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A Night at the Opera, starring the Marx Brothers

DVD review of A Night at the Opera (1935) starring the Marx Brothers (Groucho Marx, Chico Marx, Harpo Marx)

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A Night at the Opera, starring the Marx BrothersDirector:  Sam Wood
Black & White, HiFi Sound, NTSC
One of the all-time funniest  Marx Brothers  movies – €which makes it one of the funniest movies of all time.

Synopsis:  Groucho Marx  is Otis P. Driftwood, too busy trying to fleece Mrs. Claypool (played by the œfifth Marx brother, Margaret Dumont) to spend time running an Opera Company.  Harpo  is Tomasso, the abused valet to the pompous tenor, while  Chico  is Fiorello, self-appointed agent for the unknown, talented young singer Ricardo Baroni (Allan Jones), who is in love with Rosa Castaldi (Kitty Carlisle) – the obligatory singing love interest. When Groucho loses his job, the plot thickens – €but with the brothers Marx, who needs a thick plot? Some of the  classic comic routines  “A Night at the Opera” gives you include:

  1. The  Stateroom scene  with all those people stuffed into that room (and don’t forget  Chico  and Harpos adding to Groucho’s hardboiled eggs order – €if you don’t understand that, it’s proof that you need to see the movie 🙂
  2. Groucho  and  Chico  discussing the clauses in a contract (including my favorite part, the Sanity Clause – €Chico: “Whatsa that?” Groucho: “That’s the Sanity Clause” Chico: “You can’ta fool me! There ain’t no such thing as  Sanity Clause!” out goes that part of the contract, literally);
  3. Chico  and  Harpo  working “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” into the overture of the opera (peanuts, getcher peanuts!);
  4. The dinner date between  Groucho  and Margaret Dumont (“looking at me is the price you have to pay”)

I rate it 5 clowns on a 5-clown scale.
Also available as part of the five-DVD set,  The Marx Brothers Collection

Editorial review of  A Night at the Opera courtesy of Amazon.com:

Absolutely one of the most hilarious movies ever made, this classic farce featuring the outrageous genius of the Marx Brothers is a chance to see some of their best bits woven together seamlessly in a story of high society, matchmaking, and chaos. In order to bring two young lovers together, brothers Groucho, Chico, and Harpo must sabotage an opera performance even as they try to pass themselves off as stuffed shirts. Featuring the classic sequence where Groucho piles as many people as possible into a ship’s stateroom,  A Night at the Opera  is a deliciously zany romp worth watching again and again.  –Robert Lane

Funny movie quotes from The Marx Brothers’ A Night at the Opera:

Otis P. Driftwood (Groucho Marx): I saw Mrs. Claypool first. Of course, her mother really saw her first but there’s no point in bringing the Civil War into this.

Otis P. Driftwood (Groucho Marx): You’re willing to pay him a thousand dollars a night just for singing? Why, you can get a phonograph record of Minnie the Moocher for 75 cents. And for a buck and a quarter, you can get Minnie.

Mrs. Claypool (Margaret Dumont): Are you sure you have everything, Otis?
Otis P. Driftwood (Groucho Marx): Well, I haven’t had any complaints yet.

Otis P. Driftwood (Groucho Marx): And now, on with the opera. Let joy be unconfined. Let there be dancing in the streets, drinking in the saloons, and necking in the parlor.

Mrs. Claypool (Margaret Dumont): I’ve been sitting right here since 7:00.
Otis P. Driftwood (Groucho Marx): Yes, with your back to me. When I invite a woman to dinner I expect her to look at my face. That’s the price she has to pay.
Otis P. Driftwood (Groucho Marx): That woman? Do you know why I sat with her? Because she reminded me of you.
Mrs. Claypool (Margaret Dumont): Really.
Otis P. Driftwood (Groucho Marx): Of course. That’s why I’m sitting here with you. Because you remind me of you. Your eyes, your throat, your lips. Everything about you reminds me of you … except you. How do you account for that? If she figures that one out she’s good.

Otis P. Driftwood (Groucho Marx): It’s all right, tha-that’s in every contract. Tha-that’s what they call a sanity clause.
Fiorello (Chico Marx):  Ha ha ha ha ha ha … you can’t fool me. There ain’t no Sanity Clause.

Otis P. Driftwood (Groucho Marx): Ladies and gentlemen … I think this takes in most of you ¢â‚¬Â¦

Henderson: What’s this?
Otis P. Driftwood (Groucho Marx): That’s the fire escape and that’s a table, and this is a room, and there’s the door and I wish you’d use it. I vant to be alone.

