A Night At The Opera

A Night At The Opera (1935) Director: Sam Wood

★★★★☆

The Marx Brothers deliver another classic of comedic cinema with A Night At The Opera. It is a wonderful film filled with many memorable lines from Groucho and crazy hijinks from the brothers as they continue to lampoon bourgeois society.

‘A Night At The Opera’ is the first Marx Brothers film with MGM, after their departure from Paramount. Following a long string of screenwriters and much back room editing, the film was completed and became a success. This was Groucho’s favorite Marx brothers film.

Otis B. Driftwood is the business manager for a wealthy dowager who is dissatisfied with his work. He proposes that she become a patron of the opera. Meanwhile a lead opera singer falls for a charming young man who is also singer, but not for the opera. A love triangle ensues when the lead male singer at the opera also falls for the same woman, and they travel to New York to be a part of the opera. Driftwood comes along aboard the ship while he finds that the remaining Marx brothers and the lead singer’s lover have become stowaways in his luggage. The group winds up ruining the opera in a hilarious series of satirical skits.

Director, Sam Wood, reportedly a prude, once tried to get Groucho to read the lines the way preferred and when he finally did, Wood said “I guess you can’t just make an actor out of clay.” Instantly Groucho responded, “Nor a director out of wood.” During the film, Wood had developed an ulcer so he had a glass of milk each morning, and Groucho arranged for it to be delivered in a baby bottle, a joke Wood never got. Wood also instilled a $50 fine for being late to the set, Groucho was the first to receive it as the other brothers nailed his garage closed. It became a game for the brothers, so Wood abandoned the idea.

Producer Irving Thalberg used to frequently be late to his meetings with the brothers. One time, he left them waiting in his secretary’s office for several hours so they pushed cabinets together boxing him in his office. He never missed appointments with them again, but he frequently would step out for phone calls. In one such instant, Thalberg returned to his office to find the three brothers totally naked roasting potatoes in his office.

Funny lines from Groucho in A Night at the Opera:

  • “I saw Mrs. Claypool first. Of course, her mother really saw her first but there’s no point in bringing the Civil War into this.”
  • “Ladies and Gentlemen. I guess that takes in most of you. This is the opening of a new opera season, a season made possible by the generous checks of Mrs. Claypool. [Applause] I am sure the familiar strains of Verdi’s music will come back to you tonight, and Mrs. Claypool’s checks will probably come back in the morning. Tonight marks the American debut of Rodolfo Lassparri. [Applause] Senor Lassparri comes from a very famous family. His mother was a well known bass singer. And his father was the first man to stuff spaghetti with bicarbonate of soda, thus causing and curing indigestion at the same time. And now on with the opera. Let joy be unconfined. Let there be dancing in the streets, drinking in the saloons and necking in the parlor.”
  • “When I invite a woman to dinner, I expect her to look at my face. That’s the price she has to pay.”
  • Lassparri: “Never in my life have I received such treatment. They threw an apple at me.”
    Driftwood: “Well. Watermelons are out of season.”

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