Tag Archives: Marx Brothers

A Day at the Races (1937)

<strong class="MovieTitle">A Day at the Races</strong> (1937)

(On Cable TV, January 2018) Marx Brothers vehicle A Day at the Races, second in their MGM line-up, does feel a lot like the previous A Night at the Opera—individual set pieces for the Brothers, matronly role for Margaret Dumont, romantic subplot for the non-comedians Maureen O’Sullivan and Allan Jones, large-scale conclusion in a very public setting … it’s a formula, but it works even when it’s not as effective. Once again, I’m far more partial to Groucho’s absurdist repartee than Harpo’s silent act, but the result is decently funny, with a few highlights along the way: The musical numbers are actually pretty good (including pulling a harp out of a destroyed piano), even if the blackface sequence is hard to enjoy now despite the good rhythm of the song. Most of the comedy bits drag on a touch too long (or definitely too long for the “ice cream” sequence) but the charm of the Brothers usually make up for it. A Day at the Races isn’t quite as good as some of the previous Marx films, but it’s still watchable enough today.

A Night at the Opera (1935)

<strong class="MovieTitle">A Night at the Opera</strong> (1935)

(On Cable TV, December 2017) I’ve been meaning to go back to the Marx Brothers comedies, decades after seeing and loving Duck Soup. Fortunately, these eighty-year-old movies are still holiday fixtures, so I’m back with the Marxes starting with A Night at the Opera, the first of their MGM movies after leaving Paramount and being led to a more audience-friendly format. Sadly, the connective material that MGM imposed remains the weakest part of the film—who cares about a romance between two dull secondary characters, other than it provides the backdrop against which the brothers run wild? Plots are necessary, but it’s the individual comic sketches that make A Night at the Opera so memorable. Whether we’re talking about Groucho’s verbal pyrotechnics, the famous stateroom scene, the anarchic finale set among a malfunctioning theatre stage … or even the surprisingly engaging bit of piano-playing, this is a film of scenes and sequences. It doesn’t all work (I’ve never been much of a Harpo fan) and often overstays its welcome, but much of A Night at the Opera is still very funny today.