course, the real attraction in any of these films is the comedy, and there are some memorable bits in this one. The contract negotiations between Chico and Groucho, and the scene in Groucho's stateroom, are especially hilarious, and you have to see the stateroom scene more than once to catch everything. And for sustained zany humor, the climactic sequence at the opera might be the funniest part of all.
This is certainly a must for Marx Brothers fans.
- Phantoms of the Opera 5/30/2006 12:00:00 AM by lugonian
A NIGHT AT THE OPERA (MGM, 1935) directed by Sam Wood, re-introduces the Marx Brothers to the screen following their five years at the Paramount studio (1929-1933) to MGM, this being the start of a new beginning and the end to their wild world of comedy. It also brings forth their most popular comic foil of all, Margaret Dumont, from their Broadway to Paramount days, and the return to a formula story and time out for musical interludes either by the brothers or the romantic lovers originally done in their initial films of THE COCOANUTS (1929) and ANIMAL CRACKERS (1930). Aside from now being The Three Marx Brothers (Zeppo who has since retired), their characters have been toned down a bit, which helps. However, at MGM, with this, their best film for the studio, Groucho and Harpo become victims instead of instigators, with such notable scenes as Harpo employed as a dresser for an abusive opera tenor (Walter Wolfe King) who slaps, hits and uses a whip on him (at one point off camera) whenever getting out of line with his buffoonery, and Groucho, who always wins out in every situation physically and verbally, getting kicked down four flights of stairs, which indicates they are not always indestructible, yet remain in character from the old days whenever possible. Chico retains his wiseacre Italian character, remaining notably the same from his previous efforts, however, things will start to change not for the better for him and his brothers in the movies to follow.
Plot summary: Introduction takes place in Milan, Italy, where Otis B. Driftwood (Groucho) agrees to represent dowager Mrs. Claypool (Margaret Dumont) into society by arranging for her to invest $200,000 to Herman Gottlieb (Sig Ruman), director of the opera company so that he can afford to bring opera singers Rudolpho Lassparri (Walter King) and Rosa Castaldi (Kitty Carlisle) to New York City. Rudolpho loves Rosa, but she is more interested in Ricardo Baroni (Allan Jones), an unknown singer working as a chorus-man, but with the help of Fiorelli (Chico), acting as his manager, and his partner, Tomasso (Harpo), the trio head for America by becoming stowaways on the S.S. Americus, hiding out in Driftwood's tiny stateroom in order for Ricardo to get his big chance as a singer. After Driftwood and his cronies arrive in at the Metropolitan Opera House, thanks to them in disrupting Rudolpho's performance that the art of opera will never be the same again.
The musical program: "Alone" (sung by Kitty Carlisle and Allan Jones) by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed; "Cosi-Cosa" (sung by Allan Jones) by Bronislau Kaper, Walter Jurmann and Ned Washington; "All I Do is Dream of You" (by Brown and Freed/piano solo by Chico Marx); "Alone" (harp solo by Harpo Marx); and selections from Il Trovatore by Guiseppi Verdi: "Di quella pira," "Miserere," "Anvil Chorus," "Stride la Vampa" "Strido lassu" and "Miserere." Allan Jones and Kitty Carlisle doing their duet, "Alone," him on the pear and she from the boat dock, Chico's fast finger piano playing, and Harpo's harp solo in a serious manner as he performs to a little old lady (facial shadow front only) who looks on approvingly, may not be highlights, but are truly memorable moments.
Highlights: Whenever anyone goes into discussion regarding A NIGHT AT THE OPERA, the first thing that comes immediately to mind is that famous state room scene involving Groucho, Chico and the sleeping Harpo, with various others involved, crammed together until the door opens, having them all falling out like dominoes. This hilarious bit is one that's remembered best with fondness and admiration. However, there are others worth noting: The opening where Dumont awaits for Groucho at a restaurant for an hour only to find him at the table behind her eating with another lady, is priceless; Groucho and Chico contract exchanges that becomes a "sanity clause"; arrested stowaway Harpo's attempt in escaping his detention cabin by crawling out of a porthole and hanging onto a rope outside only to be dumped into the ocean; Jones, Chico and Harpo in bearded disguises posing as celebrity aviators to give speeches on coast-to-coast radio, with the silent Harpo covering up his muteness by constantly drinking glasses of water; the disappearance of beds in Groucho's hotel room while the plainclothesman detective (Robert Emmett O'Connor) investigates; and of course, the climactic opera chaos by the Marxes, with one great bit with the orchestra playing the overture to "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" after coming to the page with the planted song sheets, with Groucho acting as a vendor yelling "Peanuts! Peanuts!" to the patrons. A classic with Callas.
The supporting players: Newcomer Allan Jones steps in for the role that might have been offered to Zeppo. He is a likable actor with a fine singing voice who performs well opposite Kitty Carlisle (another recruit from Paramount and rare screen appearance, being best known as the TV panelist in the long running quiz show, "To Tell the Truth").
Footnote: It is quite evident that prints that have been circulating since commercial television days isn't complete. Missing footage is quite evident during the opening minutes of the story where the movie originally began with a musical number prior to the restaurant scene involving Groucho and Dumont. At present, this, along with other cut footage, no longer exists. Timed at 96minutes, the 90 minute version is the one available on Turner Classic Movies, VHS and DVD formats. Maybe one of these years a completely restored print of A NIGHT AT THE OPERA will suffice, but for now, this will have to do.
In closing: Get out those opera glasses and have yourself a grand night at the opera. (***1/2)
- one of those timeless crowd-pleasing comedies; a Marx brothers hit on many levels 3/18/2009 12:00:00 AM by Quinoa1984
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.
- I Appreciate This One Now! 10/21/2006 12:00:00 AM by ccthemovieman-1
I didn't fully appreciate this film until my second viewing. Now I think it's one of the better Marx Brothers film. The film - filled with funny lines - has all the familiar MB trappings: good slapstick, good and bad jokes and routines, wild scenes, several musical numbers and general overall chaos.
The only thing not appealing to me in the film were some of the songs - not all, just some. Otherwise, it was all fun as Groucho, Chico and Harpo all share humorous lines and/or sight gags. Kitty Carlisle doesn't offer much in the way of a young beauty but it was still interesting to see her at this age as I had only known her through her "To Tell The Truth" television days. Alan Jones, meanwhile, is a pleasing singer and a nice guy, as always.
This is the film with the famous scene involving a ton of people being stuffed into Groucho's small cabin room. It's more amazing than funny. My favorite scenes were when Groucho and Chico got into discussions and trade lines back-and- forth. I also laughed heartily at the finale with Harpo swinging like Tarzan at the opera house.
In all, a funny MB film, one of the boys' better efforts. I play it with the English subtitles so as not to miss any of the great lines of dialog in here.