A Night at the Opera Review

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This time taking on high society, the brothers help two operatic young lovers to be together with several brilliant stunts.


The Marx Brothers's sixth film was a double departure. It was not only their first picture without Zeppo, but it was also marked their debut at MGM, after they had been released by Paramount following the commercial disappointment of Duck Soup. Producer Irving G. Thalberg had initially irked Groucho, Chico and Harpo by telling them that their pacifist romp had been a stinker. But, he won them over by promising them improved production values and a musical comedy format that would provide a more logical basis for their inspired lunacy.

In addition to enlisting Allan Jones and Kitty Carlisle as the singing juveniles, Thalberg also suggested that the Marxes tested their best sketches before live audiences to hone the material and fine-tune the timing by gauging the amount of laughter each joke received. Happy to return to their vaudeville roots, the Brothers soon realised that this technique gave them a greater say over their material and they were able to bring in veteran gagman Al Boasberg to burnish material submitted by regular scribes George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind.  

Ironically, the stateroom skit (which is now regarded as one of the trio's finest five minutes) was nearly cut because of audience indifference. However, it provided the ideal opening balance to the climactic destruction of Rodolfo's production of Verdi's Il Trovatore, which rivals any chaos wrought by Messrs. Laurel and Hardy.  

Yet there are quieter moments of delirious verbal dexterity, such as Groucho's attempt to persuade Margaret Dumont to part with her millions and his ripping discussion with Chico of the inconvenient contract (complete with its sanity clause). Moreover, the musical interludes are also apposite and charming, particularly Chico and Harpo's rendition of `Cosi-Cosa'.  

 Purists always rank the Paramount pictures over those made at MGM. But, while this may not be the funniest Marx movie, it's undoubtedly the most polished. 

A Night at the Opera is a sterling night in, with top laffs and a surreal wit. Definitely the most successful Marx outing at MGM