Monday, December 30, 2013

A Night At The Opera (1935)

WHO: Groucho, Chico and Harpo Marx star in this, their first film without their brother Zeppo.

WHAT: The Marx Brothers' The Cocoanuts and Animal Crackers were based on successful stage shows. Their next two films, Monkey Business and Horse Feathers, were not; they were created especially for the screen and had not been tested out on audiences. They were successful both critically and commercially nonetheless. Duck Soup, however, also an original-to-screen film, was a failure on both levels upon its initial release (only later did it become the Marx Brothers' biggest cult hit). So when A Night At The Opera was put into production by Irving Thalberg at MGM, the first step after the script was complete was to try something unusual: stage it on the road and hone it along the way: the tour started in April 1935 in Salt Lake City and went to Seattle, Portland and finally San Francisco (where I understand it was performed at the Orpheum) before being committed to film. The result? The three remaining Marx Brothers were back to being hit-makers, and went on to make seven more films. Of those I've seen from their post-Paramount period, this one is certainly the best.

WHERE/WHEN: Today at the Castro at 3:45 and 7PM, and 1PM January 11th at the SFPL Main Library

WHY: As far as I know (and I feel pretty confident that I'm one to know), today's screenings of A Night At the Opera and Duck Soup are the final 35mm showings of classic films in Frisco Bay theatres for 2013. Not a bad pair to go out on...

HOW: On a 35mm double-bill with Duck Soup at the Castro. On projected DVD at the SFPL event.


  1. "The three remaining Marx Brothers...went on to make seven more films for MGM." I believe you are counting some United Artists films as MGM films to get to 7.

    A Night At The Opera is, in my opinion, most notable for the stateroom scene where they cram a dozen or more people into a small cabin on an ocean liner.

  2. Yes, that scene is probably the best one in the film. According to Leonard Maltin's commentary track on the DVD for this film, it was also one that didn't play well on the stage, and was almost cut, but it was realized that the humor might work better on the screen with the confinement of the frame part of the joke, than on an obviously-artificial stage set.

    I made a slight adjustment to the above post to reflect your correction of my error. Thanks Dan!