Monday, May 16, 2011

A Night at the Opera

A Night at the Opera; Comedy, USA, 1935; D: Sam Wood, S: Groucho Marx, Chico Marx, Harpo Marx, Kitty Carlisle, Allan Jones, Margaret Dumont

Wacky manager Driftwood doesn't really care for his client, the snobby Mrs. Claypool. He meets Fiorello and Tomaso, who work at a opera for the arrogant singing star Rodolfo, who wants to steal the affection of Rose, while her beloved Ricardo is stuck singing at the choir even though he has talent, but no reputation. Driftwood and Fiorello and Tomaso start a mess at a ship voyage. In New York, they decide to help out the 'outsider' couple Ricardo and Rosa: by sabotaging the opera Il Trovatore, they replace Rodolfo with Ricardo and Rosa who gain a standing ovation.

The first Marx brothers movie for MGM, "A Night at the Opera" is an uneven, but fun comedy of their recognizable anarchic-absurdist-dadaism humor. Once again, the comedians impress the most with some virtuoso dialogues, the best being delivered right at the start when Mrs. Claypool is waiting for Driftwood (Groucho Marx) at the table in a restaurant, and he surprisingly shows up sitting at the table right behind her back, upon which she protests ("I've been sitting right here since seven o'clock". - "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!") When Mrs. Claypool protests more because he has been sitting with another woman, he gives another wiseguy remark: "That woman? Do you know why I sat with her? Because she reminded me of you." Like in most of their movies, the storyline meanders again, with the ship voyage being particularly out of place, whereas the dramatic subplot involving hard luck singers Rosa and Ricardo is rather bland and serves its purpose only in the final commotion at the opera. Still, whenever the Marx brothers are on the screen, the movie runs almost with full speed, whether it features insane dialogues between Groucho and Chico ("Do you know America is waiting to hear him sing?" - "Well, he can sing loud, but he can't sing *that* loud". - "Well, I think I can get Ameri to meet him halfway".) or simply slapstick in the scene where Henderson is searching for Chico and Harpo in Groucho's room. Even though it does not reach the grasp of their best comedy, the phenomenal "Duck Soup", "Opera" still has a lot of satisfying jokes.


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