johnlink ranks A NIGHT AT THE OPERA (1935)

I have a horrendous confession to make. I have a degree in film studies, and have never (until tonight) seen a Marx Brothers film from beginning to end. I’ve seen segments, to be sure, but had never watched a full one through. Seeing as September is my ‘classics month’ this year, I figured I should remedy that situation.

This Marx Brothers classic has a very loose plot about a group of people who come together to, sort of, get a singer a role in the opera. I watched A NIGHT AT THE OPERA (1935) on 9.18.09. It was my first viewing of the film.


There are very few themes or moral lessons in a Marx Brothers film (at least from what I can gather from seeing one). But these are movies meant for sheer enjoyment. A NIGHT AT THE OPERA is a 30s film, with little camera movement or film trickery. The choreography, like in a Chaplin film, is oftentimes brilliant. Otherwise, the filming is straightforward. SCORE: 5


After the first song, I had some doubt about this movie. The opening was funny enough, but I wasn’t laughing out loud. I am not a fan of musicals, so when we got the first song, I was really ready for this to not be a movie I was going to get into. Then the scene in Groucho’s room happened. Then the second song happened (which, surprisingly, I loved), then the impostor scene happened. Then the scene in Groucho’s house happened. And finally, the big finish. I was immensely happy I stuck through the entire film. SCORE: 8


Having not seen a Marx Brothers film, I felt like there was one missing. I was right. This was the first film without Zeppo, who I learned was normally the romantic lead. That part was aptly filled by Allan Jones, who acted like he belonged. Otherwise, I got the run of it. I knew Groucho was the cigar-smoking, moustached wiseguy. But I learned quickly the clowning comedy genius that is Harpo Marx. Chico is less comic gold, but his scene at the piano makes up for his not-quite-as-funny rest of the film. But, as a whole, this is an amazingly wonderful comic cast. SCORE: 7


Little plot. But I do miss movies which allowed themselves to be what they were without the straight-jacket of modern convention. The entire second song sequence would never find its way into a 21st century film. Movies have come a long way since, but there is something to be said for the old days.

The script is comical, to be sure, but much of that was more thanks to the performances, which oftentimes must have been improved. SCORE: 5


Harpo’s choreography was marvelous. I read that he wasn’t really a stuntman. He had me fooled. I immediately feel comfortable putting him in the conversation with Chaplin and Keaton in terms of physical comedy. SCORE: 1





~ by johnlink00 on September 18, 2009.

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