A Night At The Opera (1935) Director: Sam Wood
‘A Night At The Opera’ is the first Marx Brothers film with MGM, after their departure from Paramount. After 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.
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 more, such as an evening at the opera.