Fiorello (Chico Marx):  What am I supposed to say?
Otis P. Driftwood (Groucho Marx): Tell them you’re not here.
Fiorello (Chico Marx):  I don’t think they’ll believe me.
Otis P. Driftwood (Groucho Marx): Start talking. They’ll believe you.

Otis P. Driftwood (Groucho Marx): We are sure that the familiar sounds of Verdi will come back to you tonight, and Mrs. Claypool’s checks will probably come back in the morning.

Otis P. Driftwood (Groucho Marx): Have you got any stewed prunes?
Steward: Yes, Sir.
Otis P. Driftwood (Groucho Marx): Well, give them some black coffee. That’ll sober them up.

Otis P. Driftwood (Groucho Marx): (to Chico and  Harpo, who are hiding in his steamer trunk) You didn’t happen to see my suit in there, did you?
Fiorello (Chico Marx):  Yeah, it was taking up to much room, so we sold it.
Otis P. Driftwood (Groucho Marx): Did’ja get anything for it?
Fiorello (Chico Marx):  A dollar forty.
Otis P. Driftwood (Groucho Marx): That’s my suit alright.

[Upon seeing a cast member made up to appear hideously ugly]
Otis P. Driftwood (Groucho Marx): Boogie, Boogie, Boogie.

Lassparri: Never in my life have I received such treatment. They threw an apple at me.
Otis P. Driftwood (Groucho Marx): Well, watermelons are out of season.

[The waiter brings the bill]
Otis P. Driftwood (Groucho Marx): Let me see that … 9 dollars and 40 cents? This is an outrage.

[to his dinner companion]
Otis P. Driftwood (Groucho Marx): If I were you I wouldn’t pay it.

[to Lassparri, costumed as Pagliacci]
Otis P. Driftwood (Groucho Marx): Just this – can you sleep on your stomach with such big buttons on your pajamas?

Henderson: Hey, who were you talking to?
Otis P. Driftwood (Groucho Marx): I was talking to myself, and there’s nothing you can do about it. I’ve had three of the best doctors in the East.

Otis P. Driftwood (Groucho Marx): Have you got any milk-fed chickens?
Waiter: Yes, sir.
Otis P. Driftwood (Groucho Marx): Well, squeeze the milk out of one and bring me a glass.

Otis P. Driftwood (Groucho Marx): Do they allow tipping on the boat?
Steward: Yes, sir.
Otis P. Driftwood (Groucho Marx): Have you got two fives?
Steward: Yes, SIR.
Otis P. Driftwood (Groucho Marx): Well, then you won’t need the ten cents I was gonna give you.

Henderson: You live here by yourself?
Otis P. Driftwood (Groucho Marx): Yes … just me and my memories.
Henderson: I see the table is set for four.
Otis P. Driftwood (Groucho Marx): That’s nothing – my alarm clock is set for eight.

Otis P. Driftwood (Groucho Marx): Was that a high C, or Vitamin D?

Mrs. Claypool (Margaret Dumont): Get off that bed. What would people say?
Otis P. Driftwood (Groucho Marx): They’d probably say you’re a very lucky woman.

Trivia about the Marx Brothers’ A Night at the Opera:

  • The famous “stateroom scene” was originally conceived as a way of getting a cheap laugh by having Groucho Marx, crowded out of his room, changing his pants in the corridor.
  • The first story line for A Night at the Opera was about Groucho as an producer of an opera. That story was dropped but appeared many times in Hollywood as a story idea – until Mel Brooks made The Producers (1968) and got an Academy Award.
  • In the scene where  Harpo,  Chico  and Riccardo are impersonating the three aviators in front of the mayor, Groucho turns around to speak to them in a “foreign language.” What is actually being said is a direct response to the accusations of impostors, only the audio track is played backwards. The first time Groucho actually says, “Did you hear what he said? He said you were frauds and impostors!” which is then followed by Chico and Riccardo protesting loudly, “How can he say a thing like that,” “This is ridiculous,” and other such comments.
  • The opera performed as the movie’s climax is Giuseppe Verdi’s Il Trovatore.
  • Sam Wood , freshman Marx Brothers director in this film, was a perfectionist. The scene in which  Harpo  hangs from the rope was filmed so many times that Harpo’s hands became cut and swollen from the rope.
  • The first Marx Brothers film made without brother Zeppo Marx, it started a new trend of  Marx Brothers  movies featuring a Zeppo-like supporting character who carries the love story and sings the song.


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