85. A Night at the Opera (1935)

“A sly business manager and two wacky friends of two opera singers help them achieve success while humiliating their stuffy and snobbish enemies.”

First, let me say that I cannot watch a film with Groucho Marx in it and not think of Robin Williams’ impression of him as the genie in Aladdin.

 “No substitutions, exchanges or refunds.”
“No substitutions, exchanges or refunds.”

Quick and clever; those two words describe this entire film. It is definitely one of the Marx Brother’s greats (tied with Duck Soup, of course). I do have to say, though, that I think this kind of comedy is an acquired taste, especially if you are somebody who doesn’t usually watch older films. It seems like during this era of Hollywood they only knew how to do two things with “talkies” and those were musicals and comedies. This film is no different.

As far as the Marx Brothers go, they do a fantastic job. They do well when interacting with other people, like in the State Room scene, one of the most famous scenes in all of comedy. But, I must say that I think they do their best work, though, when they are simply playing off of each other, like in the contract scene. The Vaudeville influence is definitely there.

My favorite moment in the film, oddly enough, is not a comedic scene. The scene where Harpo (who’s playing the character Tomasso) sits down and begins to play the harp with the children around, that one is my favorite. For most of the film, Harpo is making ridiculous faces and pulling ridiculous stunts (i.e. the rope scene on the boat or the scene in the theater at the end of the film). But, when he sits down at that harp and begins to play, you can see the love of the instrument there. You can see it in his face and in the way he plays the harp. It’s beautiful.

When it comes to the technical stuff, I mean, it was 1935. So, for that time, it’s good. My biggest problem has to be the actual sound recording, specifically the sections where somebody is singing opera. It’s just ear-piercing. There are an awful lot of editing cuts that don’t make any sense when you see them. But, the studio had done some dialogue cutting for the re-release of this film in the 1940s and omitted pretty much any mention of Italy in the dialogue. And, well, that’s the version that we have today.

Grade: C+

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