A Night at the Opera (1935)

Marx Brothers

1935 (Sam Wood) , 92 minutes

Groucho, Chico, Harpo, Margaret Dumont

 

A Night at the Opera would be the career pinnacle for Groucho, Harpo, and Chico. Smarting from the box office failure of Duck Soup (1933), the brothers (sans Zeppo) were lured to MGM by superproducer Irving Thalberg with the promise of an A-level production and top studio resources. He allowed the team to take the screenplay on the road, testing scenes before live audiences. He developed a crowd-pleasing screenplay full of romance and music. Plus: two hard-boiled eggs.(*honk*) Make that three hard-boiled eggs.


 The film would become the team’s biggest box office success. At the same time, it was also the beginning of the end. No longer agents of chaos, the brothers’ madcap energies are harnessed toward helping two young opera singers (Allan Jones and Kitty Carlisle) get their big breaks. After Thalberg’s death in 1936, the Marx Brothers would be consigned to increasingly second-rate productions, and by decade’s end their films would be indistinguishable from the Abbott and Costello vehicles that surpassed them.


 Still, even if it dilutes the brothers’ anarchic philosophy, A Night at the Opera shows them at their peak as performers. You get the stateroom scene… the aviators’ speech… the hiding of the beds… “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”… “You can’t fool me, there ain’t no sanity clause!”… and Groucho once again sparring with Margaret Dumont. How many times do we go to a comedy hoping for just one classic scene? How many movies can boast more than a dozen? There’s a reason Groucho Marx would always cite A Night at the Opera as his favourite of his films. Plus: did I mention no more Zeppo? - Will Sloan


Presented in 2K. Preceded by a 16mm short.

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